• On Whom Do We Rely For Our Democratic Future?

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Mon Aug 27 05:46:41 2018
    XPost: za.politics, za.misc

    On Whom Do We Rely For Our Democratic Future? (South Africa)

    The ANC is in crisis as the “new dawn” stalls. But are other parties
    ready to drive the democratic project? The DA has lapsed into
    continued internal conflict. The EFF is not interested in debate.
    That, too, is unconducive to democratic life.

    August 23, 2018 Raymond Suttner

    Who is the custodian of our democratic and transformational project,
    who do we look to in order to see it through and safeguard its
    integrity and potentially emancipatory qualities? Whenever one
    embarks on or supports a venture, whether it is political, social,
    cultural, economic or involving any other sphere of life, one looks
    for leadership on whom one can rely, whom one trusts to ensure that
    the programme succeeds and that blockages along the way are avoided.

    In 1994 many did not ask such questions because they were optimistic
    about what lay ahead. Even many whites who had benefitted from
    apartheid were reconciled to the emerging order. Under the leadership
    of Nelson Mandela, there was a large reservoir of trust and the ANC
    also benefitted to a large extent from these sentiments, for the first
    decade or more of democracy.

    This issue has come under focus in recent years with the doubts that
    many have come to feel in the ANC as the primary bearer of this
    political responsibility. This loss of trust was manifested
    electorally in reverses it experienced in the 2016 local government
    elections. The general sense of disquiet related to a substantial
    extent to the actions of the Jacob Zuma presidency, supported as it
    was by his organisation, the ANC, and its allies in the SACP and
    COSATU until very late in the day.

    The ANC may no longer be seen as the primary political force in South
    Africa -despite some important steps taken to regularise state
    functioning. It remains in crisis, despite a change of leadership.

    There is a vacuum that the ANC no longer fills nor is this met by any
    other political party. There is no going back to the days of
    apartheid. It is a question of going forward to realise the hopes of
    1994, hopefully enriched in various ways by what we have come to
    understand in the 24 years that have passed. Who can be entrusted with
    that task?

    While some confidently suggest that the answer is to “vote them out”
    is that an answer that will provide us with a sense of a secure
    democratic future, with people’s lives improving?

    The DA and the EFF

    The two strongest opposition parties have both experienced identity
    crises since the resignation of Zuma as state president. In the case
    of the DA, the problems that have surfaced are mainly old ones, but
    they were less obviously present when the battle to topple Zuma
    preoccupied the DA and the public.

    The DA has eroded much of the confidence that it elicited after the
    2016 local government elections through problems in managing
    coalitions, especially in Nelson Mandela Bay, how it has handled
    questions related to race, “diversity”, inequality, and the de Lille
    saga in Cape Town. The organisation is gripped by internal turmoil
    over leadership contests.

    The DA wants to increase its support amongst black communities, but it
    does not appreciate that it cannot do this while treating race as an unfortunate and artificial invention of apartheid, allegedly colluded
    in by the ANC. Racial categories have real social consequences for
    people, conditioning the opportunities they have in life. Any party
    that underestimates this, invites failure.

    The DA is correct in being critical of abuse of race, but it remains
    the dominant fault line between rich and poor, privileged and
    dispossessed in South Africa. The DA’s tone deafness on race is seen
    in the ambiguous position that black people have inside the DA, how
    they are represented or inadequately represented as delegates in their congresses, how they fare in leadership contests, who is seen or
    believed to take decisions in the organisation and conflicting
    messages on questions that have a lot of significance for black
    people, for example, steps by government to remedy disadvantages
    inherited from the apartheid era. There is no need to agree with the
    ANC, but to dismiss questions of black empowerment as some do, is
    insensitive to what many of its members believe need to be addressed,
    one way or another.

    Two years ago, the DA appeared unified as the leading factor in a
    range of local government alliances, holding the prospect of
    displacing the ANC as national government. Since then that unity is
    tattered and indeed, apart from de Lille, other mayors and office
    bearers have been removed from office. The DA seems to be at war with

    The paralysis induced through its handling of the de Lille saga and
    the Cape Town water crisis has punctured the image that the DA sought
    to project as an efficient government that gets things done. Taken
    together with its unwillingness to unambiguously stand against
    inequality, its electoral appeal and its message have lacked appeal
    and coherence.

    And what of the EFF, which played a very important role in defeating
    Jacob Zuma, though this was not his final defeat with remnants of his
    followers remaining (and the EFF paradoxically involved in protecting
    some of these)?

    The EFF joined with other parties in holding Zuma accountable for
    Nkandla and other acts of corruption and sought to enforce
    answerability for his acts of state capture, in parliament and the
    courts. Many who were not EFF supporters nevertheless admired their inventiveness in disrupting Zumaism as well as facing beatings from
    bouncers hired by parliament.

    But since the fall of Zuma, there have been a range of actions by the
    EFF that cast doubt on its reliability in cleansing South Africa of
    the scourge of corruption and state capture and also building a
    non-racial democratic society

    The EFF has always embodied elements of the Zuma project, in their
    patterns of conduct. One of these is a celebration of macho
    masculinity and militarism. It is notorious that Julius Malema was
    one of those who was prepared, not like Nelson Mandela “to die” for
    his beliefs, but to “kill for Zuma”. In forming the EFF, the
    organisation copied Fidel Castro in designating its leader’s primary
    title as Commander-in-Chief, above being president of the EFF. This
    together with a range of military titles used to designate
    organisational structures at all levels and in a range of spheres,
    creates the impression that the EFF is as much a military formation as
    a political one.

    While they are not engaged in war, there is something intimidatory in
    the way in which the EFF engages in politics. There are continual
    threats emanating from leading figures, sometimes carrying ambiguous
    meanings. For example, Malema said, in relation to Mayor Athol
    Trollip, that one must cut the throat of whiteness. This is not
    intended as a sophisticated formulation, drawing the distinction
    between whites and whiteness, whiteness referring to a range of
    structures and cultural patterns that are embodied in white power over
    black people. It was meant to appeal to the most racially chauvinist
    amongst his potential followers as a real threat to whites,
    represented as an undifferentiated group of exploiters and oppressors.
    There is also the ambiguity in statements referring to taking land by
    force, but “not yet”. The EFF is quick to deny a violent meaning to
    its words, but it continually trades in this ambiguous and dangerous
    language. In short, it does not act responsibly in relation to the
    question of peace and non-violence, as principles or it does not in
    fact value these.

    (On the principle of non-violence, see: http://www.polity.org.za/article/non-violence-is-essential-to-respect-h…
    and http://www.polity.org.za/article/we-must-entrench-the-principle-of-non-…).

    The importance of this use of ambiguity is that it is intended that
    statements bear a meaning that is unclear to listeners. The EFF is
    not keen to provide the public with clarity regarding what they stand
    for and how it will be realised. They resent the appellation
    “populist”, but it is characteristic of populism that one focuses on popular phrases without addressing modalities for realisation. That is
    why they have successfully mobilised (not organised) around the notion
    of expropriation without compensation, without clarity on who can
    claim land, how people will get land and how they will be assisted, in
    the different places where these are located.

    It is significant that the EFF has never engaged in debate over what
    the constitutional provisions on land acquisition provide, the extent
    to which it already provides scope for expropriation without
    compensation. It has preferred demagoguery to debate. Nor has it tried
    to create the political will that could unblock the stalled land
    restitution process.

    Some of the threats need to be taken seriously, given that they come
    from leaders. Some members may believe that they have licence to
    assault or kill people. We have seen the unprovoked resort to violence
    by EFF Deputy President Floyd Shivambu against a journalist who, quite legitimately, photographed him. What do ordinary members or followers
    learn from this?

    There is another serious area of ambiguity that amounts to an attack
    on the Treasury and efforts to institute a clean-up of corrupt
    individuals and state-owned entities. It has, however, emerged in the
    EFF focus on Indians, in this case Ismail Momoniat and Pravin Gordhan,
    now Deputy Director-General in the Treasury and Minister of Public
    Enterprises respectively, suggesting that Momoniat has no respect for
    African leadership, notably embodied in the Director General, Dondo
    Mogajane, whom he allegedly undermines. The EFF alleges that Momoniat
    runs the Treasury, a claim denied by Mogajane. Gordhan is said to be
    engaged in a reign of terror against allegedly corrupt people and the
    EFF has written offering support to some of those fingered in state
    capture reports, just as it has come out in support of SARS
    commissioner, Tom Moyane, in his allegation of irregularities in the
    enquiries he faces. See articles by Carol Paton:
    Tarnishing Treasury latest in chameleon EFF’s dubious moves and EFF
    acts as warrior for the wounded in bid to divide ANC

    There are two issues here. The one is that there remains tension
    between Indians and Africans in KZN and parts of Gauteng, with the identification of Indians as relatively successful traders and
    wealthier than Africans, although many Indians are poor or wage
    workers. There are ambiguous EFF statements about Indians being
    racist or sometimes that “most” Indians are racist. The truth is we do
    not know how many Indians or Africans are racist and generalisations
    do not assist us to build a consciousness that shows respect for all
    the people of South Africa. How does the EFF square this with its
    claim to adhere to and advance the Freedom Charter and the
    constitution? The statements of the EFF, in this respect, again feed
    into narrow African chauvinism, rather than trying to build unity. It
    is a dangerous game, we know, from the 1949 African-Indian conflict.
    We also know from that period how mature leaders like Chief Albert
    Luthuli and Dr Monty Naicker responded, in rebuilding trust between communities.

    We may also ask, what is behind the EFF rising to the defence of the
    VBS bank against its being placed under curatorship? It would be
    interesting to know, whether the EFF has any connection with the VBS
    bank, that it has risen so stridently in their defence?

    Also, what exactly is the connection between the EFF and gangsters
    that have been named and not denied as funders of the organisation?

    What emerges from the EFF in its 2018 incarnation, is that it is
    impatient with debate. It prefers threats and slogans. This is
    unconducive to building the type of democratic life that is needed for
    an emancipatory political life. It contributes little to public

    Who can we trust?
    If we cannot trust or rely on existing political parties to safeguard
    our democratic future, in whom should we place our trust? In the
    1980s the answer would have been, to rely on ourselves, as the people
    of South Africa, on our own power to set ourselves free, referring
    primarily here to black South Africans, (by the word “black”, I follow
    the usage of the black consciousness movement referring to Africans,
    Coloureds and Indians).

    The democratic movement, united against apartheid, built organisations
    in a range of spheres -schools, universities, trade unions, community organisations, cultural and women’s organisations, organisations of
    traders and many others, all of which played a crucial role, along
    with other places of struggle in bringing down apartheid.

    In post-apartheid South Africa, however, the idea was encouraged that
    we should look to government to deliver the improved lives that so
    many longed for. The Freedom Charter clause “The people shall
    govern!” has come to mean, govern indirectly through those who became
    elected representatives. The people were to be embodied in the
    government, which is common in national liberation movement discourse, referring to ANC or SWAPO as “the nation” or as “the people”.

    With the outrage that erupted around the abuses of the Jacob Zuma era,
    we saw a renewed resort to popular power, with a range of people
    protesting in gatherings in many parts of the country. What was
    distinct about these manifestations was the broad non-sectarian basis
    of the protests. Some were ANC supporters, many were from other
    political parties and others belonged to a range of political
    formations and organisations of civil society and sections of
    business. It was not driven by the poor, to anything like the extent
    that was the case with the UDF but included broad sections of society, including many whites. They shared limited goals, primarily removing
    Zuma and ending corruption and restoring legality

    In truth the problems of South Africa and the issues on which we need
    to build consensus needs to be conceived more widely and anyone who
    cherishes democracy will know that it involves slow, patient
    organisation. Discourses of violence and pseudo radicalism do not
    substitute for slow, patient building of organisation and
    understandings. That may include existing political parties, but the participation of social movements and other organisations in civil
    society is now crucial. Involvement in a march or public meetings is
    powerful mobilisation. That must be sustained and expanded through organisational forms in a range of spheres of society so that we can
    truly rebuild our democratic order and continue to enhance its

    (Raymond Suttner is a scholar and political analyst. He is a Part-time Professor attached to Rhodes University and an Emeritus Professor at
    UNISA. He served lengthy periods in prison and house arrest for
    underground and public anti-apartheid activities. His most recent
    book is his prison memoir Inside Apartheid’s prison reissued in 2017,
    with a new introduction covering his more recent “life outside the
    ANC” by Jacana Media. He blogs at raymondsuttner.com and his twitter
    handle is @raymondsuttner )

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