There is an argument doing the rounds that goes something like this: if the ANC gets below 50% in the next election, it will force them to go into coalition with the EFF and then we will see radical policies being implemented. Despite the obvious fact that it’s highly unlikely the ANC national share of the vote will fall below 50%, the proponents antidote is to make sure that everybody “votes for Cyril Ramaphosa” to ensure this ANC/EFF coalition doesn’t happen. Of course the argument is simplistic in its foundation and fatally flawed.
The first flaw is the most obvious. South Africa’s electoral system is a proportional representation system, you don’t vote for individuals, you vote for political parties. Ramaphosa will therefore not be on the ballot in 2019, the ANC will. A cross next to the governing party on the ballot means you get Ramaphosa but you also get DD Mabuza, Ace Magashule, Jesse Duarte, Nomvula Mokanyane and Bathabile Dlamini. You get the same National Executive Committee that has spent the last eight years enabling, protecting and entrenching the state capture project. You also get the same governing party that has steered the economy onto the rocks and pushed nearly 10 million citizens into the unemployment line.
It’s pure democratic folly to award a party that has conducted itself in such a manner with an increased electoral majority. If a governing party knows that no matter how spectacularly it fails, no matter how much damage its policies wreak on the economy and the people, it will still command a growing majority, you can be guaranteed that an arrogance of power will set in. We have seen this movie before. President of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, was widely viewed as a modernising reformer that turned his country into a model democracy on the verge of admission to the European Union. After receiving a significant majority in his June 2018 re-election however, he has regressed Turkey into an authoritarian dictatorship suppressing opponents, committing civil and human rights abuses and clamping down on freedoms.
The second flaw in the argument is that Ramaphosa’s ANC currently already enjoys a wide majority of 63% in the national assembly. This has not stopped the party from pushing through some of the most radical and populist positions that have had dire effects on the economy and seen capital flight accelerate. Instead of dealing with the major structural reforms this country desperately needs in education, the economy and labour market, we have seen an acceleration of radical populist policies. From the un-costed and dangerously prescriptive proposals on National Health Insurance, which seeks to remove choice and create an Eskom style state monopoly of healthcare to the National Minimum Wage, destined to push (by governments own calculations) a further 1 million citizens into unemployment. Additionally, the proposal to amend section 25 of the constitution to enable property expropriation without compensation has wreaked havoc with local and international investor confidence, and a chilling effect on the property market. This shows that a large electoral majority is hardly a bulwark against radical populist tendencies.
Thirdly, and perhaps most dangerously is the trend that has emerged in the governing party. The last three Presidents have been pushed out of office before the expiry of their terms. Internal politics within the ANC could best be described as an absolute monarchy with the occasional bout of regicide. While some may be absolutely comfortable with giving Ramaphosa a majority, they should think twice before potentially giving their votes and a majority to DD Mabuza further down the line. The consequences of this for any freedom loving, constitutionally aligned person should frankly be too ghastly to contemplate.
Yes, we have seen a move of sentiment and we now have the Zondo commission at work. However we have yet to see a single senior politician arrested, charged or convicted for state capture. What the Zondo commission has also served to do is make a lie of the so called “good ANC” versus “bad ANC”. There are no angels in the fold, those in cabinet and senior positions who themselves did not pillage, were prepared for too long to turn a blind eye to the worst excesses of a government swimming in greed, cronyism and corruption. The Bosasa cash-for-tenders revelations have also poisoned that wellspring. It’s in these countless acts of omission and commission that a web of state capture was weaved and over R500 billion was looted from the fiscus. It has also been interesting to observe the sudden flip flopping of the red overall brigade. From being the most vocal supporters of Pravin Gordhan, he has suddenly transmogrified into the EFF’s public enemy number one. His standing ovations from the EFF in the house have given way to insults and jeers. No doubt the result of the fact that a “joining of the dots” has started to take place, exposing the EFF’s rent seeking tendencies. The VBS bank heist that robbed poor savings clubs and stokvels, and now disturbing allegations of similar operations in city tenders have exposed shady schemes and lavish lifestyles that are the very antithesis of what the red berets supposedly stand for.
The coming election is filled with pitfalls and potholes, before casting a vote, the thinking voter would be well advised to recall the old Latin phrase: Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware. This is especially so because you will have to wait a full five years before you qualify for any refund.