A vote for the ANC is not a vote for Cyril

Douglas Gibson says Peter Bruce continues to get it completely wrong

Peter Bruce, one of our most distinguished and respected columnists, writes sense for five years at a time before going into an inexplicable speed wobble every election.

True to form, Bruce decided very early on in this election to conduct an energetic and determined campaign to canvass votes for President Cyril Ramaphosa. CR needed to have “his hand strengthened.” Believe it or not, the way to do that was to cast votes for the ANC parliamentary and provincial legislature lists because one cannot and does not vote for the president.

My memory is fading fast but I remember similar enthusiasms for other politicians in previous elections. One of those was Bantu Holomisa, whom Bruce viewed with stars in his eyes. I do not recall Helen Zille or Tony Leon, both of them big league politicians, ever being the flavour of the moment.

The enthusiasm was always transitory. Bruce’s election fancies (fantasies) soon fell out of favour and impatient readers waited for the next politician to be endorsed by Bruce. Just as Julius Malema was prepared to “kill for Zuma,” he soon turned his back on him, although to be fair to Zuma, Malema seems now to be half-in-love with him again.

Bruce must be becoming bored with his Ramaphosa campaign. He started so early this time that it has dragged on, seemingly forever, as the ANC looked more and more ropey with each sitting day of the multitude of commissions of enquiry. Furthermore, the publication of the election lists for both parliament and the Provinces underscored the fact that the ANC talk of a new dawn was just hogwash. Many on the lists may be described as rogues – or worse.

The promise that the ANC Integrity Commission would help clean up the lists proved to be a mirage. Even though it has indeed compiled a list of candidates who are a problem, including the deputy president and Minister Gwede Mantashe, they carefully waited to leak the names until after the date had expired when the IEC could receive objections and remove names from the lists.

Unless the ANC startles the world by changing its method of operation and showing that it is serious about fighting corruption, all those names will be on the list. I think it is fair to say that the more votes the ANC gets, the more rogues will be elected to parliament and to the provincial legislatures. Quite how that will strengthen Cyril’s hand, is not understood.

Bruce has forgotten that the man ultimately in charge of the ANC lists is not the president; it is Ace Magashule, Secretary-General and his deputy, Jessie Duarte. You may be assured that the lists are packed with people who support Ace and Jacob Zuma, rather than candidates pledged to Ramaphosa. We have read the many allegations over the years and the remarkable book about Ace Magashule and his goings-on in the Free State as premier.

We also heard Ace tell Western Cape voters a few days ago that they must not vote for the umlungu- the white man (Alan Winde). Ace is an alleged rogue and a racist. Fine company our president keeps. No one ought to forget that he poured honey over Ace’s head not long ago. He referred to him as his “Boss” and said that without Ace he would be nothing.

It is fairly certain that the ANC is likely to be re-elected with a smaller majority at national level. Despite Ace Magashule’s shocking racism and appeal to the blood, Western Cape Voters seem set to re-elect the DA after ten years of exemplary government. As for Gauteng, this could be the high point of the election.

The ANC stands a good chance of having its vote cut down to below 50%. If that happens, the exciting prospect of a new coalition government opens up. It will be fascinating to see whether Ramaphosa prefers to deal with the EFF, or with the DA and other opposition parties. If the ANC ties up with the EFF as it might, that will tell you everything about Ramaphosa. If the ANC enters into talks with the DA, as it also might, a very careful coalition agreement will have to be negotiated and agreed upon. Some of the hare-brained ANC policies will have to be junked and some of the rogues will have to be left out of the provincial government. Nothing would electrify South Africa like a new, fresh government containing people who do not have to drag baggage behind them and who truly are not corrupt.

Peter Bruce could do himself and South Africa a huge favour for the 2024 election. That will be the one where the ANC loses power in the country. He should surprise us all and give an endorsement to Mmusi Maimane, the gifted young leader of the opposition. An excellent speaker both in parliament and in his tireless campaign of meetings in every corner of South Africa, Maimane is young, fresh, untainted by the past and there has never been a hint of scandal about him in his public or private life.

What a change that would make for our country. Bruce recently quoted with some glee the poor-mouthing RW Johnson gave Maimane in his latest book. Among other things, he thought Maimane was too young. I have great respect for Bill Johnson, whom I know, but he is even older than I am and is falling prey to the temptation of ageism. South Africa is a young country and yet most of the politicians, especially those in Ramaphosa’s cabinet, belong in a retirement home.

Bruce and Johnson have both forgotten that Maimane, inexperienced as he was, led the DA to the biggest victory in its history when it made significant gains in the municipal elections. I predict that the DA will grow marginally everywhere, much more than that in Gauteng and will end up with more support among black voters than the EFF. If they achieve that under Maimane’s leadership while supporting the Constitution and uniting the races instead of dividing them, he will prove his critics wrong.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times.