"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully" - Samuel Johnson
A Eunomix report shows South Africa over the past 12 years has had the greatest decline in a variety of social, economic and political indices, from 31st to 88th out of 178 countries, other than those states in the grip of war. In their words “The developmental state project has failed. South Africa is now a fragile state, expected to continue to weaken.”
We don't really need Eunomix to tell us what any observer of the South African scene acknowledges as the absolute minimum that can be said about the disastrous impact of ANC rule. One can only hope that it helps concentrate the mind of voters faced with a momentous decision on 8 May, since judging from some of the responses and polling reports, too many South Africans are still in denial regarding either the scale and consequences of the crisis we face or what constitutes a realistic response.
My previous post was not a "thinly disguised DA manifesto/appeal" as one responder put it, but a plea to South African voters to get real before it is too late. What do I mean by that?
For the next couple of weeks all that matters politically is how we respond to the real world situation in which we find ourselves. There is no purpose in me further belabouring the severity of the crisis which is now upon us or the dire nature of its potential consequences. Furthermore in the real political world we occupy there is no quick or certain fix to our historical and current predicament.
We have a choice between the following broad options:
Choosing the DA and the prospect of a steady grind towards returning to the constitutional and inclusive state which many had hoped the end of Apartheid and our new democratic dispensation would usher in. This will almost certainly mean coalition politics with all its frustration and messy compromise as South Africa sets about restoring ethical and democratic norms and rehabilitating a mortally wounded economy.
Rewarding the party, and its penumbra of fellow travellers, which has destroyed our hopes and has brought us to this pass. This choice is predicated on the supposition that a single 70 plus year-old individual (who has shown no evidence of such reforming zeal for the past decade) will radically transform the ANC, ridding it not only of its embedded culture of corruption and entitlement but also eliminating its populist, black nationalist narratives, its addiction to obsolete socialist mythology and failed rogue states around the world. The mind boggles at the sheer improbability of such a scenario
Choosing some wholly nihilistic and unachievable option like the Cape Party or some other narrow ethnic or ideologically-based formation. These will prove to be totally ineffectual in electoral terms and will serve to split the anti-ANC/EFF opposition and hand the country over to those who will ensure that we continue unhindered on our downward spiral. Amongst these we must include parties which serve only to feed the egos and enrich their leaders in the upcoming horse-trading for votes.
Finally selecting a couple of religious or ideologically inclined parties with whom one may partially sympathise but who have no political clout except in a small number of potential negotiations.
South Africa is not being given the opportunity to choose the best of all conceivable worlds. We are, however, being given the chance to deal sensibly with uncertainty, ambiguity, compromise and painful constraints while simultaneously working towards a distant goal of strengthening our constitutional and lawful foundations, rescuing our failed economy, instilling expertise and a sense of national identity. Without the DA those goals become a pipedream. With an empowered DA they enter the realm of possibility. It will also strengthen the sense of responsibility and commonsense so lacking in South African politics historically and currently.
The cards are stacked against this scenario. The South African political space is volatile, debased and prone to fantasies and fads. Who can predict how the ANC will react to the loss of dominance. All this takes place in a larger global context which encourages such emotion-driven and polarising politics. This article is not the place to explore this proposition but simply to acknowledge its power to undermine productive political choices. It is something we need to face up to.
I'm going to repeat some obvious truths that seem to get lost in the fog of political battle.
The DA is the only party in South Africa which has actually made a real success of governance (certainly in the Western Cape) despite having the deck stacked against it in almost every conceivable way.
The DA is the only party which has openly and consistently followed the principles of an all-encompassing, inclusive national identity contrary to the exaggerated and absurd claims of an anti-white/pro-black agenda (or the opposite) from different quarters.
The DA is remarkably free of the rampant corruption which permeates virtually every nook and cranny of the ANC and its fellow-travellers. And where corruption has surfaced the DA has generally reacted effectively even at a political price.
The DA is the only party with the national clout and international recognition to form a credible counterweight to the ANC.
The DA is the only significant and ethical party with practical experience in governance and the complex rough and tumble of democratic (including coalition) politics in a near zero-trust country beset by massive economic inequalities, cultural differences and existential and historical experiences.
It is the only South African political party with the history, internal processes and necessary array of skills, experience and democratic instincts in its ranks to provide a credible prospect of effective and honest governance
The DA is a developmentally orientated party which is committed to free-enterprise, to maximising opportunity especially to the deprived, and to the centrality of the individual: the proven paths to democracy and broad economic empowerment.
The DA is the most transparently and unambiguously non-racial party in South Africa and has never resorted to identity-baiting or grievance-mongering for political advantage.
And yes, serious failure of the DA in these elections will significantly advance the prospects of a Venbabwe-type outcome in South Africa.
Some of the cherry- and nit-pickers will no doubt attempt to undermine this message. But PW readers need to ask what credibility do their so-called counterclaims and contrarian views possess. On critical examination I generally find a powerful current of wishful thinking and personal obsession rather than substance.
I wish to end by examining the claims of the Ramaphorics. There are experienced and, let's assume, dispassionate and disinterested commentators who argue that voting for the ANC will strengthen Ramaphosa's hand and, given the balance of forces in the country, will save us from an imminent slide into EFF oblivion. A more pathetic and improbable political argument is truly difficult to imagine.
Firstly, let us note there is no hint of real hope here. The Ramaphorics do not point to a scenario of real change because there is no prospect of such an outcome. Leaving aside the corruption and ineptitude which pervades the ANC galaxy, the party is in thrall to socialist mythology, to a glorification of 'liberation politics' in place of real achievement, are pally with every tyrannical failed state worldwide and are deeply addicted to ethnic politics when it suits them, supported by reductionist, anti-colonial historiography.
There is also no evidence that Ramaphosa is seriously opposed in principle to this line of thinking. The ANC elite claim our support on the basis that they are the moral guardians of our oppressive history. On this altar the lives of this generation and their descendents will be sacrificed to the gods of identity and grievance politics.
Besides these foundational doubts there remains the significant possibility that Ramaphosa will never gain real ascendency over the criminal elements within the ANC and will merely introduce a minor blip on the steady downward spiral of the South African prospect. Or that Ramaphosa may die or be incapacitated during his term of office leaving the field open to our grimmest fears. Or that when his term is over no credible successor will be available to continue on the path we desperately hope, against all reason, he will pioneer.
In summary, voting for Ramaphosa/ANC will at best introduce a brief blip in our decline while weakening genuine opposition and strengthening the nihilistic elements in South African politics.
South Africa has the real prospect of a hanging in a couple of weeks time. Let's prove that this indeed helps concentrate the South African mind and chose hope above despair.