Politicians should not lie to us

Douglas Gibson writes all parties have good and bad members, and those who lie, give politicians a bad name

No one in South Africa has forgotten the winning slogan of the ANC, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.”

I don’t think the ANC was lying. In those innocent far-off days, they did not realise that their warped and outdated policies of socialism and communism, imported from Europe, were actually led to, “Few Jobs, Fewer Jobs, Even fewer Jobs.” Today, after 30 years, we are world-beaters. We have the highest unemployment rate in the World. That is one world title that we don’t celebrate.

One of the tiny pop-up parties, BOSA, promises a job in every home. Try as I might, I cannot see how they could achieve this (and in any event, our large families need more than one job per household), but give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that it is at least an aspiration, not a lie.

World-beaters for telling porkies (a polite term for “downright lies”), must be ANC MECs, and premiers of Gauteng. There are many examples, but the championship belt must go to Panyaza Lesufi, the publicity-crazed Premier of Gauteng. He had the effrontery recently, at a public meeting, to say the following to the adoring crowd of supporters: “After the 29th May 2024, you can go to any hospital of your choice, whether it’s a private hospital or a public hospital, or a private clinic and get the best experts to treat you and after treating you, the government will pay the bill.”

I am considering offering lifts to sick persons, who are Lesufi supporters, and taking them to the Morningside Clinic or the Rosebank Clinic, and insisting that they are Lesufi patients, whose bills will be paid by the government.

How does a senior politician, even if he is Lesufi, get away with telling lies aimed at stealing the votes of innocent voters? This is the same man who advised voters that all arrear service charges would be erased and forgiven. People were misled into believing that they should therefore not worry about paying their electricity and water accounts. Look at what this has done to the finances of City Power and Eskom.

Lesufi is also the man who defied the ANC leadership and put together the coalitions of Doom, with the EFF and the PA, to take over Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni. Of course, he learned the sweet talk from some of his illustrious predecessors like Mbhazima Shilowa, David Makhura, Nomvula Mokonyane, and Paul Mashatile. All have had careers littered with promises about hugely expensive projects that cost millions and produced little or nothing after that.

Mashatile, now our deputy president, announced a R165 million conversion of hostels to family units. 5 years later, after allocating millions, the project was abandoned, because of a “lack of proper management.” After 10 years hostel dwellers still live in appalling, inhumane, and unsanitary conditions.

Lesufi stated this year that Gauteng was buying 18 private hospitals and converting them into public hospitals. This promise will, of course, fail; just like the asbestos schools project. In 2016, we were told that 18 schools would be replaced with safer buildings. In 8 years, only 4 schools have been rebuilt and 22 remain. That is how much these politicians care about our children.

I have told the story before: I asked an Uber driver recently how voters could trust Zuma, knowing his past. He smiled, and said, “The voters think all politicians are crooks.” I say they are not. All parties have good and bad members, and those who lie, give politicians a bad name.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand.

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.