In the eye of the storm
The Western Cape presents one of the great paradoxes for political theorists. Nowhere in the world have a people been subjugated, colonised and oppressed for so long (approximately 342 years) yet continue in the post democratic era to provide political support and fealty to the erstwhile oppressor, albeit in the guise of unrepentant Afrikaner nationalists, quasi liberal democrats, and recently reformed progressives.
This phenomenon merits reflection in respect of two primary issues. Firstly, the nature of the beast and how it has morphed into playing the people as the people on behalf of the people. Secondly, the liberation movement and its relationship with the Western Cape citizenry pre and post democracy.
It is now almost 3 years since the Democratic Alliance took power in the Western Cape province. On the surface everything appears normal and the eye of the storm appears quiet and calm, yet in reality a storm of fury is brewing close to boiling point.
Its tensions today largely stem from inherent contradictions in terms of race, gender, class, cultural, social and economic factors amongst its members and supporters as it tries to grow its existing support base beyond its historic hegemonic white constituency. It has done this by swallowing up into its belly all the current smaller opposition parties in order to become one ''super opposition" in an attempt to project itself as a party for all.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) today is a mix masala of many White conservatives, some old liberals, some members of the Coloureds working class from the old New National Party, more militant Coloureds nationalists from the Independent Democrats and a small cabal of very young newly recruited and politically inexperienced white English speaking males.
Ironically, it seems this small cabal of the very young newly recruited and politically inexperienced white English speaking males is the dominant faction, yet it remains in the numerical minority, but is holding the political, ideological and cultural hegemony of the DA. This anomaly in a mixed masala party each with it's own different cultural, political and economic ideological needs and aspirations, have created a number of inherent fault lines.
Most political analysts would argue that these fault lines in a political party are normal when it attempts to grow it self as a party beyond its existing support base. However, when the only glue that keeps these very diverse groupings together is opposition to the ANC during election time whilst only ensuring the protection and perpetuation of white privilege between elections at the expense of its other voters, such an organisation is bound to lose support in a short run.
Add to that, the paranoid and iron fisted leadership style within the DA and its refusal to integrate the different competing cultural and other interests of all its members and supporters, whilst it is forcefully inculcating its own conservative neo-liberal and paternalistic culture upon its members. What we have is a ticking time bomb ready to implode. This has happened not so long ago, between 2001 and 2004, and it seems that the writing is on the wall that history is about to repeat itself.
This mixed masala party has failed to find the right amount of ingredients to make it palatable to all its constituents. Whilst at first it may have looked appetising to some, but after chewing and swallowing some bit of it for sometime, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many of its newer supporters and its turning in their stomachs. And, the DA refuses to change its recipe as long as it remains delicious to its white constituency.
For a party to remain cohesive it needs to ensure that it has clear and functionally coherent political, ideological and cultural policies and practices that appeals to and benefits all its members and supporters and not just a single constituency. The DA has the uncanny ability of speaking with forked tongue. In one side of its mouth its shouts pretensions to be a party for all whilst the other side of the same mouth screams policies and practices that represents the most backward protection and perpetuation of white privilege (political, economic, cultural and social) in general and of the rich White English speaking minority both within DA and South Africa, in particular.
A reflection on some of the DA service delivery record over the past few years illustrate this point.
- In a province with a close to half a million housing backlog, since 2009 the DA will for the third consecutive year fail to deliver on its own human settlement targets (houses and serviced sites). This in the face of the plight of Tafelsig backyard dwellers that hit crisis point on the eve of the May 2011 elections. One wonders whether it is mere incompetence or just a sheer lack of political will, given that the beneficiaries are by and large black (African and Coloureds) poor.
- The DA, despite all its election promises it continues to perpetuate old patterns of patronage and beneficiation in favour of mainly white established businesses and white middle class communities. One only has to think of the lucrative property deals in the Cape Town CBD or the exclusive cycle lanes for the CBD, Milnerton and Table View as well as the BRT busses for Parklands. In the eyes of this mix masala party service delivery is only efficient and effective when is done and only benefits the more privileged constituency.
- The DA handling of the campaign for the occupation of the Rondebosch Common demonstrates its arrogance and rambunctious gung-ho attitude in the face of genuine concern, community protest and broad public interest. This however is the latest in a litany of examples of the DA's disdain for substantive public participation in the context of a developmental democracy. Let us not forget its response to the ''toilet saga" in Makhaza, the protests in Valhalla Park for safer communities, and its approach to the Hangberg land issue not to long ago.
- For all its protestations in respect of transparency, good governance and due process it is willing to abuse the letter and spirit of the law when it needs to ensure that white big business benefit from state procurement at provincial and local government level. Its awarding of the multi million rand Communications tender by the Western Cape provincial government, the multi million rand IT contract in Bitou, its numerous security tenders in the City of Cape Town all without proper advertising are but some of the examples.
- Its corrupt handling of the afore-mentioned multi-million rand communications tender demonstrated by a lame offer by Premier Zille to resign in the face of any wrong-doing soon turned into a major about turn and fancy flights of spin. The DA also selectively forgot that the saga was chapter two of a well-rehearsed similar scheme attempted 11 years earlier by the same role-players.
- Its provincial cabinet, national and provincial parliament, as well as local councils that it controls and most of its recent appointments into government administration remain pale and male. More so, many of these appointments at senior and executive management level are questionable as most of the appointees have very limited, if any, management experience in civil service and or the private sector.
- There are numerous other examples in which young DA hacks have been deployed to senior management positions in the Western Cape government and in municipal governments under its control, sometimes without following proper procedures and proper consultation, and mainly against the will and consent of its elected political leaders. It seems the DA's aversion to cadre deployment does not apply to some of its own members. Their policy of ''fit for purpose" in practice it read as "wit (white) for purpose".
The DA has fool some of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but it will never be able to fool all the people all of the time. How has the DA and its predecessors ilk morphed into playing the people as the people on behalf of the people?
In 1994 many of the same leaders in DA today, crudely campaigned on the swart-gevaar ticket saying, "if Mandela comes into power your houses and jobs will be taken away." Today they claim to be the new mantle-bearers of the Mandela legacy.
In 1999 these very same leaders fought a sophisticated racist campaign exploiting white fears under the slogan of fight back which in reality meant ''fight blacks".
In 2004 they again played the race card whipping up white fears and 'Coloureds' insecurities under the auspices of protecting minorities (read White, Coloureds and Indian) from an African government.
In 2009 they campaigned on a climate of fear spreading doomsday prophecy messages that a Zuma led government would take the country on a slippery slope to a banana republic whilst simultaneously advocating equal opportunity for all. The subtext of this message is that under the failing ANC government there would only be opportunities for Africans to the exclusion of other sections of our society.
What they failed to communicate in their campaign was the invisible print as is evident in their service delivery record that equal opportunity for all is for all privileged areas like St James, Blouberg, George and Constantia whilst Tafelsig, Blue Downs, Atlantis, Khayelitsha and Gugelethu continue to face the brunt of a lack of service delivery.
The greater danger of this political programme is the long-term damage to a national project of building a non-racial and non-sexist society in general and in the Western Cape in particular. The DA's consistently racist election campaigns within the so -called minority constituencies and its penchant for whipping up swart gevaar as well as its deliberately biased delivery of services in favour of its mainly white constituencies, at the expense of the historically disadvantaged and poorer communities will take years to redress.
The DA's programme is doing nothing to address the racial, social, economical, cultural, spatial and psychological legacy of our colonial and apartheid past. The consequences are two fold. Firstly, today Whites still remain fearful, Coloureds and Indians remain insecure and Africans still feel alienated in the Western Cape province. Secondly the numerical minority of white people still remains the cultural majority and has the economic hegemony within this province.
However, history has a mischievous manner of repeating itself when people don't learn from the error of their ways, as is the case of the current DA leadership. The honeymoon period will come to an end, as has been the case before. The eye of the storm rests pensively quiet, calm and almost tranquil, but it will stay its course and follow its trajectory leaving in its wake the ravages of time, and the milestones of history.
This storm will be precipitated by an ANC that today is revitalised and renewed in its commitment to create a free and united society that is non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, and which ensures prosperity for all the people of the Western Cape including the poor.
The ANC's historic presence in the Western Cape, including its role over the last five decades culminating in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Rocklands Mitchells Plain and the final thrust for liberation is beyond reproach. The ANC's record of delivery is unparalleled in Africa and the developing world. Its support in the Western Cape went from 31 % in 1994, to 42% in 1999, and to a high of 46 % in 2004 capturing the largest segment of black vote (African and Coloured).
As the ANC ushers in its centenary year it celebrates a legacy of 100 years of selfless struggle for the cause of building the South Africa of our dreams i.e. a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous country. Over this long period their were many challenges ranging from internal revolt, external threat of liquidation of its leaders, repression and state aggression, draconian measures aimed at snuffing out all internal resistance in the country. Yet, the ANC as a self-correcting movement has always managed to emerge out of these crisis more stronger and more unified.
Having learned from our past errors, it is now just over a year since the newly elected ANC Western Cape provincial leadership took office and launched its 2014 "People's Path to Power" strategy. Fundamental to this strategy is to deal with internal legacy issues, rebuilding and renewing the ANC in the province, ensuring that the continued marginalisation and economic isolation of black people in general is halted, and taking the battle to the DA through the proverbial eye of the storm.
It is against this background that our elected leadership emerged and today is more united and renewed with a clarity of purpose that seeks to win back the Western Cape and continue the project we began in 2004 to build a united, non-racial non-sexist province in order that all it's citizens both poor and middle class benefit from government service delivery and economic growth.
With a fresh and inspiring vision and strategy and in the face of a materially untransformed DA that continues to ride roughshod over the aspirations of even those sectors of the Coloured community that support it, the ANC has begun working tirelessly to ensure that the aspirations of the people are fulfilled. It is doing this through building and strengthening its internal organisational machinery, championing and mobilising support of community issues and campaigns and stringently holding the DA accountable at local and provincial level on its poor and unbalanced service delivery.
Already there are numerous positive signs of the ANC's rise and the DA's inevitable demise. The DA's marginal recovery in the 2011 local government elections to achieve three percent more than the 2009 results indicates that the tide of negativity has turned and the downward spiral of ANC support since 2006 local government elections has been neutralised.
Since then a further body of evidence is emerging indicating the "gatvolness" of many (particularly Coloureds and the sprinkling of Africans) who supported and entered into coalitions with the DA. They are realising DA's true purpose of protecting and perpetuating only White privilege. The ANC's own increased performance in a number of bi-elections since then, the collapse of some fractious DA alliances, the crossing over to the ANC by a number of former DA, ID and Cope activists all bear testimony to this.
In addition, the vibrant interaction with community structures such as Community Policing Forums, sectoral support from the Khoisan, minstrels and religious communities, as well as strengthened relationships with the Tripartite Alliance and civil society organisations further signifies the momentum and support for the renewed ANC.
These positive trends also importantly indicate that the punishment at the polls by our supporters was temporary and that the ANC Western Cape is well on its way to rebuilding its trust amongst our historic hegomonic support whilst the DA continues to unmask itself for what it truly is.
Moving forward we will leave no stone unturned and will heighten the crisis by continuing to expose the DA's anti-poor policies in the provision of access to housing, basic services, safety as well as its actions in the face of evictions and its war on community structures and peoples' organisations. We will agitate for the ongoing struggles of rural communities and in particular the tenuous situation of farm-dwellers and seasonal workers given its neglect under the DA Government.
However, given this renewed momentum and energy amongst the masses and members of the ANC, we are not naive to the dangers of our historic divisions and future fault lines that may emerge within the ANC as we prepare for power in 2014. We have over the past year started our healing process with all cadres even those that initially opposed this leadership and we will continue to do so until our organisation and society is fully united. There is no denying that when the ANC is divided the divisions are reflected on society, and when the ANC is united its unity and strength is felt in a united and prosperous society.
We know that whilst all the signs are there of a DA that is disintegrating from within, we can only benefit from the storm and win back the Western Cape if there is maximum unity and cohesion at all levels of the organisation. We should not allow those who thrive in fear and divided ANC to seek to divide us including those who can only advance their personal ambitions in a divided and self-feasting organisation.
We must draw the leaf from the wisdom of the late ANC President, Comrade OR Tambo, who compared unity to a delicate plant that cannot be left alone to grow in the wild for it may then be devoured by weeds and insects. He argued that it need to be consistently watched, watered, nurtured and protected if it was to survive and grow. We are committed to jealously guard and nurture our unity for our organisation to grow from strength to strength.
We have no doubt that the current leadership has the necessary political maturity to do just that. It will maintain and build on the existing unity and cohesion we have developed over the past year. We will not let our eye off the ball. That is the mandate we were elected on and that is the mandate we will deliver on. Our position is further guided by our legacy of unity and cohesion captured in the words of Comrade Charlotte Maxeke that "this work is not for yourselves - kill that spirit of self - and do not live above your people, but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you. "
Be assured that in the eye of the storm the people shall rise, the tide shall turn and the Western Cape as the first and last remaining colony will finally be free come 2014.
>> Marius Fransman is the ANC Western Cape Provincial Chairperson and Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. This article first appeared in ANC Today, the online newsletter of the African National Congress.
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