Professor Lesiba Teffo of the Centre for African Renaissance at the University of South Africa did not mince his words when commenting on the ANC’s victory in the May 8 South African election: despite an outcry from some voters, “the ANC’s arrogance in power and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s fear of a coup had to do with their insistence on keeping objectionable party members on parliamentary lists”, he declared. The list of public representatives for parliament and provincial legislatures was published in the Government Gazette, and those with tainted images and nefarious backgrounds featured prominently.
This is but one of the anomalies of South Africa’s strange “democracy” – the ruling party’s “going through the motions” of Western-style procedures, with electoral commissions, voter registrations, public campaigning and then the sweeping to power with a large majority: this effort certainly impressed the world. But there is a dark side to all of this - fissures and contradictions and bizarre behaviour patterns and mindsets reveal the prevailing democratic South African narrative to be quite different to the Western ideal. Characteristics endemic to Africa are becoming very conspicuous, yet are tolerated with an amazing passivity both inside and outside South Africa. These idiosyncratic traits would never pass muster in any of the world’s representative governments, but the ANC’s shaky standards have become South Africa’s standards, and that party has been given a free pass which virtually no other world government has been given.
Nowhere in any truly democratic country would a party be voted into power after twenty five years of serious failure. One mentally challenged SA university professor lauded the president for “at least apologising” for the party’s past mistakes. Mistakes? Is the wanton destruction of a country a mistake? Another columnist urged South Africa to give the ANC “another chance”. After four destructive terms of office, followed by umpteen motions of no confidence in ANC ex-president Jacob Zuma, we must give his and president Ramaphosa’s party “another chance”?
These bizarre electoral phenomena represent a mindset inimical to Western thought processes. Professor Teffo articulated this in his comment about the “objectionable party members” who are going to take their places in the SA parliament and in the cabinet without any shame or cognizance of accountability. A further phenomenon of singular importance in assessing the ANC’s “sweeping” election results is the eighteen million mostly black South Africans who depend almost wholly on government welfare payments every month. Most care only about that: sewage in the streets, erratic electricity supplies, lack of proper education and wholesale plundering of the country’s finances by the party they continually vote for doesn’t register with them as an incongruity. As long as they get their money every month, nothing else seems to matter and they will continue to vote for the ANC ad infinitum. These voters are “in the bag”, so to speak, for the ANC, which party has told voters for years now that voting for anyone else will see this stipend disappear.
Then there’s the African “big man” syndrome - the cult of personality. President Ramaphosa is seen by many as the country’s saviour, as if he alone can change the ANC’s destructive DNA. Issues which worry voters in the rest of the world are airily dismissed by SA’s ruling party, and failures are called “challenges” whose solutions are just around the corner. Scapegoats are regularly brought out of the hat: apartheid, colonialism, white monopoly capital, Western aid stinginess and climate change, to name a few. Drought is a good old standby. (The fact that it occurs in dozens of other countries which plan forward for the occurrence is not mentioned.) Professor Teffo says that “in the African context, the electorate tended not to deal with issues but with emotions, driven by the politics of the stomach.”
The race card is relentlessly proffered. Many ANC officials and hangers on who have illegally enriched themselves, play this card masterfully and cunningly to deflect attention from their crimes. Race as an issue is very effective in exacerbating the deepest and most visceral antagonisms within South African society.
During the post-election euphoria, the president talked of an “inclusive” South Africa, and that he was president for all South Africans. At the same time, ANC secretary -general Ace Magashule declared vehemently that “we (black people) are slaves in our own nation while those who hold our wealth through historic theft still enjoy it. Control of the resources of SA is still primarily in the hands of white people who are the descendants of colonists who stole our wealth and land in the first place”.