ANALYSIS | Opposition parties: mired in identity crises, outdated policy and hollow rhetoric

But these faux revolutionaries, in red overalls in Parliament, but living large off the backs of VBS pensioners  in the lap of luxury elsewhere have a policy set which will make South Africa even worse than the misery being experienced in Venezuela, writes Paul Boughey

The news this week that the South African economy has entered a technical recession, while unsurprising, should be no less of a wake-up call that we cannot simply continue with a “business as usual” approach.  

The ANC’s economic recipe has for the last decade proved to be a flop, and has created misery for millions of South Africans who are unemployed and spend their days chasing the sun living in grinding poverty.

The entirely self-created crisis at Eskom and other SOE’s, the pursuit of expropriation without compensation, collapsing service delivery, the prescription of assets, rampant crime and corruption and the fantastical NHI means that there is only likely to be more pain to come.  

It seems almost inevitable that South Africa in due course will be downgraded by ratings agencies, this, in turn, will lead to capital outflows, a weakening currency and upward pressure on inflation.

As ever the poor will be the hardest hit, but so too will the middle class who will have to deal with ever-increasing administered prices and the constant threat to the security of their assets – be it their property or pensions.

This in turn is fuelling a new wave of emigration out of the country.

Losing the skills we desperately need to grow the economy and serving to shrink a declining and overburdened tax base even further. 

In the face of this stark reality it is clearer than ever that there is an urgent need for a new approach to fixing South Africa.

An approach which is not wedded to outdated ideological prescriptions, and which takes a pragmatic, but principled stance in dealing with the myriad challenges facing this country.  

It simply cannot be acceptable that South Africa’s economy will grow at the same rate as Zimbabwe this year.

We have the resources, the infrastructure (in part) and the human capital to grow at the rates of countries such as Ethiopia and Ghana.

We should be in the Premier League of nations, instead we are scrapping to stay in division one. 

Against this backdrop it is evident that the established political players are not up to the task.

All too often they are seemingly more seized by their own internal interests than with dealing with the crisis that we face as a nation. 

The ANC under Cyril Ramaphosa is in effect a rudderless criminal syndicate rather than a modern political party – more interested in dispensing patronage and adopting outmoded policy prescriptions which have proved to fail throughout history than with stopping South Africa’s accelerating decline.

The so-called “good” ANC has been swallowed by a faction that will seek its “turn to eat” at every opportunity; and the President has neither the ability nor the appetite to put the country before party and make the hard choices that are so desperately required. 

In order to save South Africa it is more clear than ever that the solution will not come from within the ANC, but from the opposition.

But here again there is reason for concern that the current players do not have the collective ability to bring the ruinous governing party below 50%.  

The EFF promises the world to its hardcore base of supporters.

But these faux revolutionaries, in red overalls in Parliament, but living large off the backs of VBS pensioners  in the lap of luxury elsewhere have a policy set which will make South Africa even worse than the misery being experienced in Venezuela.

Their only objective seems to be to sow chaos and division so that they can engage in self-enrichment. 

The DA remains important to the democratic project in South Africa.

It has a proud of history of leading some of the most important fights of the democratic era, and of governing in the Western Cape and elsewhere in a manner which shows the real positive difference its approach to service delivery makes in contrast to ANC cronyism and corruption. 

However, its political culture and quality of leadership has worsened as it has grown and gained access to the perks and privileges of government.

This has made it at times more paralysed by internal considerations than it should be.

It too seems to be limited in the short to medium term in its ability to expand its appeal to the new voters it desperately needs to seriously challenge the ANC for power.

Indeed it is unclear whether it will even engage in trying to reach these voters, or if it will rather seek to consolidate its base support. The own goals and infighting over the issue of race will not help its cause in this regard. 

The other opposition parties are either too small, or make such an ethnically specific appeal to voters that they can never have a realistic chance of helping to lead a serious challenge to the ANC’s power.

Indeed the ANC is a past master of co-opting possible electoral threats, most recently witnessed by the inclusion of GOOD leader Patricia de Lille in national Cabinet, effectively muzzling her from criticising them. 

It is small wonder then that in 2019, 18.6 million South Africans of voting age simply did not vote.

It is precisely these voters that Herman Mashaba and the People’s Dialogue are seeking to reach and persuade to vote in 2021.

This will be done by moving beyond self-indulgent ideological and largely academic debates, and by ensuring a political movement that it is relentlessly focused on improving the lives of the people who have been left out and excluded.  

Mashaba has a compelling personal narrative which has seen him achieve great success against all odds. He is the rare breed of leader who says what he believes without fear or contradiction.

He is deeply committed to the rule of law, non-racialism, a market economy, social justice, redressing past inequality and has a zero-tolerance for corruption.

He is quite literally prepared to put his money where his mouth is.  

All this was in evidence during his tenure as Johannesburg Mayor, where he faced head-on the rampant corruption the ANC had left in their wake and worked tirelessly to improve service delivery, especially to poorer areas which had been criminally neglected by the ANC.

He is also prepared and indeed eager to listen to citizens.

Over the past three months he has engaged over a million South Africans on the concerns that matter most to them and the solutions they have to our complex challenges.  

It is precisely this kind of new approach to opposition politics that will serve to put his movement in a strong position to inspire those South Africans looking for a party that will stop our slide towards a failed state; and instead through brave, principled and servant leadership will unleash the enormous potential of this great country and its people by contributing to removing the ANC from power.  

 – Boughey is the former DA CEO. He recently joined Herman Mashaba’s People’s Dialogue.

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