So South Africa votes for the fifth time tomorrow in "free" elections (wherein all people who are eligible may do so regardless of colour)... but I'm still undecided as to who to vote for.
How to decide
I recognise obviously that one doesn't have to vote for the same bunch for local/provincial and for national. There's a difference in asking who do you want to run your street? VS who do you want to run the country? I'm pretty sure I won't vote for the same people in both cases. Look. You may want, for example, that your shiny upper class suburb remains clean. In that case, you might vote for whoever will poke their nose into the neighbours who hang laundry over the wall and whoever will stop the litterbugs. However, you might also recognise that most people in the country are poor, and therefore you should vote for whoever will help THEM the most at a national level, not who will help YOU the most. In that case, you should consult the list below and see who you think will help the poor most of all, not you. Remember: you're voting for who you think will fix the country, not who you think will keep capitalism alive and well and your cushy lifestyle the same. Naturally, these things need not be contradictions; maybe one party can do both.
Wasting and Spoiling
I also recognise there are arguments about "wasting" your vote. Many people argue that spoiling your ballot paper, or voting for a smaller party, is a "waste" because it "won't help get the ANC out of power". So a lot of people say the ANC is bad and only the DA is big enough to get them out. But while there are plenty of arguments back and forth about this one, my view is that ANY votes that don't go to ANC will help reduce their dominance. There's a secondary question of whether their dominance "ought" to be reduced, and I'll address that below.
The question - whether one should vote for a smaller party, or spoil one's ballot, is what we're addressing here. In favour of spoiling: this is a way of saying to the ANC that you're not happy, without "betraying" them if you are in fact a supporter. It's a way of saying to the ANC, "I think you're the right guys, but I don't like JZ". By spoiling, you're not supporting someone else, you're just withholding support from the ANC, and thereby reducing their majority. Remember: the objective, if you're unhappy with the ANC, is to reduce their majority, not necessarily replace them with something that may or may not be better.
Regarding "wasting" a vote by voting for a smaller party, there are two points to consider. Firstly, how does a smaller party become a bigger party if no-one votes for it? If you really agree with a smaller party, then by all means, vote for it, because otherwise it will never grow to the size of the ANC or DA. The effect of voting for a smaller party is more or less the same as spoiling: you are taking power away from the ANC without necessarily giving it to the DA. But statistically speaking, it's a spoilt ballot until the smaller parties are bigger. The way they need to get bigger is door-to-door campaigning and people actually joining up and committing to them. ANC and DA do it, Agang do it, etc.
ANC - as bad as you think?
On the second question, of whether you think the ANC need a wake-up call, or to be removed from power. Having worked "on the inside" directly with ANC members in government, I can say the following:
a) The claim that the ANC is corrupt is a gross generalisation. They are very strict about corruption and fire you after due process if found guilty. Corruption meaning nepotism and or bribery. Of course, some members have gotten away with certain actions that might be deemed corrupt, but in cases where the person was convicted, they were removed. It seems to me, from the inside again, that corruption is a minor problem overblown by the press, with some unfortunate egregious examples which are grossly unacceptable - e.g. the Free State Website issue (140million), Nkandla (not sure if it was corruption rather than as Madonsela put it, undue enrichment, because no bribe was exchanged), the Gupta nonsense (favoritism), etc. These are particular cases which show that the corruption management is not strong enough and exempts some people; these examples do not show that the ANC broadly is corrupt. But what I can tell you is that the corruption management is much stronger than in corporate sector. Any accusation and an investigation goes under way with hearings etc.
b) Corruption comes from corporate sector bribing government officials for tenders, in many cases because they do not want to subscribe to BEE or follow due tender process so as to "get a competitive edge". A common approach is the "Free donation" approach with a later contractual commitment to payment. Since the offer is "free", government takes it. In other words, it's not just the corrupt members' fault, it's the corporates who are doing the bribery. It takes two to tango, in other words. Corruption is NOT just an ANC hobby. You also have to ask who gets the tender, and why? I assure you that it is DEFINITELY not only cadres who get tenders. Big name white-majority corporations get tenders. You only have to get 10% score for BEE. The rest is your pricing, service levels, experience, national footprint, etc. The problem, in fact, is not just crony capitalism but also bribery by capitalists.
c) What else have the ANC putatively failed at? Service delivery? One can make this argument, but it's harder to make when you do the maths and see what costs are involved. Let's take the example I'm familiar with. Education. We have about 18000 rural schools which were not funded by the apartheid government. Yes, it really is apartheid's fault. Let me show you why. The DBE currently has a project called 'ASIDI' which refurbishes a rural school each week at a cost of R 2 million. (ARRGH, I hear you say, Nkandla could have funded 125 schools!). Yes. 125 schools is 0.69% of the schools in rural areas. The state of the schools in rural areas is a far bigger problem that gets zero press. BTW. 2 million is to convert a school from mud to brick. Bear in mind that 2 million gets you a middle class family home in Joburg. 2 million does not convert Hlabiso High into St John's College. That is what would be required for actual equality.
Now let's work out how much it will cost to undo the damage of apartheid. 2 million x 18000 schools = R 36 billion. At one school a week, that's 346 years. Thanks mnr Verwoerd. Now, consider the DBE's budget. The DBE gets a large proportion of national budget, but they also have to pay teacher salaries. There are about 10 000 DBE officials and 380000 teachers, total 390000 roughly. Suppose the average salary is R 20 000 (including lowest and highest paid). That means the salary budget must be around 8 billion ZAR per month. 96bn per annum. Now add refurbing schools. Let's say we cranked it up to try finish all schools within five years. That's 7.2bn per annum. Total: 103.2bn per annum. As you may gather, that's a fair sum and excludes running costs, building maintenance, non-teaching staff, etc. Perhaps, then, what is called for instead is transparency around the detail of the budgeting and expenditure process rather than whining about why it's taking so long. I'm pretty sure there are legitimate reasons why it takes so long to undo a mess of this size. Remember that the Nats only had to uplift about 2 million Afrikaners, and it took them from 1948 to 1994 (well, probably till independence in 1967ish). 45 million people is a bigger task (+-22 times bigger), so it takes longer. Therefore, it would not be unreasonable for the country to resolve its problems after 400 years, on that factor of 22 times, EXCLUDING population growth. I am pretty sure it will be sorted out before then.
d) My biggest complaint with the ANC is their discourse and by implication attitude: They are the "ruling" party (not civil servants) that will "rule till Jesus comes" and to vote for anyone else is to vote for "the devil" (All JZ's phrases). These kinds of quasi-religious statements are Stalinist in leaning. Add the POSIB to this, and you have a distinct nose of Nat about you, matured from a local varietal. I do not care for Stalinism. The party is not beyond question, even if the questioning is in closed doors, it is not above questions. Then add on top of that the arrogance of the eToll thing, which met with uniform resistance from the public, and Nazir Ali was never called in, or told to cool it with the fascist rhetoric. It's very unfortunate.
For me, the problem with all the parties centre not on their policies, which are mostly similar or the same, but the character and personality of their leaders. Most of them lose credibility because of their lousy leaders.
But who are the realistic choices? In my current thinking, there are very few realistic choices. I'm only going to list the parties I've heard of and who have contested the past few elections. Very small parties and parties that didn't contest the last elections aren't here. Sorry.
In alphabetic order:
ACDP - I can't understand why their leadership has never changed, and why they are unaware that Christianity was a tool of colonialism. I see these guys as being like the Republicans in the USA. They say nothing interesting, and their policies are not publicised enough. I'm pretty sure they'll just turn the place into Swaziland if they ruled it.
Agang - Their policies are similar to the DA - hence the unfortunate attempt at a merger - but minus the youth wage thing. But what worries me about them is why Ramphele went into the deal with the DA in the first place and announced it before confirming with her members. Plus she kissed Zille. Ouch.
ANC - From the insider's perspective, I can say they're not nearly as bad as the press makes out. However, if I was the leader of a putatively pro-poor organisation, I'd not pay a huge fortune for a lavish house, nor would I practice blatant favoritism of some corporate sector people. The problems around corruption are addressed above. They're a side show. The real issue is slow delivery and an unpopular leader. Let's put it this way. If the ANC were incompetent, this place would have collapsed ages ago. Yet things have improved for most people (free education, free housing, free water/lights, new houses and schools, etc) under ANC. So they can’t be that bad.
COPE - I can't tell them and Agang apart, apart from leadership. They seem to be pro-poor, and they seem to be ANC-lite-ish... but... what else? Disaffected ex-ANC people who want to cling to power? Same as EFF minus the anti-corporate venom? I do not know why I should vote for them at all. Differentiate your brand.
DA - Zille is the problem. I cannot vote for her. From her "AIDS + sex = attempted murder" idiocy, to her botched merger with Agang, to her various other gaffes like marching to Luthuli house just to piss the ANC off - it's clear that she's actually not really in touch with what the majority of the people in this country think, live, experience and believe. No matter how much she can dance, no matter that she speaks Xhosa, etc. The fact that people in CT are flinging poo at her tells you something about her attitude. The DA generally are too pro-corporate in the country with the highest GINI coefficient. Their 'youth wage subsidy' strikes me as unsustainable and lacking in imagination as to how to undo poverty. They do have pro-BEE policies - presumably because they need to gain traction outside of suburban enclaves - but I don't believe that they really believe in those policies (lip service), or that they think (really) that they will work. They just lack imagination when it comes to poverty. My joke is that DA stands for Domestic Alliance - We Stand for your Right to Have a Domestic Servant™.
EFF - Malema is the problem. And not because he’s stupid. But because he’s demagogish. Their policies are coherent with the ANC's original Freedom Charter and with the Communist Manifesto, and some of their policies make sense in the light of the poverty in this country. So for example I want to know who says I can't just take an empty piece of land and build on it, and why? I find the concept of land ownership - particularly large empty tracts - and land inheritance - again of large empty tracts - bizarre - and agree with Malema on this point. I want to know the history of e.g. the mines and who T.F. said that only family X is allowed to tunnel in the ground and dig out stuff of dubious but nonetheless great monetary value. So in that sense I agree with him. However, if only Malema didn't wear Breitling and live in Sandton, and instead was humble and downplayed everything, and if he himself hadn't been involved in a dodgy tender... maybe he'd be more plausible. He smacks of someone who enjoyed power as ANCYL president, then lost it, and will do and say absolutely anything to get it back. He even is now begging for the poorwhite vote, when previously he was singing kill the boer. But at least EFF stands for something. That makes them favourites for big growth in this election - simply because you know what they stand for, and it's different. I’d consider voting for them if it weren’t for the “loyalty” thing that one gets from the ANC.
IFP - Who? Oh yes; that minority party of Zulus in the Zulu homeland. I don't know why they don't just give up and merge with ACDP or DA already. Their policies are not significantly different.
SACP - Merged with EFF, got IIRC 1% in the last election, so insignificant. All they do now is put up posters saying Vote ANC.
UDM - A similar problem to ACDP minus the religious slant. I'm not sure what they stand for or why their leadership is so static. Again, why should I vote for them? Give me a reason. Differentiate your brand.
VF - you must be kidding. Everyone can see that you wish apartheid was still in force, and that you only have the narrow interests of the Afrikaner at heart. Go away and live in Orania already. Tsek.
Anyone not on this list above is probably too small at this stage to be anything but a spoilt ballot. Look; it's pretty inevitable that coalitions will form after the elections. My predictions are as follows:
- EFF will get a good showing
- COPE/UDM might merge with each other or someone else e.g. DA/Agang
- DA/Agang will be forced into mergers or coalitions especially at municipal level
- ANC will continue to rule with a slightly lower margin.
- DA will retain the WC and make no gains otherwise.
As you can see from the above, we have a choice between idiots (VF, IFP, ACDP), bland no-name branders (UDM, COPE), parties that lack the balls to remove their bad leaders (DA, ANC), bad ideas (VF, DA), even worse ideas (EFF, SACP), and more of the same (ANC).
Even with this thought exercise, I still can't see who to vote for. I'm leaning towards Agang, but only because I don't know what UDM or COPE stand for, and at least Ramphele has a PhD. If you read the EFF's manifesto, a lot of it makes sense in the light of the poverty and GINI coefficient here, BUT malema and BUT the corporates will run away and take their jobs with them (which is why I say "even worse ideas"). Then again, the DA's policies also make some sense, but Zille is too horrid to vote for, and they're really not showing enough commitment to poverty issues. In fact, someone I know just said they're "ANC lite". And then there's the ANC, which, if voted for, means "more of the same" and again, insufficient focus on poverty issues and more of JZ.
Maybe *I* should run for the next elections.