Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

So our new Transport Minister, S’bu Ndebele claims to be all in a quandary because he doesn’t know what to do with a gift that has been foisted on him by a group of contractors, Vukuzakhe. No ordinary gift either – it’s a R1,14m Mercedes-Benz S500. So uncertain is he that he’s asked President Zuma what he should do with it! Never mind the fact that he’s legally required to do so, is this really a question he should be asking in the first place?


I work in a procurement department myself and the principle is clear: don’t accept gifts. No matter what the circumstances, something like that always comes back to compromise you in the end, even if it’s only in the minds of everyone else, who now perceives you to be open to that kind of thing. The bigger the gift, the easier the decision. Really, I don’t see why Mr Ndebele should even ask the question in the first place other than to seek legitimacy for accepting it. But that is a very, very slippery slope down which he will descend and it would be so gratifying to see him have enough personal accountability to refuse even to ask the question. Come on, Mr Ndebele, just say no! Don’t do drugs…err, gifts!

Here’s a chance for PZ to demonstrate a real commitment to his “no corruption” mantra and refuse to allow the gift to be accepted. It may not be corruption per se, but it sure blurs the lines and sends a very real message to anyone thinking of that route. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. And, while we’re about it, why isn’t anyone pointing fingers at the contractors?


Well, I’m back

Posted: April 30, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Things sure are helped by a little bit of leave, though the lesson I’m learning is that you never have enough time to do all the things you want to, no matter the situation. You just have to make time available for the things you really want to do. I know, I know, I’m a late and slow learner…


So a brief note on the elections.  ANC won by a mile, as expected, but fell short of the two thirds majority. They’re actually only a few seats short of it, so from a practical perspective that probably won’t matter as much as the psychological message sent by the electorate: we don’t like unlimited power. That’s a good thing, while from a stability point of view the comfortable victory should ensure a lot of consistency. The DA would be well pleased with its performance, up significantly from the last one as they work hard to try to shed the baggage that clings to them stubbornly. Cope? They would probably have liked more votes than they actually got, but 30 odd seats is enough to ensure a healthy foot in the door: they have found out the hard way that being a political party is much more than having fine principles and a platform, so let’s hope they forge on to 2014 with lessons well learned. As for the rest, the decline in all other parties was very interesting: will we move to being essentially a three or four party state? That would be fairly unusual for a proportional representation system but I think it would be more workable for our country.

From a personal perspective, the experience was interesting. We were away from home at the time and so had to cast a special vote the day before the elections. Everything was perfectly well set up for it, but when we came to fill in the special form that was supposed to be assessed before we were allowed to vote, the particular circumstance (away from the specific district) wasn’t catered for and we were essentially told to “fill in just about anything”! Sure, our names were checked to see that we were on the roll and the votes were properly cast, but it was a little disheartening to see that our carefully thought out and well drafted laws were in some part disregarded when it came to execution. I guess that’s the fear of many for the years ahead: that our good laws and systems will be ignored when they become inconvenient or just too difficult to follow in any way. Here’s hoping they will be robust enough to withstand that kind of abuse.

Continuing the theme of highlighting parties contesting the 2009 general election, we can’t avoid looking at the 900 pound gorilla in the corner: the ruling party, the ANC.


Party: African National Congress


Current representation: 293 seats / 400 (after floor crossing, which was an abominable concept)

Leader / presidential candidate: J Zuma

Some manifesto points:
More jobs, decent work and sustainable livelihoods
Food security – ensuring no one goes hungry
Rural and agricultural development and land reform
Education at the centre of efforts
Forward to achieving healthcare for all
Together intensify the fight against crime and corruption
Building cohesive and sustainable communities
A better Africa and a better world

Find the manifesto at: This web page

My key question for this election: Will their support change in numbers and character enough to force a substantial shift in policies?

Love them or hate them (and people certainly do both), they are here to stay and they will be the ruling party post April 1 barring something utterly unforeseen. They have a record over the last 15 years that shows some great successes (e.g. the economics front), some mixed bags (housing has both ups and downs) and some some real failures (AIDS policies and the Zimbabwe approach, anyone); if you think that this bears repeating, by all means cast your vote for them. Actually, my difficulty has less to do with the party itself than the principles of democracy that come into play by virtue of its success. I’m not sure that it is good for any party to sit with 74% of the seats in parliament no matter who they are, for the potential for circumventing principles such as the separation of powers and the transcendency of the Constitution is just too great. It may seem theoretical, for the party has been remarkably conservative in that regard thus far, but theories today have a nasty way of playing out in practice tomorrow.

A part of me thinks that the focus of the party, the things that it has done well, has often reflected the training and leanings of its leader – Nelson Mandela was a lawyer and we had legislative reform and an emphasis on relations, Thabo Mbeki was an economist and we had sound macroeconomic policies and good growth. What is Jacob Zuma and where will it lead us? I think he is (for now, anyway) a populist and we’ll get a focus on issues that affect the poorest most. That could be a good thing, but I’m also wary of pandering always to the lowest common denominator. Democracy is about so much more than the tyranny of the masses and you want its basic structures to be robust enough to withstand waves of popular opinion on the issue of the day.

There’s vast amounts that could be said about this party and most people would have made their minds up one way or another. My only comment is that this is one of the few instances where you should consider more than just the party in casting your vote.

Well, the controversy doesn’t let up for Rhema after its decision to allow Jacob Zuma to address the congregation from the pulpit a few Sunday mornings back. Predictably, other parties have requested the opportunity to do the same and they have been turned down.


As reported by iafrica news and other sources, a request by Bantu Holomisa of the United Democratic Movement to address the congregation was turned down, as was a request by Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party. The areligious ANC can speak but an avowedly Christian party cannot? This in spite of an apparent undertaking from Ray Macauley on Radio 702 that all parties would be afforded an equal opportunity.

One hopes that it is merely a case of Rhema realising that it made a mistake the first time round and not wanting to make matters worse by continuing down the path, but they should at least then have the courage to admit having done the wrong thing initially. To do otherwise simply plays into the hands of those contending that it is just cosying up to the ruling party and its likely leader – and that’s a disturbing inference indeed.

Elections 2009: COPE

Posted: March 27, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So with the elections now less than a month away I thought I’d have a brief look at some of the different parties and what they’re standing for. More for my own information really, because I suspect that not doing this will mean I turn up without knowing what any of my options really mean. And turn up I will, because not voting is just a shocking waste of of opportunity: either you agree with the ruling party, in which case vote for them, or you don’t, in which case vote for someone else – in SA they’re unlikely to get in, but at least you don’t by default vote to keep an unpalatable status quo.

Let’s start with the newest contender, just for a change:


Party: Congress of the People


Current representation: 0 seats / 400

Leader / presidential candidate: M Lekota / M Dandala

Some manifesto points:
Leaders who are honest servants of the people
An accountable government without corruption or greed
Respect for the values of SA people, including ubuntu, voluntary service, democracy
Growing the economy and productivity to produce decent work
Fighting poverty and expanding care for the vulnerable
Improving health care, service delivery and education
Fighting crime and ensuring safety
Advancing the African agenda

Manifesto document:   Find it here

My key question for this election: Will they garner enough support for their idealism to be sustainable?

Certainly a laudable collection of principles and I think this reflects the values of many of the founders of the party. Interestingly, I had the opportunity to meet with a colleague who is very active in the party, especially in the party’s leadership college. This was started to give thorough training to the leaders emerging in the party and its motto is “Leaders who serve”: the attitudes of the founders are refreshingly mature and you can see that there is real passion around the idea of creating a party that actually lives by its principles. I’m not sure how easily this will be implemented as the party gains mass and brings on board many who might not be as committed to these principles as the founders, but it was kind of inspiring to hear these views from those who are currently driving these things forward.

COPE is trying to be different, running a campaign that focuses more on new media like the internet and high impact advertising – have you seen the building wrap on the Queen Elizabeth bridge in Johannesburg? They run a very cool website, too. My concern with this, of course, is that South African society may not be quite ready for this: you’ll reach a certain segment quite well but not the masses that you need to pull in serious votes. However, COPE’s focus is realistically going to be the 2014 elections, with this one providing learning and an opportunity for a foot in the door.

I really liked what I heard in my discussions with my colleague, but it remains to be seen how the passion will turn out when faced with the bruising reality of the political experience. At the least, and for the sake of a changing political landscape, it would be nice to see them garner enough votes this time round to make their ship seaworthy for the journey ahead.

Pompeia was the second wife of Julius Caesar. In 62 BC she hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“good goddess”), which no man was permitted to attend, in this house. However a young patrician named Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to gain admittance disguised as a woman, apparently for the purpose of seducing Pompeia. He was caught and prosecuted for sacrilege. Caesar gave no evidence against Clodius at his trial, and he was acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” The truth or otherwise of the allegations was not what mattered – it was merely the fact that they existed which prompted his action. Caesar recognised that there was nothing so precious in the political arena as reputation, which had to be preserved at all costs. 


This is the problem that the president of the ANC sits with. He has already been at the receiving end of the above philosophy (when Thabo Mbeki sacked him as VP) and, while he vows not to step aside as a result of legal challenges, he still has to face the credibility problems that his reputation gives him. Technically, he’s right: we can’t demand that a potential leader step aside simply because an allegation is made or a court action launched. That would make it far too easy for any party to take out the leaders of any opposition they feared – just launch any action, regardless of how shaky it must be. No, we must indeed let the law play its course in these situations. The problem is that the damage is already done to his reputation and the crippled light that it now has may determine the type of moths that are naturally attracted to it. That’s my chief concern, to be honest: JZ does not strike me as a particularly strong man, which makes the quality of those around him all the more important and some of the examples have been less than stellar…

That said, I can’t help but write this with an awareness that it feels like a very eurocentric approach. There’s an element of loyalty (for want of a better word) that seems to run much deeper in African politics than the Western mindset understands. Whatever the reasons for it, it’s a reality and I don’t think we can be effective politicians or commentators in Africa until we get to grips with it. Here’s hoping we do while we can still make a difference.