Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers / Taken on November 3, 2023 – The Springboks grace the streets of Cape Town on Friday for their victory with the Webb Ellis Cup, the four times Rugby World Cup Champions were in procession around the streets of the Cape Town central business district (CBD), Langa and Bonteheuwel.
By Bheki Mngomezulu
As we pull the curtain on 2023, it is important to reflect on some of the key political developments which characterised this year. Suffice to say that some of these developments were confined to South African politics.
Conversely, others were of global importance but had a bearing on South African politics.
The 10 events highlighted below will serve as a reminder about how the year should be remembered.
First, next year ushers in South Africa’s 30th anniversary since the dawn of democracy, and it is important to note that this year marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of former president Nelson Mandela. This incident provided the South African people and the global community a chance to reflect on Mandela’s contribution to South African and global politics.
The question invoked by this significant event is: to what extent has Mandela’s dream of a better South Africa been realised (if at all)? This question can be addressed through a cogent analysis of various data sets.
Second, the war of words between the ANC and Ezulwini Investments over an unpaid amount estimated to be around R102 million brought the ANC to the centre-stage, albeit for the wrong reasons. As the company claimed that the ANC owed it money, people like the party’s current Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula argued that the company was claiming for the services it had not rendered.
What compounded this issue was when the sheriff’s truck camped in front of the ANC’s headquarters at Luthuli House to attach the party’s assets. This happened even though the ANC had already approached the Constitutional Court challenging the ruling made by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Was the sheriff ill-advised or was this simply grandstanding?
Was the denial made by Mbalula based on facts or was it irrational? Whatever the answers are, this issue caught the attention of many people within South Africa and beyond.
Third, the widely publicised resignation of ANC veteran Dr Mavuso Msimang left many tongue-tied. After serving the ANC for over six decades, Msimang made a painful decision to cut ties with the ANC.
At the top of his list of concerns was corruption. He argued that his party had become tolerant of this scourge and that its leaders were not willing to listen to advice on how to address this pandemic. When after a decade it became clear that his advice (and that of many like him) was like pouring water over the back of a duck, he decided to leave the organisation.
This gave the ANC bad publicity. But Msimang withdrew his resignation after he met with senior leaders of the ANC. He explained that the ANC had promised to remove people implicated in corruption from its lists for national and provincial legislatures.
Fourth, linked to the above was the continuation of events which have led to a trust deficit between the political leadership and the masses. For the first time, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Jozini Local Municipality, especially the area called KwaJona before proceeding to Bhambanana Stadium.
While this was a historic moment which gave the people of this area an opportunity to see their president, the trip was characterised by untrustworthiness. On the eve of the president’s arrival, there was a frantic attempt to ensure that the Jojo tanks along the road where the president was going to pass had water. Indeed, when the tap was turned on, water gushed out in front of the media.
Once the president was gone, reality prevailed. Once again, people were without water. Consequently, they barricaded the road for two days in protest. The question becomes: why was the president given a wrong impression about the availability of water? It is a known fact that areas like Mthonjeni, Sovane and many others still have no water supply.
This is even though Jozini Dam is close to these communities. What was supposed to be the president’s visibility to rural communities backfired simply because lies prevailed over the truth.
Fifth, the historic judgment by the Constitutional Court that the 50/50 split of the votes in the 2024 elections passed the legal litmus test and vindicated Parliament. However, the court also ruled that the 15% threshold prescribed for independent candidates was unfair.
Instead, it ruled that independent candidates only need 1 000 signatures to qualify to stand for office. This court decision strengthens our democracy by ensuring separation of powers, and provides fairness to independent candidates.
Sixth, the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa dominated the political scene. As some political parties closed ranks to gang up against the ANC, others were not convinced about the sincerity of this initiative by the DA. Only time will tell about the ploy’s success.
Seventh, the victory by Amabhoko bhoko claiming the Webb Ellis Cup for the fourth time buttressed Mandela’s view that “sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does”. The team received a hero’s welcome.
However, the incident in KwaZulu-Natal involving Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube and MEC Siboniso Duma and the subsequent war of words including with the ANC Women’s League left a bitter taste in the mouth.
Eighth, the passing of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi marked the end of an era for the IFP. It also robbed the National Assembly of its oldest member who was a voice of reason. But the way government, tradition, and the church worked seamlessly to ensure a respectable send-off for Buthelezi was applauded by many.
Ninth, South Africa’s hosting of the 15th BRICS Summit constituted one of the country’s key events. It was this summit which approved the expansion of the grouping by adding six new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
But this positive development which elevated Ramaphosa’s political stature did not remove the cloud over his head regarding the Phala Phala saga.
Lastly, the Israel-Palestine war bifurcated South Africa. The government openly supported Palestine and called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be summoned to the International Criminal Court. Other parties supported Israel.
The year was full of political activities. While this list is not exhaustive, it gives pointers to how it unfolded.
Prof Bheki Mngomezulu is Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD) at the Nelson Mandela University.