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Coalitions preoccupied with occupation of political office

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Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA) Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota speaks at the February 2022 launch and signing of a document for a multi-party coalition, which has since broken down.

By Oupa Ngwenya

Behind coalitions is the coming together of diverse political parties and independent candidates, joining hands and putting heads together to grapple with how to deal with the exercise of public power that each could not secure by outright electorate mandate from the ballot.

Consequently, the sharing of spoils by mutual accommodation of each other’s diverse interests, brings about a potpourri of warring visions, the shared concern being what to do with power.

The options are stark. One option is sharing the pieces of the pie through allocation of ministerial, MEC or MMC positions pledging to work together.

The other option is the unacknowledged cloak and dagger dispensation, sounding primary concern for citizens as its cloak but using the slightest opportunity to stab one another in the back to eliminate diners from the power table.

Either way, it is a coalition. The one shows a face begging for stability until further electoral notice. The other is resorting to flexing numbers to test exit and entrance points to determine who to practically keep or dispense with from the power dinner table. The tiring tit for tat game, is the burden that coalitions carry.

South Africa’s local government elections of November 1, 2021 are then a dress rehearsals for 2024, out of which prospects for a coalition government at national level looms.

The cumulative angry theme is that the governing party is up for a bitter lesson. The angry narrative is that voters cannot wait to see the back of the ANC. Riding the back of this angry wind are contending parties for their share of game time to occupy political office.

Worrying the most, in the horse-trading under way, is the overthrow of critical common sense. Without it, the sense that this is our country, lives, future and societal being gambled with, is betrayed.

What is not helping the situation is that the country is in a permanent election mode where loyalty blunts the public’s critical common sense in favour of the preoccupation of voting in or out the loved or hated ones.

Success in politics gets measured by criteria of who has won the steering wheel and who has lost to the back seat. Never mind where the country is headed.

Consequently, issues for public policy formulation and framing of legislation get displaced from being people-centred to being person-centred. And the corresponding parties that these personalities signify are in the permanent strife for political office and completion of prescribed terms of office.

In this strife, the struggling majority only matter as digits to garner in the roadshow to secure political office and their voices do not matter in shaping policy, framing legislation and the direction of where the country is headed.

This being the case, the preparation for coalitions is personality-based rather than on manifestos that speak to addressing the conditions and lived experiences of struggling people once the goal of political office is achieved.

This disjuncture, of promises made and neglected, worms its way without detection in coalitions as followers are only happy to know that their adorable leaders have gained a seat at the power dinner table. With critical common sense blunted, little to zero care is given to what is done with power.

Out of this disjuncture, the coalition formula is sold and bought as a necessary way to keep the wayward ANC on a short leash for accountability purposes or retire it from power.

Bedevilling the situation is money, where unelected private billionaire power can dictate and decide what politics to finance and the kind of democracy meeting the fancy of money to buy.

Other billionaires even fund more than one party and even go the extra mile to sponsor the formation of others to exist.

Thus is the room for politics, responsive to fundamental change, shrunken bit by bit. With the morality of fundamental change tossed out of the window, so does billionaire money power parachute in to pick and choose what is tolerable to interests of derogatory capital and which political horses to ride in the political marketplace to gallop divide, rule and conquer monopolistic wishes.

Unelected billionaire money power is then felt in the voices of the moneyed gaining more volume to be heard. Consequently, politics fall under the command of money rather than money falling under the command of politics geared at liberating and rehumanising national aspirations.

The voice of Rob Hersov is money speaking, never mind that it is uncouth. Nothing better illustrates that nonsense walks when money talks.

Coming back to the illustrative nature of personality-based politics and the capricious invisible hand of money, former DA leader Mmusi Maimane is a case in point.

Having invited inconvenience for himself for comparing white privilege and black poverty amongst others, Maimane precipitated his exit from the DA. Interestingly, Maimane went to command inexplicable airtime doubling up as a commentator as OneSA founder and later as BOSA leader albeit without a proven constituency in an electoral sense since departure from DA.

That Maimane is now BOSA head, it is still not yet proven that he deserves as much airtime he currently enjoys. But he has earned his status as a personality that fits in the menu of personality-driven politics geared at acclimatising SA’s national psyche in the direction of coalition politics.

While this coalition jumble sale is presented as ‘the more the merrier’ and ‘multiparty democracy maturing’, it basically comes close to the DA’s plans (on behalf of generally unrepentant white interests) of reducing the ANC majority to below 50 percent to the prophecy of white’s foregone conclusion of the unfitness of blacks to govern.

Sponsored corruption experienced in post 1994 SA has not only elected ANC as its poster boy but also reinforced predictability of the ineptitude of black power and the unfitness of blacks to govern.

Bring into this a lack of even-handed reporting and disputed prosecutorial actions that are swift to some and noticeable tortoise speed to no action to others, and you are left with a disillusioned electorate (black voters particularly), low turnout to the polls and cynicism bringing into question the usefulness of politics.

Nevertheless the DA seems content to have dented the ANC majority to below 50 percent. This reduction of the ANC majority in the language of the DA is known as realignment of SA politics.

All this sets the stage for coalitions of as many political parties as possible to kill black power, black majority, and to put a stamp on the unfitness of blacks to govern. Carrying the cross of corruption is the ANC.

ANC corruption partly is sponsored externally and fuelled on the basis of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ factions raging within it. Such sponsored strife frustrates the moral basis of unity and its programme for radical transformation.

Wiggling in the quicksand of corruption the ANC has allowed itself to be plunged, of all its NASREC December 2017 resolutions adopted at its 54th elective conference, none could be tackled with some measure of purposeful focus except the step aside resolution.

Other resolutions have not merited as much attention. This is presumably the case because these resolutions speak to the plight of the invisible and voiceless struggling black majority.

Thus has black pain and powerlessness been normalised. And coalitions are set not to place their eyes on black pain and powerlessness.

The collective preoccupation of coalitions is the occupation of political office and remaining there without dent to powerlessness of the struggling majority election after election.

The subtext is clear: give them the crown of politics to wrangle over and over again but never let go on the jewel of the economy.

Ngwenya is a writer and a freelance journalist.