Picture: Google maps – One of the houses for ministers in Welgemoed, Cape Town. A better life for all has morphed into a better life for ANC’s ministers and political elite, the writer says.
By Kim Heller
The wholesale loadshedding of Peoples Power by the ANC will surely go down in history as a bargain basement betrayal of marginalised and poor citizens.
The pursuit and pizazz of personal privilege by ANC politicians has rendered the notion of people’s power as little more than a defunct, disempowered and horribly sullied political slogan.
Today, the democratic ideal of a “government of the people, for the people, by the people” is now the extinguished flame of yesteryear’s fiery revolutionary talk. The noble principle of ‘the people first’ has all but been abandoned by the ANC government, as politician privilege tramples and trumps people power.
The New Dawn ANC places the party before the country and its politician before it’s people, in a sickly new rendition of this once upon a time liberation movement. Servant leadership is hardly the code of many of today’s mercenary government ministers.
The ravish and lavish of ANC ministers’ well-lit lifestyles is a far-away place from the grim and gloom of citizen lives.
In the current energy crisis in South Africa, the lights of government ministers are kept on, to the bright delight of the new elite, while ordinary citizens choke on the regurgitation of every day relentless loadshedding.
The current state of daily power shedding is a perfect metaphor of the ANC of today; an ANC that has shed people power to such an extent that the governing party has become socially and economically estranged from its own citizens. Once upon a time the ANC promised the most marginalised and poorest of citizens a better life but today the party invests less and less energy on the woes of the wretched and the wrecked in society. A better life for all has morphed into a better life for ANC’s ministers and political elite.
Zwelinzima Vavi, Secretary-General of the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), recently summed it up just perfectly, when he asked, with a mix of despair and disgust, “Can you believe it, that we live in a country where the ministers are simply living in their ivory towers, completely isolated from the crisis that is unfolding in the country?”
Vavi continued, “They know deep down in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong. They are betraying their own conscience. They are kicking the poor, the marginalised majority, who find themselves in deeper levels of poverty, thanks to their (government) programmes. They are kicking those people in their faces, and they are basically showing us the middle finger to say we don’t care about what you are going through.”
Vavi was responding to the injustice of free water and electricity to ANC leaders living at state-owned residences.
BusinessTech recently reported that South Africans are paying millions of rands each year “to foot the bill for water and electricity at ministerial homes across the country – amounting to just under R55 million since 2019”.
The situation is at once both unimaginably sad and surreal. That the top leaders of the ANC can be so comfortable in their own comfort, while citizens struggle for survival in the trash and scrap of social and economic turmoil, is a total betrayal of the ideal of government for the people. One would have expected such lack of empathy from the vile apartheid regime but not from the ANC, which was once so grounded in the people’s struggle.
Former President Nelson Mandela said, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” By this measure, South Africa is faring very poorly indeed.
Despair has replaced hope, and prayer no longer offers much sustenance for those whose hunger lingers from dawn to dusk.
All while South Africa’s elite political leadership is protected from loadshedding and enjoy generous uninterrupted energy and water supply.
An instant end to loadshedding would be for the President and his brightly lit Cabinet to be subject to the same loadshedding as ordinary citizens.
A sure solution to the service delivery disasters that pinches and perforates the humble fate of the common man and woman would be if the President and his very merry band of Minsters would use the very same public facilities ordinary citizens do.
“It’s a common grumble that politicians’ lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate,” wrote Vladimir Hernandez, of the BBC in 2012. “Not so in Uruguay.” Hernandez penned an article about the world’s poorest president; Jose Mujica.
When elected President of Uruguay, Mujica has turned down a luxurious Presidential house. He describes how the former President of Uruguay lived “on a ramshackle farm” and gave away most of his pay.
“I can live well with what I have.” Mujica said. He donated the lion’s share of his salary to charity and his salary amounted to that which an average Uruguayan would earn.
“I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it is not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty.”
Nelson Mandela said, “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” This may have been true of many ANC leaders of yesteryear, but it is far from true today as the ANC’s current crop of leaders are more about self-enrichment than selfless sacrifice.
Mujica said it best, “A president is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is not a king, not a god. He is not the witch doctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant. I think the ideal way of living is to live like the vast majority of people whom we attempt to serve and represent.”
If this was the ethos of our President and politicians, South Africa would be a brighter, better place for all.
Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’