Political Watch opinion

Changing political climate has ANC in hurricane season

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It’s been some time coming, but political climate change in South Africa has gone into overdrive and for the governing ANC a destructive hurricane season has started.

Gauteng province, which at 24% (2015 figures) is the province contributing the most voters to the national voters roll, is in the eye of the storm. At a national level it could do for the country what Cape Town under Democratic Alliance control did at provincial level, taking the Western Cape beyond the reach of the ANC.

In the municipal election of 2016 the ANC, having failed to take proper note of shifts taking place in the political environment, lost control of the metros Johannesburg and Tshwane.

In both metros the chickens of broken, often corrupt, administrations are fast coming home to roost. 

The latest of these came to light last week when the new DA mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, revealed how the previous ANC-controlled municipal government’s R1 billion [email protected] project a  quick way, through the use of middle-men, to enrich the politically well-connected. It will be replaced by a new DA-designed programme that should be well on its way by the time the 2019 national elections come around.

Worst blow

The worst blow to the ANC’s political capital came last week at provincial level when a report by the Health Ombudsman, professor Malegapuru Makgoba, revealed how at least 94 mentally ill patients in the care of the Gauteng Health Department lost their lives in the name of “cost savings”.

The publishing, over the weekend by Politicsweb, of archived documents showed how the ANC provincial government’s MEC for Health, Qedani Mahlangu, over a period of at least 18 months, was warned about the dangers of her plan to move about 1 900 of the patients to small, cheap and ill-equipped private service providers – none of which was even legally licenced for the services they purported to deliver.

Those warnings to her included some from a committee of relatives of the patients, who even took to the streets in protest against the way the patients were treated. Unfortunately, an interdict by them against the MEC was also unsuccessful.

Even the ANC Youth League came out in protest against Mahlangu, with criminal charges against her. Slapped down by the senior party, they have since retreated, but the DA and others also laid charges, a process that will continue, while the public slapping-down will just serve to damage the image of the party further – something with which even President Jacob Zuma’s daughter agrees.

Also read: Gauteng deaths: finally, some accountability, but not enough

Spin won’t help

While one could pick up in twitter posts and elsewhere on social media that a campaign is being waged to blame those who attack the MEC and Gauteng premier David Makhura of “playing politics” with people’s grief, no spin in the world will change people’s lived reality.

The relatives of the patients know what they did. They know what they themselves are still going through. For one, there was thus far no compensation paid out.

Announcing the scrapping of the [email protected] project, mayor Mashaba said: “During last year’s election campaign I was struck by how communities despised the unfairness of the city’s projects to provide short-term work opportunities under the banner of [email protected]

No statement by the ANC will change that lived reality of those who spoke to Mashaba. The same goes for those members of the public who were on the receiving end of the six Johannesburg officials arrested for fraudulent and corrupt activities, which resulted in the loss of over R4 million.

These experiences are repeated day after day across the country, bringing together large crowds who just might take their revenge at the polling booths in 2019.

Corruption has always been part of life and always will be. The ANC’s biggest sin, however, is how they deal with it when it does come to light.

An unwise move by President Zuma to fire, for instance, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the economic impact of that, could see the aggrieving masses swell considerably. And that is but one of a substantial number of traps the party will have to avoid for the next two years if it is to survive in government. 

The party’s own chairman in Gauteng, Paul Mashatile, this past Friday was reported as having said the party faces the grim reality of losing Gauteng in 2019, and ultimately being dislodged from the national government in 2024, unless it deals decisively with the corrosive problems of corruption, arrogance and attacks on state institutions.

However, if opposition parties get their acts together and cooperate, as facilitated by our constitution, 2019 might not be be too soon for a change of government.

Also read: We live in a rotten, corrupt world

                 Corruption’s ugly face – a personal account

by Piet Coetzer

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