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It’s been more than two weeks since the November 1 local government elections. Elections marked by an increase in the number of voters deciding to abstain; elections where no single party received more than 50% of the vote nationally.

The ruling ANC could muster only 45.6% of votes nationally. There are numerous municipalities, including the majority of the metropolitan councils, where no party can form a government on its own. It is obvious that the majority of South Africans lack confidence in politics in general and political leaders specifically.

But what has happened in the past two weeks? The politicians and their parties have gone on their merry way, as if the people and their views don’t matter despite the hung municipalities, and the record number of people who chose not to vote.

By now, one would have presumed there would be a flurry of public meetings where the politicians would present their plans on forming coalitions and what these will mean for service delivery, as well as the fight against corruption. Yet not a single political party has convened such public meetings. It is ridiculously arrogant.

All we hear is how this party is having talks with that party, and rumours of horse-trading on who gets which mayoral position, speaker on what council, and so on No political party was elected with a mandate to form a coalition. Their manifestos brightly and unabashedly promised that they would bring government to the people and govern with accountability. Yet, when presented with an opportunity to do just that we are reminded that we have a sorry bunch of people who call themselves leaders. They are not leaders, they think of themselves as rulers.

Special mention must be made of the ANC leadership. They were punished in the 2016 local government elections, and in the 2018 national and provincial elections their share of the vote was also reduced. They should understand better than most that real leaders don’t  take the people for granted. They made a big deal about how they were choosing candidates endorsed by the communities, but now they are suspiciously silent.

It seems as though the political leadership is tone deaf.  They live in their own cocooned world, where in their minds they possess a God-given right to rule and the people are cattle. This palace politics may intrigue media editors who prefer reporting on the salacious gossip among the political elite, but the people know it for what it is: a dividing and sharing of spoils.  Many council positions are about salaries for the political elite, not anything in the parties’ manifestos.

We do not care which party gets the speaker position or chairs which committee. And someone must please tell me why any municipality requires a deputy mayor or deputy speaker other than to satisfy the parties deployment objectives. We want better plans and better delivery. We would like political parties to talk about how they are going to co-operate so that service delivery is improved, identify capital projects for the municipality, and develop plans to rejuvenate rundown areas. No-one is talking about that.   

We are getting fed up. We are not sure how many messages we must send in so many different ways. We the people of SA, led by the liberation movement, fought for a peoples’ government, not just a government. As far back as the 1950s, when we adopted the Freedom Charter, we said: “The people shall govern”, not the leaders will govern on behalf of the people. 

Clearly, we have a bigger problem than the ANC. Many, especially opportunistic people with political ambitions, would prefer to make it seem that it is the ANC and its leaders that are the main problem. But it is not that. SA has a problem. We are the problem. We choose or accept bad leaders. And it’s not just those who gets into government, but even in the opposition ranks and in business, the NGO sector and religious bodies. We prefer arguing rather than figuring out how we can work together.

In the two weeks since November 1 fuel prices has gone through the roof, financial experts warn of a repo rate increase by the Reserve Bank, inflation on household goods and food is increasing, and to our disgust it was reported that 688 girls aged nine were impregnated over the last year. Yet the big stories in the media are what coalitions will be formed and whether we should respect FW De Klerk now that he has passed away. 

Our priorities, like those who call themselves our leaders, are really messed up.

Donovan E Williams
National executive member, SA National Civic Organisation

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