South Africans may love or hate leaders, but we can’t stop fixating on them. This makes building a working democracy much harder. The EFF, with the probable help of the ANC’s Zuma faction, have found a new strategy. Instead of resisting the fight against corruption, they have joined it loudly by denouncing as corrupt politicians who stand in their way. Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan are, so far, their two targets. This strategy brought populists to power elsewhere. If politicians who play by democratic rules can be labelled corrupt, people can be persuaded to become cynical about all politicians — except for the strong leader who can save them from the greedy and self-serving democrats. This works best when you can also paint people who are different as a threat. In this country, it relies on the reality that many people are already understandably cynical about politicians. Despite mythology about the days when leaders were in touch with the people, few politicians here have ever ...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Sunday Times Daily.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now