Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many regular readers would be upset or at least mystified to find Peter Bruce using his column to canvass for the ANC (For the sake of the country, stand with the ANC’s principled people, April 11).  I know there are also those critical or at least puzzled that the newspaper’s owners can allow the publication of a column so contrary to the general political culture of the newspaper. But they would be mistaken; the owners deserve praise for the independence they allow their journalists, of which Bruce’s column is a good example.

There will be many who will agree that Cyril Ramaphosa deserves support. That makes sense to a lot of democrats. But voting for the ANC is a very different matter. That doesn’t make sense. And aside from the political discontinuity from an ideological point of view, I don’t believe the pragmatic case Bruce makes for voting for the ANC as a way of supporting Ramaphosa is at all persuasive.

His main argument is contained in one paragraph, which reads: “What I’m going to vote for is time for [Ramaphosa] to do right. Or more right. No-one else can, literally, make the right changes in our institutions.” First, his argument is only valid if the voters he is appealing to abandon their party to vote for the ANC in noticeably substantial numbers, which is extremely unlikely; and secondly, [it is only valid] if such support can be validated, which obviously can’t happen as general elections in SA are about support for parties and not individuals.

There obviously are admirable people around Ramaphosa. We know who they are and we respect and support them

DA members who are persuaded by Bruce to vote ANC will therefore simply be swallowed up in the ANC’s numbers, to the loss of the one party in SA with a genuine and proven commitment to liberal values and constitutional democracy.

There is therefore no way DA voters can achieve what Bruce apparently wants them to demonstrate, which is that “voting ANC is the only way I can think of to stand with some brave people I admire at the heart of the government who have consistently shown courage and rectitude in the face of unimaginable pressure and the disgraceful thuggery in the governing party”. There obviously are admirable people around Ramaphosa. We know who they are and we respect and support them. But Bruce doesn’t explain how, when you vote for the ANC, you distinguish support for them from the disgraceful thugs.

Above and beyond Bruce’s column and most discussions of the forthcoming election is the sobering realisation that this election, specifically the outcome, is almost irrelevant to the state the country is in and the scary future we face. The election will happen on May 8, but the next day many South Africans will wake up to hungry, unemployed and without access to the most elementary domestic services.

SA will still suffer under an unreliable Eskom, a bankrupt SAA, a debt-burdened SABC and numerous other similarly crippled state-owned enterprises. And, of course, declining economic growth, a lack of domestic and international investor confidence, a grossly incompetent and bloated public service, and one of the costliest governments around. That’s only part of the mess we are in.

RW Johnson is one of the sharpest commentators I know, and in his 2015 book, How Long Will SA Survive?, he wrote that the whole national and local system of government and administration is “simply unraveling under the weight of ubiquitous corruption, a ludicrously ill-equipped public service and a whole series of policy blunders”. He then mentioned, tentatively, the possibility of SA needing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. That was in 2015, but in his most recent book, Fighting for the Dream, there is no wavering. He thrusts known ANC opposition aside: the time for an IMF bailout has already arrived!

This is the best course if SA is to avoid a serious calamity as a country and a people. Given that the election of May 8 is unlikely even marginally to change the SA social and economic reality for the better or improve the lives of citizens, or seriously contribute to solving the challenges we face, spelling out and promoting IMF involvement becomes a post-election imperative.

That’s when Ramaphosa is going to need support, as both president of the country and as leader of a faction of a divided ANC. That is when the stronger the DA is, the better for SA.

Dr Denis Worrall
Former Democratic Party leader and ambassador in London