The upcoming local government elections are one of the most important ones in our democratic dispensation.
Whereas in the past some people paid less attention to local government politics I expect things to be different this time. Different because local government is at the coalface of service delivery and there has been increased dissatisfaction with the ruling ANC on this front.
Then there is also the factor of an EFF buoyed by its victory in the Constitutional Court in a case that found against President Jacob Zuma.
Bad for ANC
Things have never looked this bad for the ANC. It has lost the support of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa which has over 300 000 members. And it is also riddled with internal conflicts over the party’s list of ward and proportional representation candidates.
These conflicts are rumoured to be behind the killings of some of the party’s councillor candidates and supporters in KwaZulu-Natal. We saw this internal conflict also in the violent demonstrations that took place in Tshwane following the announcement of Thoko Didiza as the ANC’s mayoral candidate.
We watched in horror as the country’s capital city was brought into lockdown by disgruntled ANC members who blocked roads with burning debris, looted shops, and torched vehicles. The spectacle left five people dead and 200 others arrested but it is doubtful that anyone will be held accountable.
The malaise of violent protests runs so deep that now hardly any protest takes place without violence and destruction of public property. Policing resources are now stretched thin in trying to deal with these social unrests.
It is no wonder then we have been dubbed as the “protest capital of the world”.
Rationalising violent protest
Instead of being alarmed we have chosen to rationalise these protests by referring to them as the only avenue available for the poor and marginalised.
But in reality, people’s material condition and educational level is not always a factor. South Africans from every stratum have now caught onto the idea that if you break something that is not yours, you stand a far better chance of having your demands acceded to.
This is the same attitude we saw in Vuwani, Limpopo, were 23 schools were torched by residents protesting against being incorporated into a new municipality. Thousands of pupils in that province are now in limbo as a result of these senseless actions.
Perhaps all of these things point to a fault in the foundation upon which our democracy is built upon. An EFF sympathiser I chatted with recently is convinced of this and in fact told me that the wanton destruction of public property is a necessary evil in correcting this faulty foundation. This young man, whose dream is to study economics, was tenacious and resolute in arguing through my scepticism.
Building or destroying
And I was equally unmoved from my counter-argument that is it is far easier to destroy than it is to build. I further suggested that maintaining and improving on existing infrastructure is far better than rebuilding it from scratch.
As the church we are called to build and not destroy. We have to devote more prayer towards these elections because not everyone contesting them has the best interest of South Africa.
Human beings are by nature selfish and the political space is no different. John Stott is correct when he says, “And, however respectable the public guise (or disguise) it adopts, our ingrained self-centredness is a horrible bondage” (1979:75).