Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Behold, the Zuma moment!

It was no secret going into today’s announcement plenary that Zuma’s slate would wipe the floor. With National Chaplain Mehana chanting ‘Viva God’, the Zuma Moment was ushered in. Song, dance and even prayer accompanied Zuma’s victory in the ANC.

A different moment is missing - this moment was not in sight or in the air today in the ANC’s main  tent. The "other" moment I suspect; lies sheltered in the hearts of millions of South Africans.
Zuma’s re-election rings like a hymn gone wrong. The lead chorister has his hands up in the air conducting with gusto, the choir sings along obediently and we, the people sit in the audience, observant but disappointed.
A 'Viva God' moment. The newly elected ANC top 6 bows in prayer.
Photo by: Linda Fekisi
But we also hum along to the hymn – subliminally. The ANC remains a dominant player in South African politics. And yes, the usual reasons given are true: rich history, a strong base in the South African population etc.

What is never mentioned is our lethargy (wholly or partially) in maintaining the current order. South Africans might be tired of hearing the mantra of ‘active citizenship...blah blah blah’ - but perhaps now, more than ever, this is just what is needed.

The ANC is at odds. The party cannot sing in unison because its beautiful hymns are filled with empty promise and their lead choristers are out of sync. We shouldn’t (and cannot) expect anything from the ANC. The ANC’s problems are deep seated and it is detached from the concerns of our country.

Perhaps it’s time to hum a different tune. One that does not yearn for the "renewal of the ANC" but one where citizens place their agenda at the forefront of South African politics.
Next time when someone sings the ‘active citizenship swansong blah blah blah....’ try to do more than just listen. Sing along and then do something.

From Mangaung and beyond

Here’s the problem. Our obsession with the ANC is endemic, a national obsession if you will. We watch them with hawk- eyes as they throw their toys (and chairs sometimes) out of the cot. The ANC will leave Mangaung deluded about their alleged unity and dominance and very little will change for South Africans. My unease has nothing to do with the ANC or their Chorister in Chief, but the next decade for our country.

With the next general election comes along in 2014, a lot will remain unchanged. Inequality levels will remain entrenched amongst (mainly) poor black South Africans. Health, education and economic reform will remain embossed in government policy documents.
The key challenge for South Africans will be to drop their focus on the ANC and start building a solid civic base that will counter the game of patronage, power and petty politics.

Mangaung has preoccupied our public discourse over the past year not because we expected much from it in terms of policy and fundamental change but  because we’ve relinquished so much of our power to a single group.

A new hymn is waiting to be sung. This hymn will find its rhythm in the dusty streets of South African townships and in the leafy South African suburbs. The divide that is so visible will lead to much legitimate anger and strife. The reliance on political will to change our circumstances will plummet.
Like any blessing, gratitude is best expressed by a hymn: you know which hymn to sing.