Quote of the week

Senekal last week had nothing to do with solutions. It was all about politicians’ testosterone. It was all about politicians’ egos. What useful idea came out of all that heat and noise generated by all those politicians in Senekal last week? There is nothing. Nothing that makes SA a better place. Nothing that leads us to a better understanding of race relations in SA after 1994. Nothing that is a solution to farm murders – many of whose victims are poorly paid, desperate black people – or a solution to the incredibly horrendous murder and crime problem in this country.

Justice Malala
Sunday Times Daily
6 January 2009

Democracy comes to Merafong

In a sure sign that the era of Thabo Mbeki style high handed government  might be on the wane, Provincial and Local Government Minister Sicelo Shiceka said yesterday that the government would initiate legislation to give effect to the will of the majority of the communities affected by boundary disputes,

About, bloody, high time, I would say. According to Business Day Shiceka said:

“Intensive executive action will be needed to smooth the transfer to Gauteng.” Shiceka said he intended to fast-track a process of consultation in the Moutse and surrounding areas and the work began last month .

“Government officials will engage with structures and stakeholders in the community. Thereafter, I and other senior officials will meet with representatives of community stakeholders and structures.

“The goal of these engagements will be to examine how best to accommodate the views of the majority of the affected communities.”

This is wonderful news. The way in which the cross-border municipality issue was handled by the Mbeki government was scandalous, to say the least. The expressed wishes of the people were ignored and they were merely told that they had to shut up – despite having been faithful supporters of the ANC in previous elections.

But suddenly everything has changed and now the will of the majority of these residents will prevail. What on earth could have changed?

First, there is a new Minister and a new President who seem less assured of their own all-encompassing wisdom to do what is right for the people – even when the people disagree with them. In the Mbeki years it was the President and his cabinet who told people what they wanted and needed and the people who had to follow. If the ungrateful sods dared to disagree with the wisdom of the Dear Annointed One, they were called names. Suddenly this kind of arrogance and disregard for the wishes of the people have been replaced with a far more inclusive and humble approach to governance.

Haleluja, is all I can say.

But there is of course a second rather important reason for this sudden change of heart and that reason is called COPE. Suddenly the votes of all these communities who are dissatisfied with the high-handed actions of an uncaring and arrogant government, are votes to be competed over.

Never mind that some of the COPE leaders actually pushed through these absurd and heartless changes. Come the next election COPE might have champoined the plight of these communities and might have gained a hundred or two hundred thousand extra votes.

This is why I think the formation of COPE might turn out to be a good thing for our democracy – even though I am rather sceptical about some of the leaders in charge of the new party.

Competition in politics is a good thing, but so far there has been very little real competition in our politics because of the disasterous way in which Tony Leon positioned the Democratic Alliance as a “fight b(l)ack(s)” party. Who on earth among the affected communities with more than two brain cells would have voted for the official opposition when that opposition was so clearly not going to act in the best interest of the poor and the marginalised?

And the ANC knew this all too well and thus often acted in a way that showed a callous disregard for the interest of those very same poor and marginalised voters.

But suddenly with the new kids on the block, there is a real danger that the ANC would actually lose votes if it acts in a stupid, arrogant and insensitive manner towards whole communities. And suddenly we hear these wonderful noises coming from ANC government Ministers. Some Ministers now even seem to care about the poor and one or two Ministers who were too busy becoming tired and emotional, stealing other people’s watches, or getting liver transplants have suddenly been fired or moved sideways.

For that reason alone I hope COPE does fairly well at the polls (my tentative prediction is that the party could get between 6-9% of the vote) even though the new party is filled with many of the same arrogant and insensitive people who often acted in such a callous way during the Mbeki years.

Democracy will be the winner and with it the poor and marginalised South Africans who cannot privatise services and actually rely on the state to deliver. Viva democracy!

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