Quote of the week

Now you cannot understand anything about fascist doctrine if you do not understand that their central claim was that liberalism is antidemocratic; in other words, the fascists claimed that liberal institutions cannot represent the will of the people. They further claimed that their typical institutions, particularly the party, were more effective means to represent the will of the people. So fascists were “authoritarian democrats.”

Dylan Riley
Jacobin
12 November 2008

Zuma and the ANC: does it have a middle class problem?

Although I am not making any predictions, I am not so sure the new Congress of the People (Cope) will be as successful at the polls next year as some of its leaders are suggesting. To start a new party is hard work. One needs to build a presence on the ground by establishing local and regional structures and must give people a reason to vote for your party. Policies and programmes must be devised and sold to the electorate and leaders must overcome deeply entrenched emotional ties to existing parties.

But if Mr Jacob Zuma is the Presidential candidate for the ANC, the new party might do quite well among middle class voters who might not want to vote for Mr. Umshini Wam. It is clear that much of the media has soured on Mr Zuma, much like the mainstream media soured on George W Bush after 2004. Exhibit A here is an article in The Times about Mr. Zuma’s weekend election trip to the Western Cape.

Money quote:

Zuma promised that food prices would come down, and that salaries for teachers, health sector staff and the police would go up. He promised jobs in rural areas. “There must be no more people moving from rural areas to urban areas to find jobs. We must take jobs to those areas. That’s why you must vote for the ANC. We will open opportunities in Eastern Cape and other areas,” said Zuma.

Turning to crime, he quipped: “When I think about crime, I think about going out now to look for the criminals.” But the big bang was at the Langa stadium, where the heat didn’t deter a crowd of almost 10000.

Some grew bored halfway into Zuma’s speech and demanded a tune. Hecklers shouted: “Sing!” Of course, Zuma didn’t fail to oblige, singing his infamous Umshini wam.

This happened repeatedly and it was enough to tempt one to reach for a machine gun and put an end to the inappropriate song. But the Langa crowd, some of the poorest voters in the country, wanted the joker and entertainer. That, and tough talk on crime and calls for supporters not to leave the ANC like the other “snakes”.

The tone of this article is, at best, mocking. If I was an ANC NWC member I would be fuming about the obvious tone of ridicule permeating the article. No wonder Jessie Duarte and Gwede Mantashe met with SABC executives to complain about the way in which His Masters Voice depicts the leader of the ANC. All that dancing and singing Umshini Wam does not really inspire respect and confidence in the potential leader of South Africa, so they wanted the SABC to stop showing what really happened at Zuma rallies and stick to the ANC script.

But some SABC journalists obviously also do not have much respect for the dancing politicians with the habit of uttering scary if vague platitudes.

If this in any way reflects how middle class South Africans feel about Zuma, the ANC might get a bit of a shock at the election next year. But who knows what will happen? And maybe the SABC will come through for the ANC and tone down its (recently more) honest and fair coverage of our next President. Only time will tell.

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