/Ralph Mathekga: SA braces itself for a tough 2020

Ralph Mathekga: SA braces itself for a tough 2020

2019-12-31 09:04

Could 2020 be the year of amplified conflict among the various interest groups jostling for political power in South Africa? I am nearly convinced that is the case, as we will see in the year, writes Ralph Mathekga

As South Africa inaugurates the new year, the reality is that we are geared for another so-and-so year, and there is no doubt about it.

What sets 2020 apart from 2019 is that South Africans are more aware that there is no way that things will change for the better in the short term.

Regarding 2020, things will get tougher as far as our economy and politics are concerned. South Africans are no longer harbouring illusions of the New Dawn; they are willing to accept that perhaps the solutions to the big challenges faced by the country will not arise through the political system, let alone astute political leadership. Our politics is failing to address key challenges in society, and that would most likely play out through 2020.

Throughout 2019, we have witnessed how political parties have drifted apart from each other, amplifying their policy differences instead of showing a commitment towards attaining consensus.

The opposition camp – which is supposed to be made up of different opposition parties – is rudderless and there is no opposition party that is building stronger bridges with the broader society in a way that promises to attend to key challenges faced by majority of the people.

The two dominant opposition parties are currently displaced as they find it difficult to maintain a firm hold on South Africa‘s politics.

The implosion of the Democratic Alliance following the party‘s recent leadership debacle is a phenomenon that caught other opposition parties by surprise.

With the DA on a downward spiral facing an uncertain future, it would be opportune for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to close ranks and occupy the space that is being abdicated by the DA.

Alas, the EFF has opted for a political strategy based on the pursuit of grudges instead of reaching out to those who find the DA and Hellen Zille’s political project outright offensive and immature. The EFF’s decision to pursue litigation around targeted persons such as Pravin Gordhan is an opportunity lost that has driven the party more and more towards grudge politics, instead of reaching out to the increasingly frustrated electorate.

I sometimes wonder if the EFF has also run out of ideas, just as it is the case with the ANC and the DA respectively.

It is quite strange for the three main political parties to experience internal divisions and tensions among each other while at the same showing internal divisions. This says that the political problem in South Africa is not necessarily about the EFF, the DA, or the ANC individually. The issue is rather about the political system that has become non-responsive to the key challenges confronted by the society.

Call me a prophet of doom, I must add to this system problem the role of the media. The media in South Africa is experiencing turmoil to a point whereby the sector is losing its credibility to help South Africans frame the issues in society.

The allegations of editorial interference at ENCA and other media houses raises concern about the media’s ability to help the nation frame issues and then reflect upon them in a way that seeks to bring about the solutions that may assist the poor and those who are vulnerable.

The media is tearing itself apart and this has implications for the health of our democracy. A broken media that lacks legitimacy due to undue editorial interference is manna from heaven for some of our politicians who are committed to delegitimising any critical evaluation of the exercise of power.

Sadly, some elements within the opposition parties only object when it is convenient to do so, not because they see a free press as an unassailable principle, irrespective of how its exercise affects the political fortunes of those individuals.

If our political system is at work and yet it fails to provide solutions to the majority of the vulnerable and poor, then in whose interest is political power being exercised in South Africa?

If power is not exercised to the betterment of the broader voters, then it is exercised to the benefit of interest groups.

Could 2020 be the year of amplified conflict among the various interest groups jostling for political power in South Africa? I am nearly convinced that is the case, as we will see in the year.

This does not mean that nothing will be accomplished for the broader South Africa in 2020.

This simply means that the primary consideration when it comes to the accumulation and exercise of political power is first and foremost to secure the goals of interest groups.

While we tear ourselves apart as a nation as we try to figure out which ANC faction is more ludicrous than the other, interest groups are consolidating power.

And massing more influence in our system.

– Dr Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa’s Turn.

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