05 May, 2014

Ominous Trends in Run-Up to This Week's SA Elections

by Hussein Solomon

As the country prepares for this week’s elections in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is to retains its majority, ominous trends have emerged which should concern all democrats.

The Sunday Times newspaper carried an interesting front page story on how police were distributing ANC election t-shirts in official police vehicles. When a journalist snapped photographs of this, police from the VIP protection squad promptly grabbed his phone and deleted the pictures. More than anything else, this incident highlights the illegal use of state resources by the ruling party – where government, state and party are conflated. The longer the ANC remains in government, the more difficult it will be to separate state, government and party interests which holds ominous risks for the country’s floundering democracy. Unlike other countries where incumbent parties have been in power for some time and where an independent civil service has developed which understands the distinction between party and state and is only loyal to the government of the day; in South Africa the ANC has created a politicized civil service.

The ANC emblem

It is politicized since the ANC rewards its loyal cadres with cushy jobs in the civil service. Since skill sets are worth less than political loyalty, incompetence is on the rise in South Africa’s bloated civil service. Such incompetence also translates into greater problems with service delivery fuelling ever more protests which, in turn, threatens South Africa’s stability and, ironically, the ANC’s continued hold on power. Unfortunately, few in the ANC seem to be concerned about the medium to long-term risks of the abuse of state resources and power. Fewer still – seem to have a long-term perspective to governance generally.

Beyond the understanding of sustainable people-centred governance, I think the major issue relates to the ANC viewing themselves less as a political party and more as a revolutionary movement. One should not forget that many senior members in the ANC were trained in the former Soviet Union and East Germany and that communist mindset penetrated the movement’s core: The ANC is the vanguard party, they are the revolutionary party, they represent the people. Conversely anyone who opposed the revolutionary party are counter-revolutionaries, opposed to the peoples’ interests as represented by the ANC. This arrogance of power and that notion that right is on their side bodes ill for the future prospects of democracy in South Africa under the ANC.

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