With the elections looming, the silly season is upon us. Just like Santa who comes once a year, politician have descended upon us with their bandwagon of political promises that are unlikely to be kept once elections are over. However, this year should be an interesting year with the entrance of the EFF into the Local Government Elections.
The entrance of the EFF into local government politics is quite interesting. Since their entrance into Parliament, things have never been the same. The level in which MPs’ have been held accountable has increased. One can certainly state that TV ratings for the parliamentary channel have increased and there is absolutely no time for members for MP to sleep during session. With its very young leadership, the EFF has certainly given the impression that it aspires to represent the interests of the youth in Parliament.
In their election manifesto, the EFF has undoubtedly, continued the trend by addresses and targeting soft issues have often been left unattended to by big political parties such as the ANC and the DA. In his address, Party Leader Julius Malema, targeted the vulnerable industries. These industries, in the previous 20 years, have been marred with worker abuse, violent protest and strikes and exploitation. In his manifesto, he speaks about legislative reform that will ensure that workers in the mining, retailing, construction, farming and manufacturing industries are compensated living wages that are above average.
In contrast the DA in its manifesto doesn’t address these sectors. Their slogan of vote the DA for change, and their previous campaigns “DA for Jobs” also did not go to great lengths to convince voters what plans they may have to address these sectors. All that is said is that the DA” offers the electorate “opportunities” for employment by investing in infrastructure-led growth
The approach of the ANC in their manifesto for this election has to show what the party has achieved in the last 20 years.
For instance, where the EFF manifesto states that they shall ensure that they shall implement a “better BEE and Affirmative Action; the ANC has in the last 20 years of governance implanted legislation that seeks to balance the scales on equality through legislation such as Broad Based BEE Act for business, Employment Equity Act and Labour Relations Act etc, for employees. These legislation have gone to great lengths to ensure that Black Owned Business are given preference in business dealings, and in key executive position, black people are given preference where qualifications are similar. Perhaps both political parties would have benefited in this regard by addressing the antagonistic fronting exercises that still plague the business sector; the lack of transformation in regard to the companies in the construction industries known as the big 5, that seem to still be the major recipients of multi-million Rands projects in the government without outsourcing to smaller black owned business. On the employment equity side, the discussion should rather be about the lack of transformation on the board of trustees of the majority of big business (top 40 companies on JSE) in South Africa. As long board members remain untransformed, then real transformation and equality in the workplace will remain stagnant. Also, the lack of transformation in salaries between black and white counterparts has remained untouched for 20 years and that is a festering wound for black professionals. It would have been very interesting for the DA to actually articulate their real views about this issue. Particularly because the DA in the last 5 years has experienced immense growth from the youth black urban voter who would like their aspirations and success in their careers; the traditional view that employment equity and affirmative action is reverse apartheid will soon be challenged within the party and a strong stand on this would certainly benefit the political party in the near future. Of course, any position the DA takes in this discussion could plunge the party into a difficult position, because the traditional support base of the DA is white and is already feeling alienated from the political discourse of the country.
The election manifesto of the EFF promises to send 15 000 students to the best universities this country can offer; increase capacity of the universities and have more and more students enrolled and obtaining tertiary qualifications. Once again, the ANC in their manifesto have drawn mainly on what they have achieved in the last 20 years. The DA, once again on this burning issue does not have a strong and clear cut position in this regard. In their manifesto, the DA promises a responsive local government, that will include actively recruiting the next generation of municipal officials through graduate recruitment programmes.
However one must state that this is another missed opportunity for all political parties. In the last 6 years, research shows that over 15 000 students are enrolled in all institutions of higher learning throughout the country, Further that as a result of financial aid such as NSFAS and other financial aids available to students, a sizeable number of these students graduate from tertiary institutions and stay at home without employment. There are opportunities in both the business sector and institutions of higher learning to partner up and have programs that will equip graduates with lifelong skills once they complete their studies. Education is a tool to eradicate poverty, but without employment or business opportunities, that tool is not effective.
On primary education, one believes that perhaps the discussion should have been rather about whether the education system that South Africa uses is adequate enough to ensure that once people have graduated, they are able to sustain themselves without necessary being employed by some company. Also, the discussion should be whether public schools in areas such as Soweto; Khayelitsa; Umlazi etc are on the same level in regard to resources, teachers, extramural activities etc as the public schools in areas such as Irene, Sandton; etc in order for the level of education being offered in all public schools to be on par.
The discussion of the EFF to build a state owned company that will manufacture and produce its own medicine is a very importance element. Research has shown that billions of Rands have been spent outside of South Africa on researching and manufacturing of medicines. This is in line also with the African Union position of identifying African solutions for African problems. South Africa as a country and Africa as a continent would benefit immensely from this initiative. Economically it would mean that monies from various African countries for research and medicine manufacturing outside would greatly impact our immediate economy as a country, increased employment opportunities for the country; citizens would greatly benefit from cheaper medicine; public hospitals which are often plagued by unavailability of medicines, would certainly benefit from shorter delivery times lines and lastly that much anticipated research and collaboration between westernized medicine and traditional herbs would finally find greater meaning for the health sector.
In its manifesto, the EFF promises grants that are double what citizens. Grants are an emotive issue in South Africa, however one wonders whether this is practical. Already, various sectors that are complaining that the grants have become burdensome and unjustifiable in certain instances, e.g. child support grant. There is a concern that these grants are creating a state of dependency. Therefore, increasing it will add to that notion.
All political parties promise a transparent and accountable government that is free from corruption, however, there is no clear method outlined on how this can be done.
In it interesting that instead of the promise being to provide adequate housing for citizens in informal elements, the DA promises better service delivery, safe and clean public spaces and making local governments financially and environmentally sustainable. The example that is always used as a model of governance by the DA is Cape Town City and Midvaal, have shown that areas with informal settlements have remained unkempt in the 2 cities. The ANC on the other side, has promised that it would upgrade and integrate of informal settlements and roll out clean sanitation facilities in informal settlements and rural municipalities.
In its manifesto, the DA promises to make communities safer through developing specialist crime prevention units in metros to focus on crimes like gangsterism and drugs, and establishing municipal law enforcement services for traffic policing and crime prevention. These are key elements which one thinks requires application. Research has shown that South Africa has become a port of entry and hide- out for criminals that are on the Interpol most wanted list, therefore, a strong innovative and vigilant security system is important to strengthen the boarders of South Africa.
The country has become advanced, with free wifi in most of the big cities, however, none of the political parties have addressed the need for internet security in the country. Currently the internet of South Africa is open for manipulation and abuse from unsavoury sources.
Electrification and Solar energy
Of the 3 political parties, the ANC is the only one that dealt with the challenges plaguing most cities with the billing system for electricity. In its manifesto, it promises to develop capacity to address challenges related to municipal billing systems; non-payment of bulk suppliers and recovery of money owed to municipalities by communities, government departments and businesses. In regard to those areas that are hard to reach for electrification, it has promised to roll out solar energy as a source for electrification.
The electorate should interrogate all these manifestos thoroughly. the election campaigns are an opportunity for all these political leaders to account to the populace on how these promises will be delivered. Elections campaigns must not just about convincing voters, but it must also be about giving feedback and accounting to them