OPINION: Dear Makhosi Khoza - we don't need another failed party
Dear Comrade Makhosi Khoza
Recently you asked those “in favour of a new political home” to comment “yes” on your Facebook status. You have also stated that many people have been urging you to establish a new political party since resigning from the ANC.
I suspect that you want to gauge the numbers of people who would support your political party based on the “yesses” you’ll get. I would advise you to drop this method immediately.
There are many people on Facebook who get thousands of “likes” on their updates but when they call a meeting, they get less than 20 people. Just ask Andile Mngxitama of the BLF about this if you don’t believe me. Oh forget it! He’s a lunatic! Nonetheless, the point I’m making is that Facebook numbers never translate into warm bodies. As a method of research, Facebook is bound to mislead you.
You probably can tell by now that I didn’t comment “Yes”. I didn’t, not only because your method is erroneous but also because I think your party would follow the pattern of the aborted COPE and Agang projects.
I know some people have used the successful example of the EFF to try to cheer you on. However, the EFF case is different and I want to show you how.
You see when it was formed, the EFF was an idea whose time had come. From the early 1990s until recently, South Africa has been in a dire need of the EFF’s type of voice. But this situation has become even more so in the last ten to fifteen years.
I say so because from 1994, the country has been defined by one dominant narrative. That of a post-apartheid, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist “rainbow” society. Viewing itself as a broad church, the ANC has sought to bring together the nationalists, the capitalists, the communists, the confused – and after accepting former national party members – the white supremacists within it.
Yet, in reality, the ANC is a neo-capitalist organisation pursuing a crony type of capitalism that feeds off the state while letting the oligopolies to dictate the economic affairs of the country. Theirs is a free-market dictated ideology which the ANC euphemistically calls a mixed-economy.
But because its support base is made up of poor black people, the ANC has to use a pro-poor rhetoric to continue to receive it. It has to appease the poor with social grants, with non-sustainable temporary jobs in the public works programs and with hollow slogans, never tiring to tell them: We want to give you access to the land, access to education and access to quality healthcare but we can’t do it drastically “lest we become another Zimbabwe.”
On the other side of this narrative is the DA. The DA’s role was essentially to keep the ANC in check. To make sure that the ANC stays true to the free market economy, and that it does not pass any legislations that might threaten the privileges of the white folks. The DA only became bolder as corruption and incompetence in the ANC became widespread. In other words, the ANC and the DA stand for the same thing, albeit employing different speak.
With discourse being shaped in this manner, it meant that there was no alternative voice. In particular there was no leftist alternative. That alternative was supposed to be provided by the PAC and Azapo, but sadly both organisations died prematurely. Cosatu and the SACP have been swallowed by the ANC.
The only movements that have attempted to speak differently are civic organisations such as the Landless Peoples Movement, the Unemployed Peoples Movement, the Anti-Privatization Forum and recently the September National Imbizo led by Andile Mngxitama, which he later killed.
However, the voices from these movements never gained any currency. They were confined to the margins of the discourse. The nation had to contend with the daily dosage of ANC/DA ideology.
After twenty or so years of the ANC government and its failures, and with people becoming disillusioned, it was time for an alternative voice to contest for the space.
The EFF did not need to develop a new ideology, nor did it need to convince a new constituency. They only needed to mobilise a constituency that had been there from 1994 but was poorly organised and under-represented.
Majority of those forming the EFF constituency are those who have been sympathetic to the black consciousness ideology of Azapo, the Africanist thought of the PAC and the socialist/communist ideals of Marxism, poorly represented by the SACP and Cosatu.
If you like, the EFF is the broader church of the left. It mobilises the various strands of the left ideology. That’s probably why they have defined themselves as Marxist-Leninist-Fanonian.
The advantage the EFF has had is that it’s led by young, vibrant and intellectual people with a pedigree in mobilising and leading community struggles.
Granted, the EFF has not been able to convince everyone within the broader left constituency. The ultra-leftists want socialism in its unadulterated form. The ultra-nationalists think the EFF is flirting with white supremacy by voting with the DA in the municipalities. Yet again there are those who are just distrusting of the EFF because of Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu’s problematic record when they were still in the ANC.
I do not think you would be able to mobilise these various left constituencies that the EFF has struggled to convince. You have already stated that you do not support radical economic policies and complained that the ANC has lost its non-racial character.
From this, one does not need to guess that you will not be competing for the same constituencies as the EFF, who are drawn to it by its radical posture.
You are going to compete for the same votes as the ANC and the DA. This is where both COPE and Agang failed.
Akin to Mamphela Ramphele, you are a great leader with an incredible track record, love for your own people and courage. But the space you want to play in is already occupied by the ANC and the DA. You’d know as a former member that the ANC is its own opposition.
The ANC can fail and complain against itself, criticise itself and promise its constituency that it will self-correct. It can somersault as many times as it takes to be continually returned to power.
ANC voters don’t believe the ANC is corrupt. They think Zuma and a few individuals are corrupt. For many of these people, if Ramaphosa wins the ANC election in December, their faith in the ANC will be restored.
It is only if Ramaphosa loses that they might follow someone who forms an ANC-lite. Even then, others will stay in the name of “fighting from inside.”
I suggest that you start a non-partisan movement. The country needs such a move at this juncture. There is currently no non-political party movement that represents the aspirations of disenfranchised South Africans.
This country needs a pro-people, resourced non-partisan movement that can stand up for the people against government and corporate bulling. I believe you have all it takes to lead us in that direction.
- Mariri is an aspiring historian.
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