31st Aug2015

2015/16 SRC Spring Elections: Why Fight?

by admin

Chuene Raphunga gives his take on the upcoming SRC elections that are taking place at Wits on September 1st and 2nd, following the debacle that occurred between members of varied political parties in the Great Hall earlier this month.


The general elections will be taking place at Wits on the 1st and 2nd of September, but the question remains: Do our student leaders understand the contours of democracy and leadership? We all have equal rights, but must our rights be employed in a way that they infringe on the rights of others? I ask this questions in response to what occurred at the debate for the 2015/16 SRC elections where members of varied organisations contesting for elections engaged in immoral actions; thus abandoning the debate which is not only vital for their respective organisations, but also for the students at large.

This was indeed not a time to be throwing words and arms at each other, but rather a time that should’ve been spent finding decisive ways that accommodates all our views as students; since, it is through this debate that others views and interests are expressed. It will be verily worthy to note that taking office always entails certain pros and cons as apparent with the academic exclusion we encountered earlier this year. Some challenges are far beyond a single organisation and thus demands our collaborative efforts as students and varied organisations. If politicians can’t even arrive at a coherent consensus towards certain challenges which are paramount, then what is the purpose of voting?

As voters, we need to be more vigilant towards those that we elect; for it happens occasionally that we tend to elect those who later neglect our views. Let us not waste our energies in an attempt to elect along the lines of failure, but rather for a better institution that all of us will proudly support and equally earn pride from. Fighting will never resolve the issues at hand, and fighting actually escalates the problems and challenges that are currently of concern.

So, as we go into the polling station on the 1st and 2nd of September, let’s do away with favouritism and vote for the change that we all seek to see and live within. A free and fair election is all we need now, no fussing and definitely no fighting.

In order to view the video on the debate and the debacle, please follow the link below:


07th May2014

The politics of being a black voter

by admin

SM2Sibongile Malgas looks at issues that emerged when she considered who to vote for in today’s elections.

I was born in August 1995, exactly sixteen months after South Africa’s first democratic election. The day of the first democratic elections is a day all South Africans should remember and cherish, for ‘we’ were finally free. Fast-forward to today, May 7th 2014. 20 years since the elections in 1994, today is our country’s fourth elections. But what’s different this year? One such difference is that those of around the 1994 period, labelled by some as ‘Mandela’s children’ or the born frees are finally eligible to vote. So what do I as an ambitious, young, black, born-free, female, university student feel about the twenty years of liberation, equality and politics in my nineteen years of existence?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with politics. Even though I did not fully understand the history of the country I feel thankful that apartheid was abolished. I am truly thankful to the men and women who gave their lives and those who were separated from their families and unjustly jailed in the fight against apartheid. I am forever indebted to those who were then, so that I can be today. Through their efforts I have been given the opportunity to have a say in who governs our country through my vote.

It is because of the struggle that our task for the future is clear, to vote consciously and be committed to a better South Africa. This is the reason why as a first time black voter, I have decided to vote for a party that is not the ANC.

Finally coming to this decision and publicly announcing my choice has definitely not been easy. Coming from a family that has bore the brunt of apartheid, and a generation that has taken on the struggles of their forefathers; race has taken centre stage for many including myself. My biggest fear was to be labelled a ‘sell out’. Am I any less of a black person because I refuse to vote for the ANC or EFF?

If anything it has made me realise how optimistic I am for a better future with better possibilities. Possibilities that have not been fully achieved yet. This is not because there isn’t efficient policy in place or the ‘right ideas’ but rather because much of the ruling party politics seen in our country has been clouded with scandal. Max Du Preez describes this current state of affairs as something that, is ‘diminished to cheap insults, threats and self-gain’ (Seen in: A rumour of spring-South Africa after twenty years of Democracy, pg. 68).

However the point is not to dwell on what I think is wrong with the current government but rather what I see as the way forward. When coming to my decision, there were various factors I considered about the party I intend to vote for. These included track record, leadership and more. I am also completely realistic about the fact that the party I am giving my vote to also has flaws. No party is perfect. But essentially for me it all boils down to am I black first or am I South African first. To answer that, I am my countries biggest fan.

07th May2014

On our Long Walk to Freedom

by admin

South African boySimlindile Mbongwa explains how she decided who she was going to vote for in the today’s elections.

7th May 2014, Election Day. This year’s election marks the 20th year since South Africa’s first democratic general elections and my first time voting (yes I’m a born free). This year’s elections are very important as they mark a milestone for South Africa, the ruling party and its various opposition parties. South Africans (myself included) are looking to vote for a party that will be able to take them forward into the next 20 years (and beyond). As a young South African woman I think that it is important for me to vote for who I think can make South Africa a great country.

You might ask then which party I think is the right one but I will not be revealing my choice. My article definitely has clues though. In this year’s elections I’m going to be casting my vote based on which party I think has the best policies to address the problems our country is facing. But on that note let’s be honest, most of the parties in my opinion tend to all spit the same meaningless rhetoric never really saying anything worth listening to.

The ones that have a hint of a feasible vision however, are too busy fighting factionalism, corruption and are also too busy entertaining petty politics amongst one another to actually think about what is best for the people. This is what really annoys me about South African politics. But since I am South African I am always living on a hope and a prayer (I think we’ve really mastered this philosophy by the way e.g. the insane notion of a ‘Rainbow nation’ – another topic for another day).

This is our ‘long walk to freedom.’ The late Tata Madiba made this term famous and indeed it was a long walk to freedom with many obstacles along the way. Voting is therefore our duty as citizens of a democracy. People fought tirelessly so we could ALL have the right to vote and that should be reason enough. But if you need another reason, it is also our way of engaging with our democracy and taking charge of our own future. That is why it’s important for me as the youth to vote because I think that the power to effect change lies in the hands of the youth, as has happened before in South Africa.


And so there you have it, my reasons on who I’m voting for and my reasons why. I love my country and so therefore I would like to see everyone in this country afforded the same opportunities to live their dreams. So with that then my last words are, Vote! Do it for South Africa!

07th May2014

The Election fence

by admin

AK1Ahmed Kajee talks about the factors he considered when deciding who to vote for in today’s Elections.

I have been following the election world quite closely for this election, especially since I am a born-free and I am a first-time voter. Although, all our politicians impressively claim that they intend to further improve our Rainbow nation I do remain skeptical as to which political party actually deserves my vote.

I am not affiliated to any political party so I’m not going to go on about what’s wrong and what’s right with specific parties. But I’ll give you my take on the various issues (surrounding various parties) that came up when I considered who to vote for. The parties I looked at were the ANC, DA, EFF, AGANG and for the sake of good spirit, Sushi King Kenny Kunene’s The Patriotic Alliance.

The African National Congress

With regards to our beloved ruling party The African National Congress, I don’t feel the need to and state what is wrong with the ANC as opposition party leaders seem to be more than obsessed with the same. I’ll state my discontent later, but I feel it’s best I start with what is right with the ANC. Firstly, I am grateful to the ANC for being the fantastic freedom-fighters that they were. Along with many other individuals, the ANC has helped South Africa become the democratic country it is today.

I was not alive during apartheid, so I shall not make any comments based on ignorance about the apartheid regime or the fight for freedom. But I am nonetheless grateful that it is over.

In terms of infrastructure, we, as a country, have developed greatly with new roads, improved railways and the emergence of the richest square-mile in Africa in the form of Sandton.

Looking at international policy, our government’s stance on that Palestine/Israel situation is one that I especially find admirable. Given the past that we as a country come from, it is both sensible and commendable that we empathize with and support the Palestinians. The ANC has also openly joined forces with the Palestine Solidarity Committee and The Israeli Apartheid Awareness Group.

However, looking beyond the positive aspects of ANC, we also need to focus on the various scandals that have engulfed our ruling party. These include issues around the President’s homestead Nkandla and e-Tolls. Various other issues including corruption and nepotism are also on the list. So simply put, I’m caught between thinking of the wonderful work the ANC has done in the past and the scandals that dominate many South African’s perceptions in the present.


The Democratic Alliance

Looking at The Democratic Alliance, the party with leader Helen Zille has been in charge of the Western Cape since the last elections. It is clear when visiting the Mother City, Cape Town that they have done great work. Although, unfortunately when I say Cape Town I’m referring to Clifton and Camps Bay. Those areas are just beautiful but those areas are not the entire Western Cape.

Unfortunately, one cannot forget the human waste saga where disgruntled residents threw human waste at the Western Cape government buildings. This highlighted the fact that there are issues in the Western Cape, including access to sanitation.

Another issue I have is their position on the Palestine/Israel situation. While there has been some confusion about the party’s official stance of late, going by past “on the record” declarations, I think their stance is unacceptable. Given our country’s segregated and oppressive past, to not recognize and state publicly that Israel is an Apartheid state is pretty awful.



Linking to the DA (for a very short time) was newly emerged political party AGANG led by Mamphela Ramphele. I think Ramphele stands for a lot of good causes and I really do think she’s done wonderful work in the past with Steve Biko.

However, how do they expect to win my vote if their start and more specifically their short alliance to the DA was so shaky? I can only assume their international relations with other countries will be much better. Other than that, I can only wish them the best of luck in the elections.



The Economic Freedom Fighters

On to one of our favorite characters in the political sphere – queue the music and roll the drums – Mr. Julius Malema. Malema earned quite the reputation as a result of his tenure as the head of ANC Youth League. But since his exit from that party he formed The Economic Freedom Fighters. This party calls for various changes including the nationalization of various industries (including mines and banks), land expropriation and more. While I think that such policy is likely to scare off foreign investors, there are certain parts of the party’s policies that are positive. These include an increased minimum wage and free education amongst other things.

However, this is not enough for me personally to vote for them in this election.



The Patriotic Alliance

Finally on my list is The Patriotic Alliance whose leaders are Gayton McKenzie and the one and only Mr. Kenny Kunene. I watched an election debate involving the EFF, ANC, DA, Patriotic Alliance and Cope. I was highly impressed by the rebuttals as well as the policies of the Patriotic Alliance and I was honestly thinking of voting for them. Unfortunately, a few weeks later I watched the Comedy Central Roast of the party’s central member Kenny Kunene. The material in that roast (even if it was comedy) was quite controversial. That made me think, do I honestly want to be voting for someone who appears as a central figure on a comedy special, which is rated 18 for language and prejudice?


So in conclusion while I am going to vote, at this stage I still feel that there are realistically no political parties that I believe deserve my vote. There are just too many flaws, too many extreme policies and too much lip service. If the voting polls were tied and my vote was the vote that led to a victory for one party; my mind would be filled with scorpions. – Thank you Macbeth for help on that one, appreciated.

07th May2014

Rwanda vs. South Africa- 20 years on

by admin

Sandiswa Sondzaba looks at South Africa, Rwanda and apathy.

2014. This is a year that I marked off excitedly when I was a fifteen-year old caught up in the headiness of World Cup fever. 2014 was meant to be an exciting year for me. The FIFA World Cup would take place in Brazil and I had planned to go and watch a few games there. I was also going to bid farewell to my tumultuous teen years. Most importantly I was going to vote. Yes, I would finally have the power to determine my country’s future.

South Africa- the rainbow nation

South Africa- the rainbow nation

Rwandan genocide survivor

Rwandan genocide survivor

Four years on and a lot has changed since then. My student budget would not allow for me to go to Brazil and I feel incredibly heartbroken about the state of our nation’s politics. The only thing I have going for me is that I will be turning twenty but even that is not enough to make me less melancholic. I have also been thinking about the Rwandan genocide a lot lately.

Rwanda and South Africa. Both countries have significant twentieth anniversaries this year. For South Africa, we are celebrating the dawn of our second decade as a democratic state. Rwanda however is in a slightly more sombre mood as it is commemorating the twentieth year of the genocide, which gripped its country for 100 days. 100 days may not seem like a lot of time but that space of time was enough to wipe out 500,000-1,000,000 people. Most of the victims were Tutsis and a lot of them were also Hutus who tried to stop the bloodshed.

Whilst thinking about the Rwandan genocide, I have been thinking about what the worst part of the whole massacre was. I thought about all of the mothers who were killed. The children. Grandmothers. Husbands. The people who lost their entire families. However, the worst part for me was discovering that the rest of the world ignored the genocide whilst it was occurring, as they were all busy looking at us: the rainbow nation.

The Rwandan genocide was ignored. I often think of how the death toll could have been decreased if action had been taken sooner. The children that would have been saved. Theparents that would not have lost their entire families. If people had cared to do something about it, things may have been different.

But we still do it. We still ignore the plight of those who need our help. Sometimes we ignore the plight of our fellow African brothers and sisters who are oppressed on the basis of their sexualities. Most times we ignore the marginalized right on our doorsteps. We ignore the mineworkers who are asking for money so that they may be able to feed their families. We ignore the thirteen year olds who have to drop out of school in order to care for their younger brothers and sisters. We ignore the young girl who cries out as she is sexually abused. We ignore the screams of a woman as her boyfriend points a loaded gun to her head. We often condemn the government for ignoring the pleas of the marginalized across our borders. However, we are also guilty of turning our heads when our neighbours need our help.

I then realized that the Rwandan genocide not only showed the capacity for evil actions committed by a few. It also showed how we are also committing evil by being apathetic. That is why I have decided to vote today even though the state of our politics frustrates me. It is because I care and I want to be able to say that I did try to make a difference- in whichever little way I could.


07th May2014

Finding our struggle

by admin

TK1Tsholofelo Kwakwa looks at why she decided not to vote in today’s Elections

After watching Trevor Noah’s That’s Racist for the umpteenth time, I grasped something that in my opinion has more relevance now during this election than ever before. He said, “It’s time for a lot of young black people to find their struggle.” I understood this to mean that apartheid was someone else’s fight and now it’s time for us to move forward and stop using it as a crutch for personal incompetency.

Although I get my head bitten off a lot because of this, I decided not to partake in the 2014 South African elections. And yes, I completely understand people’s exasperation with this decision since a lot of people fought for the right to vote.

Yes, people did fight for the right to vote and ultimately – for democracy. I am using my democracy to choose not to vote simply because I do not fully agree with the values of the existing political parties. As a young black female, I have chosen to actively contribute to this country in other ways and will not dishonour the system by spoiling my vote.

Honestly though, if you cannot trust any political party to lead you, why spoil your vote instead of simply refraining from voting? It is quite clear that there is a certain political unrest in South Africa at this current moment and no one is able to take the heat. From political parties slandering each other and ad campaigns being banned, to the public’s money being used for personal interest. It is thus hard to trust existing parties with the future of this country.

It’s always one hullabaloo after another. A few weeks ago we saw an open letter from Gayton McKenzie (Patriotic Alliance President) to Julius Malema (EFF President) that stirred controversy on social media. We also constantly see reports from the Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, that regularly expose what the people in power are doing to the ordinary citizens of South Africa – who, day to day, try to make an honest living.

Furthermore we see dramatic calls to vote. The African National Congress has posters around The University of Witwatersrand, which read in bright, bold yellow letters: “DO IT FOR MADIBA” and “DO IT FOR CHRIS HANI.”

Frankly, I think people have lost the sagacity of those prominent freedom fighters (and many others) and the vision that they had for this country. So while I, for one, am truly grateful for what they have done for South Africa, I’d have to say that due to what the country’s politics have become, I will be letting this Election Day miss me.

01st Jun2011

Please call (VOTE 18 MAY)

by admin

Naledi Siphokazi Msimang ponders the SMS war waged on her SAMSUNG STAR by the opposition parties.

I am sure that you got these SMSes too; you know, the ones summarising a political party’s manifestos and achievements since 19-voetsek in 160 characters? It seems that my cell phone has now become a hotly contested terrain wherein political battles must be waged. I had Helen SMS me shortly before the elections to remind me of the opening and closing times of the voting stations, while Jacob instructed me to vote for a particular candidate in my ward 81. I have come to call them by their first names as they contacted me directly. I promptly saved their numbers in my phonebook – I know I will need to call on them in the near future!

Nevertheless, what has prompted this move to telecommunications warfare (canvassing of votes for the May 18 Municipal Elections notwithstanding)? Jacob uploaded his Twitter profile on the 10th of May, @SAPresident, which on 19th May 2011 stood at 16 280 followers and most recently read out comments posted by his ‘friends’ on Facebook (not to be confused with ‘friends of JZ’) at his State of the Nation Address in Parliament this past February. @HelenZille meanwhile has been tweeting for over a year to her proud contingent of almost 32 000-odd followers. Copycat tactics are the pap and vleis of political party strategies, so it is no surprise that we see party leaders trying to outdo each other in toyi-toying, slogan-chanting, struggle-song-singing, t-shirt-handing-out, and open-toilet-scandalling during this merry season of the democracy. It is a 2-for-1 special: two political party leaders’ electioneering antics and related promises for the price of one X. It is the stuff democracies are made of, lol!

Now, this battle for votes is being staged on my SAMSUNG STAR it seems. I haven’t seen this much action on my phone since the period shortly before the National Credit Act was about to come into force. I had all sorts of companies offering me a lifelong noose at low interest rates. Thus, I question Vodacom’s complicity in this regard. I knew there would be pitfalls to RICA-ring my sim card; now, Juju* might just use this as a broadcasting tool to extend his reach to more masses! Imagine getting the lyrics to “Dhubul’ iBhunu/Shoot the Boer” SMSed to you by Juju? Aikhona! The IEC, on the other hand, is playing the devil’s advocate on this one. According to its constitution, political parties are not allowed to canvass for elections using rallies, demonstrations and door-to-door techniques on the day of the election. Thus, it was well within ‘the law’ that Helen and Jacob contacted me on May 18th. As if I needed another reminder that it was election day; the defaced posters on the non-operational lamppost overlooking my house drove the point annoyingly home! The perils of new technologies…

My personal annoyances aside, I find it interesting that these parties have found such a credible way to bridge the technological impasse created by the arrival of new technologies. In 160 characters, your politician of choice can persuade you to vote (or not) in a particular direction. Does this spell the end of the long-drawn-out speeches that the electorate is subjected to at mass rallies and commemorative events? Perhaps I am pushing it a bit but the idea of carrying in your pocket or brassiere a SMS from your favoured political party leader is appealing. My grandmother has been showing off her SMS, asking each of her grandchildren to read it out loud for her guests! How many of the electorate, with access to the most basic of mobile phones, are eagerly claiming to be close to their leaders, now that they have been SMSed?  This electioneering sneak tactic will be the political guerrilla warfare of the future:  April 2014ill be abuzz with SMSes, MMSes, emails and other telecoms weaponry. Don’t say you didn’t see this coming: you have been warned.

Importantly, perhaps this presents a new landscape wherein leaders and the electorate can engage. Communication channels between ‘the masses’ and their leaders are ironically largely confined to rallies and service delivery protests. These are often met with obligatory responses that serve to pacify, as opposed to service said masses. Perhaps if Helen or Jacob (or Zweli or Gwede or Patricia) received the desperate pcm’s (please call me’s) from their electorate on a daily basis, that cut through the red tape that is so often characteristic of bureaucracies, they might be spurred into quicker, greater action, and indeed, deliver services where they are required. I would then be very proud to say my Leader SMSed me to ask me to vote.

Yes, much of the electorate does not have access to the Twitters and Facebooks we so love to update but this SMS sneak tactic is beyond that. It is characteristically grassroots, mass-based and communicative in one go. The only prerequisite to being a member of this club is a cell phone with SMS functionality and 35c (if you are a Vodacom user). Beyond that, it is fair game! Hopefully, the potential of this kind of communication to decrease the digital, political and deliberative divide is exploited by political parties big and small in their engagement with their electorate, sans the 3am wake up call to remind me to vote that I received on May 18th!

Congratulations on another successful election South Africa!

*Juju is used here to refer to a system of public entitlement on the part of celebrated-for-all-the-wrong-reasons individuals who have access to television cameras, loudspeakers and microphones as part of their daily repertoire. In no way is it a reference to a national ruling political party youth league leader who shall, for the purposes of avoiding defamation suits against the author, remain nameless.

17th May2011

Who will get your vote?

by admin

Pheladi Sethusa, a second year Media Studies student, attended a local government elections debate held by the Wits Politics Department on East Campus today. She presents a report on the positions put forward by three representatives from the ANC, the DA and COPE.

The topic up for debate was the local municipal elections, which will be upon us in a matter of hours now. There was quite a large turnout. I suspect with the elections a matter of hours away people are desperate to gain as much insight into the various parties so as to cast a vote that will both benefit them and make a difference.

The first party to have their say was of course the African National Congress (ANC). Godfrey Madja, a representative of the Wits ANC Youth League, opened his speech with the classic “Amandla-Viva” chant to which the ANC supporters in the crowd responded positively. He spoke for eight minutes in what turned out to be a speech on ANC policy. He made the point that the ANC, unlike other parties, does not have a “cut and paste manifesto, but it has a historical policy”. He went on to speak about how the ANC will and is already implementing programmes for the creation of jobs, education and training programmes, health etc. Everything he had to say was related to what we have all heard President Zuma talk about in his addresses.

Next up was a representative from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mohammad Sayanvala. For the first time in a speech about the DA, I heard about their manifesto and not just a speech that berates the ruling party. The DA’s policy platform is to create opportunities for all in society and to deliver to all. He emphasized that the DA rebukes the “jobs for pals” system that seems popular within the ruling party. The DA aims to award tenders and other such opportunities to the most qualified applicants irrespective of their race. Mohammad ended off on a strong note, saying that “the DA is no longer just an opposition party but a party of governance”.

The last representative was a young lady from the Congress of the People (COPE), Mukondeli Mphigalele. Her main argument was that people should not dismiss COPE as a joke of a party, as they are merely trying to fight for their rights like everyone else. She went on to comment on members who recently left the party and went back to the ANC as people who are clearly “capable of vomiting and once done, being able to eat that vomit”. This remark had the audience in stitches. There was no talk of policy and empty promises, merely the acknowledgement that the time for blind loyalty was over and that voters need to now vote for their own interests.

Then the floor was opened up for questions to the representatives. The first was a young black man who asked how the parties planned on putting a person like himself, who was born disadvantaged, on equal footing with a person who was born advantaged. Mohammad answered that “the DA will eradicate the legacies of Apartheid by creating opportunities for all”. The ANC rep Godfrey said: “We all need to remember that our democracy is only 17 years old. It did not take the apartheid government 17 years to marginalise us, so it cannot take us 17 years to eradicate all inequalities”. The COPE rep shied away from this question.

Another interesting question was why public servants like Helen Zille and our President do not make use of the public services they promote like public transport. The DA rep vouched for Zille saying she frequents public transport and the COPE rep followed in that vain. Godfrey said “as an ex-MK member and a public figure, President Zuma cannot travel with public transport for safety reasons. You forget that the AWB and people in Orania are still planning things and ready to attack”, ushering in another roar of laughter from the crowd. Most of the questions asked were left unanswered as we ran out of time.

I went into the debate thinking the ANC was the scum of the earth, the DA was merely the jealous middle child who wanted a chance in the spotlight and I honestly had no feelings about COPE. Unfortunately the latter has not changed. The COPE rep was not as convincing as she could have been. As for the DA I think they fail to point out how they plan to do the things they say they will. For instance, their response on affirmative action left the person who asked the question still wanting. The ANC appealed most to me in that the representative answered all questions posed effectively. If there was a winner, he would be it.

However, I am still not willing to be complacent in voting for the ANC or the DA. Neither parties proposed changes that met my immediate needs and neither were willing to offer evidence conducive to these planned changes of theirs. It is one thing to look fantastic on paper, but as we are all very aware, delivering on those promises is the number one problem.

13th May2011

He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones

by admin

In January 2010, the ANCYL filed a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) against the DA-led municipality in Cape Town for the installation of open toilets for Makhaza residents. And for months to come, the ANC would use the incident as the why-you-should-not-vote-for-the DA-card! ANCYL President Julius Malema was on the forefront of the court proceedings on the matter and attended the judgement last month that “declared the provision of unenclosed toilets at the settlement to be a violation of the residents’ constitutional rights to dignity”. Shortly thereafter, he urged residents to stop voting for the DA and vote ANC.  “Down with Helen Zille! Away with Helen Zille! Viva ANC, Viva! Spread the message. We are here today to bring down Helen Zille. Convince everybody here to vote for the ANC”, Malema said.

Now who are the people to vote for when the same ANC provides the same infamous “open toilets”? On Saturday, Times Live reported that an ANC-led municipality in the Free State has been providing “open toilets” for residents from as far back as 2003. Moreover the toilets’ conditions have been deteriorating since then and the ANC municipality has done nothing about it. The municipality’s acting technical services manager Mike Lelaka admitted that they had only started enclosing some of the toilets last year and blamed delays on lack of funding. “Everything is dependent on funding, but we have approached the departments of water affairs and human settlements. We are still awaiting a response from them”, Lelaka said.

Meanwhile these Free State residents are subjected to (by an ANC- led municipality) the same violations of their constitutional right to human dignity that an ANC-led investigation uncovered. What was that saying about living in a glass house? The authenticity of the ANC’s objection to violations of people’s human rights is now questionable. Two deductions can be made from this scenario. One would be that politicians are all really on the same side and the ANC are hypocrites. The other would be that the national ANC “is not aware”, as national spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said, of what happens at local level which itself questions the party’s competence.

Could this similarity in government be an indication of broader similarities in the two opposing parties’ governance? South Africa is a multiparty democracy. There are more parties to vote for other than the DA and the ANC. Citizens should make sure that they are adequately informed about all the parties available before casting their vote. If this country’s democracy has any chance of moving forward then pre-election discourses in the media and elsewhere need to start reflecting the multiparty democracy embedded in our beautiful constitution.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

15th Apr2011

Religion (mis)used as the opium of the masses in politics?

by admin

Local government elections are around the corner and yes, it is that time again where election buzz dominates our media. I have been bitten by the bug myself. However I am concerned about the undemocratic and unscrupulous (I think) tendencies in political campaigns of likening political affiliations to religious ones. What is it with politicians and using religious connotations in political campaigns? I will admit, my opinion on the matter is majorly biased by the fact that I am a God-fearing Christian myself (emphasis on God-fearing). However, if the Times Live responses to such use of religion – by our president in particular – are anything to go by, then the hypothesis that there is widespread mutual dislike for these tendencies is arguably plausible. So I suppose it is safe to say that I am not the only one who is puzzled by the President’s, Christian Democratic Party’s (CDP) and most recently Bheki Cele’s linkage of religious activity to political activity.

Most of us are familiar with President Jacob Zuma’s comments earlier this year to an Eastern Cape public suggesting that “a vote for the ANC was a vote for Qamata (God)”. The CDP recently retaliated to the comments but also ended up contradicting its main argument: “God is not a political tool” in its own use of ‘God’ as a ‘political tool’. Their interpolations of course are less blatant and more reverse-psychology-like. The CDP urged the public to vote not for the ANC with its (liberal democratic) legislation such as that of “abortion, gambling and other secular legislation (which) contravenes the Bible” and “make sure that the party they voted for upheld the principles of the church”. Without explicitly stating it as President Jacob Zuma did, the CDP clearly uses the same campaign tactic. Am I the only one who sees the relations between “…the Christian rather is God’s tool, and that includes his responsibility when making his cross on the ballot paper”, a comment from CDP leader Theunis Botha and the President’s comment above?

The use of religion in politics conflicts with the democratic principles which our country is supposed to be abiding by. More than unlawfully misleading followers of a particular religion these campaigns in turn alienate those of another religion. “Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion”, states our Bill of Rights. I would like to suggest that a prevalent use of religious manipulation in political campaigns is an infringement of this right. The presence of political plurality and diversity in our country is well noted and appreciated here. However, when political actors suggest that certain political notions are more in line with particular religious beliefs than others, and vice versa, then the very logic of that diversity argument is questioned.

Violations of democratic rights aside, there is something morally wrong with this misuse of religion. This is adequately illuminated upon in the President’s strategic use of the word ‘Qamata’ (instead of just God) when addressing the Eastern Cape public. The (for lack of a better term) marketing strategy in his argument is now brought to the forefront. I never studied economics in high school or university but I think I recall coming across amateurish-or-not references to topics on target markets at some point in my academic career. My point here is that President Jacob Zuma was clearly aware of his target market in the Eastern Cape and decided to use the term ‘Qamata’, which has specific connotations to the Xhosa people as the Most High in both religious and cultural terms.

I will not go so far as to suggest that the President did not believe his own speech and was using it merely as a marketing tool. However I did pick up a dumbing-down element in his statement. It was Karl Marx who argued that religion was “the opium of the masses”. I think this misuse of religion suggests an agreement with the argument. And that is what puzzles me the most about this phenomenon. Call me backward, I did mention that I am a God-fearing person so maybe I am addressing the issue with a great deal more sensitivity than most people. However there is something profane about the careless or (arguably) sarcastic use of God’s name and relations to it.

Without insinuating political affiliations in this blog (there really are not any), I would like to end by quoting Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille’s account on the matter: “Indeed, this is an act of shameless political and religious blackmail – the sort of political skulduggery that may be the norm in autocracies, but that should be anathema to our constitutional democracy”.

Matshidiso Omega Moagi

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