Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The ANC gets a wake up call

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

The ruling ANC has received a wake up call.
Despite notching up a comfortable 61 percent of the votes of the 18 million people who cast their ballots in last Wednesday's local government elections, the ANC appears not to have attracted a significant percentage of the non-African people who had supported the struggle prior to 1994.
These people are situated mainly in the Western Cape; the area of Port Elizabeth and other urban districts of the Eastern Cape; certain areas of Johannesburg and Pretoria; and the Metropolitan area of Durban, the north and south of Durban, Pietermaritburg and other urban areas in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
These people turned up in their hundreds of thousands to vote for the Democratic Alliance(DA). This support helped Helen Zille and the DA to notch up 24 percent of the votes nationally.
What is the reason for this? Why would those who fully supported the anti-apartheid struggles now turn against the very organisation that portrays itself as a non-racial and democratic organisation?
One of the people who voted for the DA at a polling booth in Verulam was blunt:
"I didn't vote for the ANC simply because many of their leaders are not giving the country a good name with their continued talk of racism, nationalisation and confiscation of land.
"Nationalisation has not worked in any country in the world but yet these people are demanding nationalisation."
Another voter who cast his ballot in Tongaat expressed similar views.
"Some of these people have adopted the same attitude of the former apartheid rulers. They believe they can just dictate and the people will accept it. Well I can tell you that it's because of this attitude many people have turned away from the ANC. The people want to see a strong opposition so that the ANC can be kept in check."
Yet another person who registered his vote in Phoenix said he did not care who was in power but expected the government "to create opportunities for all people to take care of themselves".
"We cannot create a culture of expectancy. The government must develop an atmosphere where businesses will be able to flourish and where they will be able to create jobs for the people. The government cannot create jobs outside government departments.
"The ordinary person must able to look after oneself rather than looking to the government for handouts."
In addition to these people who cast their ballots for the DA, there were thousands of others went to the polls but did not vote for any party. They spoilt their ballot papers. Many of these disgruntled folk were former struggle activists who indicated that they felt let down by the ANC.
Said one former activist who lives in Verulam:
"The ANC of today is not the same ANC that I struggled for. Many of those in the ANC today have thrown our values and principles through the window. I, therefore, could not vote for the ANC or any other party. I will vote for the ANC once again once the current crop of leaders promote the values of the Nelson Mandelas, Walter Sisulus, Govan Mbekis, Ahmed Kathradas, Billy Nairs and Fatima Meers.
"Meantime, the ANC leaders must go back to the drawing room and ask themselves why so many people are turning their backs on the organisation?"
The ANC has reacted to its loss of support in several communities and has announced that it will discuss the latest developments. The ANC said it would like to find out why these communities have turned away from the ruling party.
However, at the same time it stated that racism was also at play as some people within these communities believe "African people cannot rule".
There's no doubt whatsoever that there are many who display this "racist" behaviour but for the vast majority of people, all they would like to see is a government that takes a firm stance against bribery and corruption, wastage, misuse of state resources, and action against civil servants at local, provincial and national levels who display arrogant and uncaring attitudes to members of the public. They would also like to see an effective police force and leaders who promote inclusivity rather than division through racist statements. They would also like to see opportunities being created for all instead of the state introducing regulations that are reminiscent of the apartheid era.
The question that many people are asking is whether the ruling ANC will take into account the reasons why many people are turning against it. Or will it adopt a "dog in the manger" attitude since it believes that it will continue to win elections for some time to come and that its detractors can "go and jump in the lake".

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Racism rears its ugly head during local government election campaigns

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

The local government elections held on Wednesday, May 18 was one of the most hotly-contested elections since 1994.
The political parties and the candidates went overboard in their campaigns to out do one another. During this process, some of the politicians used the lowest and basest rhetoric to smear their opponents.
The president of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, won gold medal for his "Malema says" when he travelled around the country, spitting and shouting at his opponents. His first stop was in Cape Town where he used the open-toilet saga in Khayelitsha to lampoon the DA for violating the human dignity of "African people".
The DA-controlled Cape Town city council was found to have built 51 toilets without enclosures in Makhaza, Khayelitsha in December 2009.
During his Cape Town electioneering campaign, Malema, his bodyguards and supporters drove to the house of the leader of DA, Ms Helen Zille, where they pasted ANC posters on an electricity pole just outside Zille's house. When asked by a reporter why he was putting up posters outside the home of Ms Zille, he responded by saying that the DA leader should also vote for the ANC because the DA would never rule South Africa.
But while enjoying the agony in which the DA found itself, Malema had to quickly dash to Rammulotsi township, near Viljoenskroon in the Free State province where it was found that ANC-run Moqhaka municipality had built 1 600 toilets without any enclosures. What was even more embarrassing was that the Mayor, Mantebu Mokgosi's husband had been granted a contract to build the open toilets. They were called "toiletpreneurs".
All that the fazed motor mouth could do was to call for "heads to roll.


Despite being brought down to earth, the foul mouth continued with his ramblings at an election rally in Kimberley where he labelled white people as "criminals".
This is what he had said: "We have to take the land without payment, because the whites took our land without paying and transformed them into game farms. The system of willing seller, willing buyer has failed.
We all agree they stole the land. They are criminals, they should be treated like that. It is taking too long for the land to be handed back.
"The money is in the hands of only 10 percent of the population who are handling about 90 percent of the wealth in the country. The money is in the hands of the Oppenheimers. The Oppenheimers took our minerals. Galeshewe hasn’t shared in the bounty of the diamond mines."
At another election campaign meeting in Kimberley, scolded township residents for protesting against the ANC when it was the ANC that provided them with jobs, schools, homes, electricity and water.
"You cannot complain about the lack of service delivery while watering the lawn in front of your RDP house. When protesting they burn tyres on a tar road but they complain no delivery."
In one of his several visits to KwaZulu-Natal, the "Mugabe of South Africa" took swipes at the leader of the IFP, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, calling him a "sickly old man" who don't want to retire. However, he did not have the courage to travel to hometown in Zululand to put up ANC posters outside Buthelezi's home. IFP supporters wanted to teach him "some manners".
At the ANC's final and biggest election rally in Johannesburg, Malema received the loudest applause when he once again danced and shouted his racist comments.
He said: "The DA is for the whites, it is not for you. The ANC has no serious challenger in the coming elections. Even 'the madam' knows that she cannot compete with the ANC."
This was an obvious reference to Helen Zille's vigorous campaigns in Soweto and mainly-black townships around the country.
Malema has himself been called all kinds of names by his opponents and political analysts. One of the most telling comments came from cartoonist, Nanda Soobben. He said: "We need a toilet duck to clean Malema's mouth... unfortunately, we have a 'lame' one."

A former leader of the ANC Youth League, Fikile Mbalula, also raised the attention of people when he addressed an election rally in Kimberley last week. Referring to the women leaders of the DA, he said: "They are three little blue witches."
The leader of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, also drew the attention of the people when he told supporters at two meetings in Port Elizabeth and Lichtenburg that their ancestors will turn against those leaving the ANC.
"The ancestors will turn their backs against you and you will be bad luck forever if you leave the ANC unhappy. "When you vote for a party that is going to lose, then your vote is wasted. That vote does not help South Africa at all."
Zuma's latest comments had drawn sharp reactions from traditional and religious leaders, who previously had condemned the ANC leader for saying that "the ANC will rule until Jesus returns".
Said one commentator: "I think the ancestors are turning in their graves at the liberties JZ is taking. He now speaks for me, the other voters, Jesus, God, the ancestors, who else only the all powerful Swami Zuma knows."
The election campaigns have done wonders for the country. Freedom of speech and multi-party democracy have been strengthened while at the same time exposing the racism of the "Mugabe" who will turn our beautiful country into another Zimbabwe if he is not brought to heel soon. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Voters not a bunch of sheep

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

Election posters are everywhere. Travel through the CBDs of the cities and towns, and townships, residential areas, and informal settlements one is overcome by a sea of election posters of the different political parties hanging from every almost light pole.
All the political parties - from the ruling ANC to the newly-established NFP - are all making promises to woo the voters.
"Let's work together", "We deliver for all", "Unite and fight" and "Stop corruption" are just some of the catch phrases that the different political are using in their attempts to attract the voters.
The political parties are also taking every opportunity that come their way through special radio and television programmes and newspapers to get their messages across to the voters.
The local government elections on May 18 will be the third such election since we attained our new non-racial and democratic freedom in 1994.
I interacted with a cross-section of people over the past few weeks in order to get an idea of how the ordinary people or the "person in the street" view the political parties and how they would exercise their democratic right.
"I have voted in every election since 1994 but this time round I am not interested at all," Mr Zeph Gumede, a 47-year-old factory worker told me in an interview.
Mr Gumede is married with three adult children and two grand-children. He lives in a disadvantaged area in the eThwekini municipality.
"I am not going to vote because very little has changed in my area for the past 17 years. We have been waiting for a sewer system and running water for every household for a long time but nothing has been done. We only have electricity.
"I will not vote because I want to demonstrate my disillusionment with what is going on. Many other community members also feel the same way. We are all ANC supporters and cannot see ourselves voting for any other party. We want the ANC to know that we are unhappy with the manner in which our concerns have not been attended to."
Mr Krish Govender is a 45-year-old community worker who lives in Ottawa with his wife and a teenage son and daughter. He has been an anti-apartheid activist all his life and has also voted in all the elections since 1994.
"I am going to vote in the forthcoming election but it's not for any political party. I will be voting because the candidate is a good person and I want to give him a chance. My organisation has let me down. It seems that what we fought for during the anti-apartheid struggle days has all been forgotten. Most of the people are now only interested in furthering their own nests and have very little time for the poor and the marginalised."
Mr Pravesh Maharaj of Woodview in Phoenix is another disenchanted South African. This 50-year-old father of three teenage daughters also voted for change in 1994. But he too is now deeply disappointed with all the reports of mismanagement, fraud, corruption, and the failure of the eThekwini municipality to clean the streets and generally maintain a healthy environment.
But, unlike most people I spoke to he's not going to abstain from voting.
"I want to vote in the hope of making a difference. There's a need for us to send a message to the powers that be that we have had enough. They cannot take us for granted."
Forty-two-year-old Lucky Khumalo of an informal settlement in La Mercy works as a caddy at the Windsor Park Golf Course in Durban. He's at the golf course every day in the hope of carrying "a bag or two" so that he can earn some money to feed his wife and two children, aged seven and sixteen months.
"I'm forced to work as a caddy after losing my job recently. I am a proud South African but am very unhappy that I cannot find another decent job.
"If I vote, will it make any difference to my life and that of my family? I will only be improving the life of the candidate and his family."
Ms Ntombi Sibaya is a 32-year-old resident of Waterloo. She works as a petrol attendant in Umdloti Beach.
"I have registered and I will vote for the party that has done so much for us since 1994. I am not interested in all the talk about corruption and wastage of ratepayers' money. It seems the black man is always a suspect."
But expressing a view at the other end of the scale is Mr Preven Naidoo, a newly-married person who lives in Brindahaven, Verulam.
"I have not decided to vote yet but if I do then it will certainly not be for people who are messing up our towns and cities. I am fed up with all the deterioration and degeneration of our towns and filth that is found everywhere.
"Nothing is being done to show us that they want to make our towns and residential areas a better place for all of us."
Mr Gordon Pillay is a 60-year-old grand-father who lives in Caneside, Phoenix.
"I was also an activist in the early days in Merebank and in 1994 I voted for the ANC. But now I am totally disillusioned with what is taking place here in Phoenix. The eThekwini Municipality is turning this crowded residential area into a slum by building houses in every open space. Our children and grand-children don't have open spaces and parks to play sport any more.
"I am disappointed that no one is taking up this issue. They want to destory this residential area by over-crowding an already over-crowded suburb. We at the moment are being over-whelmed by drug lords and illegal taverns. We are paying rates and taxes but we are not being treated properly."
Most people, it seems, are concerned that they are being over taxed and are now even being unfairly charged for refuse removal as well.
"What are we paying exhorbitant rates for?," asked Ms Natchandramal Narainsamy, who lives in central Verulam.
"What are they doing with all the rates and taxes we are paying?"
The over-whelming view is that the rates' money collected is not being used productively to provide basic necessities such as sanitation, drinking water, and electricity for the poorest of the poor and cleaner streets, recreational and sporting facilities, a crime-free environment, and employment opportunities for all the residents.
There's no doubt that the vast majority of people are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the kind of service they are receiving from local municipalities and they want to make their views known in different ways during the election on May 18.
One just hopes that those who come into power and the candidates of other political parties who win seats will remember that they are there to work in the interests of the ratepayers and not to further enrich their own interests, their families and their hangers on.
We cannot allow the dream of Nelson Mandela to be deferred any longer. - Subry Govender, Chief Editor

Councillors should be held accountable

By Marimuthu Subramoney
(aka Subry Govender)

"Guard our democracy. Vote on 18th of May 2011." This is one of the many jingles that are being used on national radio to encourage people to exercise their democratic right during the local government elections on Wednesday, May 18.
One of the features of the democracy that we attained in 1994 is that it provides an opportunity for South Africans to vote in national, provincial and local government elections on a regular basis. Since 1994, many South Africans, except for some, have grown in political maturity and are no longer "just followers" of the different political parties. They are prepared to confront the issues facing them and to act responsibly.
They have an opportunity again on May 18 to distinguish between the different political parties and individuals who are vying for their votes. The ruling ANC, DA, IFP, NFP, MF, Cope, and a string of minor parties and individuals are making all kinds of promises during their election campaigns. They are all promising that they will provide "a better service" and will "deliver to all the people" at local government level.
The tragedy is that while all the political parties make promises, they fail to deliver on the basics. These are litter free and clean streets; well maintatined sports grounds and recreational facilities, community halls, the roads infrastructure, and traffic lights; a crime-free environment and efficient, hard-working and honest council officials and employees. On all these basics, the councillors - both those in power and those in opposition - have failed the ratepayers dismally. In many instances the CBDs of towns such as KwaDukuza, Shakaskraal, Tongaat and Verulam have degenerated.
Then when you take the conditions of the marginalised who live in informal settlements into account the situation in many areas is shocking and unacceptable. There's no doubt that since 1994, the new Government has done a great deal to provide RDP houses for millions who have been living in shacks. But when one looks at the numerous informal settlements bordering towns and formal townships, it seems that much more needs to be done.
The dignity of these people is being trampled upon when for them running drinking water is a luxury, when decent sanitation facilities are non-existent and when they have to "steal" electricity from street lights to enjoy a football match on television.
The question that boggles the mind is that what have the current councillors been paid handsome salaries for when they have failed miserably to get the eThekwini Municipality and other local authorities over the past decade or so to provide the basics such as cleaner streets and a crime-free environment? They have also failed to take the lead in fighting social evils such as drugs, drug lords, illegal taverns, and drinking houses that are causing so much chaos and disorder in our local communitiies.
Now they are coming around once again to say: "Give us another five years to draw our fat salaries".
The great freedom leader of India, Mahatma Gandhi, once said: "Democracy is not a state in which people act like sheep." For us in South Africa, the time has now arrived for the people not to act like "sheep" but to enter into a contract with the people who are asking us for our votes. There's a need to remind the politicial parties and the individual candidates that "democracy", in the words of one of America's greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln, "is the government of the people, by the people, for the people".
The voters have to remind the political parties that they are not like "sheep" and they cannot take their votes for granted in our democracy.
The voters have also to remind the ruling ANC that it cannot just dictate to the ratepayers and impose high rates and other taxes on every excuse. The ruling ANC, when elected to power once again in eThekwini and other local authorities on May 18, must understand that ratepayers have had enough of exhorbitant rates and other charges.
The ANC cannot just fleece ratepayers and then squander the money through wastage, fraud, bonuses, freebies and corruption.
Political parties are like businesses and the councillors are like directors. The more investors (voters) they can attract, the more the directors(councillors) will be able to pocket for themselves. The only difference is that while in a well-run business, investors can look forward to some returns, in politics the returns are more often than not mere promises.
So what is the solution? In a democracy, political parties and politicians are an absolute necessity but they must be reminded that they act in the interests of the voters (investors).
The voters, for their part, in a democracy must also exercise their right to vote in the hope of influencing councillors and local authorities to work in the "interests of ratepayers". They cannot just sit back and do nothing because this will lead to the slow death of the democracy we had worked and sacrificed for.
An American educator and philosopher, Robert Hutchins, once wrote: "The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."
At the same time voters, while becoming fully involved, should not just be a "followers". They should send a message through their votes that they cannot be compelled, as another great American President, Thomas Jefferson, once said that "to compel a man to subsidise with his taxes the propogation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical".
If all else fails, then the voters can only hope for what a well-known English artist, Edward Langley, once wrote:
"What this country needs are more unemployed politicians." - Subry Govender, Chief Editor