I must admit, the ANC’s election moniker (you know, that it has a “good story” to tell) makes me very angry – probably much more than it should. In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death, and the feeling that we’ll never again experience such collective unity or progress as a nation, the ANC’s election spin ought to infuriate us. I guess it does, though – there are hundreds of service-delivery protests each year.
But there are some people who aren’t protesting at the lack of delivery; while the government has failed to deliver adequate services to places like Khutsong and Bekkersdal, they’ve been serving some.
Here’s a list of people who do know about the ANC’s good story because they live it:
President Zuma is an obvious beneficiary of the ANC’s good story. His administration upgraded his Nkandla homestead to the tune of R200 million – and he “didn’t even ask for it”! In the Zuma administration sometimes even the president isn’t aware of the good the state is involved in!
The South African civil service is oversized and under-delivering. Some civil servants are earning more than they should, while other people working for government (teachers, police officers, for example) would never be able to match the salaries of mere bureaucrats. Bureaucrats who provide hardly any value to society at large shouldn’t be draining the public coffers like they do in South Africa – it just isn’t justifiable in a country with such poverty and inequality. South Africa’s civil-service salaries are too high, and have been increased under the Zuma administration.
Valueless job creation through the expansion (as opposed to improvement) of government is only a good story for the people benefiting from these new jobs.
Over the last few weeks I’ve stumbled across a number of people on social media who work for the state but also moonlight as ANC activists. The number of civil servants using social media to electioneer for the ANC (as is their right – that is not in contention) is indicative of the success of the ANC’s cadre deployment programme.
Unfortunately, this good story is yet again told at the expense of other South Africans – beneficiaries of state services and taxpayers alike.
As political journalist Dr Christi van der Westhuizen outlined in her book White Power: the Rise and Fall of the National Party:
“While the Afrikaner middle class, among others, reaped the benefits of finance minister Trevor Manuel’s neo-liberal tax cuts and the increasing ability to move ever-larger sums of capital out of the country, the Afrikaner and English-speaking capitalist classes went from strength to strength.”
Van der Westhuizen further explains how the economic policies of the ANC have increased the size of the black middle class, while increasing the wealth of the already wealthy. This coddling of the rich, and those in-between, is certainly a good story to tell – if you’re a beneficiary of course.
This good story has far too many casualties though; in the R46 billion that mines have made in profit over the last 20 years for example, we witnessed the Marikana massacre and the ways in which some workers – often migrants – have lived in squalor. Government and the private sector are both to blame. They have capitulated to create an economy of corporate oligarchies, wealthy white investors and “black diamonds”.
The coddling of the rich and the underrepresentation of the consumer has left South Africans with an economy that is hard to access and provides us with very few choices and variety – if any at all.
The Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) commander-in-chief and former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema may be an unlikely beneficiary of the ANC’s good story, considering he was effectively removed from his party position. But his lavish lifestyle and the corruption and fraud charges amounting to R4 million are indicative of the same good story I’ve outlined above – a nation where only the connected few are able to succeed. And Malema’s new political movement is also likely to benefit from the fact that the Zuma administration has a very selective good story to tell.
The ANC’s good story is actually quite depressing when you start to realise how selective it is. This story hasn’t promoted real transformation, equality or dignity.
Unfortunately, that makes it a failed attempt at a post-apartheid renewal – one that we’re still waiting for.