From the May-June 2014 issue of News & Letters:
South Africans: don’t vote for messiahs!
Durban, South Africa—Elections should be the season of hope. Steve Biko declared that our fight was for an open society, a society where the color of a person’s skin will not be a point of reference or departure, a society in which each person has one vote.
We have the vote but the political parties do not represent the aspirations of the people. Millions of Black people remain poor and oppressed. When we organize outside of the African National Congress, we are violently repressed.
This election on May 7 is not the season of hope. It is the season of deception, slander, gutter politics and lies. There are campaigns to encourage our people, and in particular young people, to vote. We are being told every day that voting is the way to express our hopes and to build a better society. Politicians are leaving the comfort of their fortresses and frequenting our townships. They all say that they are disgusted that we are still living below the poverty line in squalid conditions, with no water and electricity. They all say that voting is the way to restore the dignity of our people.
Those who claim to be so disgusted with how the people are living include the same ones that have been stealing from the people…
Another feature of our politics is that it has become about messiahs. John Block tells us that walking with Zuma is like walking next to God. According to Andile Mngxitama, Julius Malema has become Maolema. Helen Zille has been given the name Nobantu (people’s person).
In the Black Consciousness Movement we read a lot. Some of us started as teenagers. At a young age we read Frantz Fanon’s warning about leaders that send the oppressed to their caves and tell them to leave politics to the professionals or the messiahs. We understood clearly that a radical politics is a democratic politics and that a democratic politics is a politics in which the oppressed control their own organizations and participate in all decision making…
We are in the struggle to kill the idea that one kind of person is superior to another kind of person. We want to abolish racism. But we also want to abolish the idea that politics is about choosing between Zuma, Zille and Malema.
The formation of the Black Consciousness Movement in this country was a realization by Black people that we could no longer stand and be spectators of the game we are supposed to be playing. This election season continues to demonstrate the relevance of Biko’s teachings…
Today our generation has to encourage people not to accept the hardships that they are facing. We have to find a way, even in the environments we are forced to live in, to have hope for ourselves and our country and to organize to confront oppression. That is what Black Consciousness is all about. It is not about supporting one corrupt messiah against another corrupt one. It is about taking a side with the people.
After the murders of Tatane, the Marikana miners, Gwala and Nzuza, it is immoral to vote for Zuma of the ANC. After Nkandla it is immoral to vote for Zuma. After Blikkiesdorp and the Hangberg evictions it is immoral to vote for Zille of the Democratic Alliance.
After Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters forced his way into the leadership of the ANC Youth League and he and his friends plundered the organization, as well as the Limpopo government and the National Youth Development Agency, it is immoral to vote for him too. Zuma must go on trial for Marikana and Nkandla. Zille must go on trial for Hangberg. Malema must go on trial for his plunder and unpaid taxes.
But corruption and repression are not our only problems. There is no doubt that the ANC is rotten, but it is a grave mistake to divorce corruption from the rotten form of crony capitalism that we have in South Africa. Both the ANC and the DA are proponents of the kind of capitalism that always makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. They are both proponents of the Youth Wage Subsidy, which is a false solution to unemployment. We need a subsidy for the people, not for capital.
The EFF say that they will nationalize the mines and run them for the people. But no one in their right mind can trust Malema to run the mines for the people.
We have to ask ourselves why it is that we now have the vote but there is no one to vote for. Maybe the reason is that the political parties are all funded by elites and so they all work for elites. We need to change the system in which the parties are funded. All parties should receive the same funding from the state and there should be no secret and private funding.
Elections should be an opportunity for the people to choose their representatives from amongst themselves. What we have today is a system whereby we can only choose which group of rich people, working for the big capitalists, we want to rule us.
—Ayanda Kota, Unemployed People’s Movement