Jamwanda2 on Saturday – SA Elections and After: Lessons for Liberation Movements President Ramaphosa

By Jamwanda2 on Saturday

Welcome back Jamwanda2!

Let me open this week’s installment by celebrating the unbanning and reinstatement on X of Jamwanda2, my inaugural Twitter account, more than a good ( or is it bad?) two years after its deletion by those then in control of the predecessor digital platform. Many protestations of innocence followed that high-handed, arbitrary decision triggered by the opposition here, and gladly executed by those then on high at Twitter.

No position was yielded, possibly because someone up there felt I hadn’t groveled enough, and had caused grievous, even irreparable damage to their chosen political horse here. Soon after, I launched another Twitter account, Tinoedzazvimwe, its name encapsulating a loud, defiant protest against the banning of its predecessor sibling. Before long, and amidst rising election temperatures here in Zimbabwe, that account, too was banished, and remains so to this day, thanks to the same opposition activists who couldn’t handle arguments I pugilistically pushed through both accounts.

While I felt frustrated by the banning, I also felt satisfied and elated that my opponents had conceded to of sheer feebleness of intellect and a clear lack of spine. I was also happy I had exposed owners of Twitter who projected themselves as proponents of free speech for what they really are, namely sinister, mono-track, impermissive global mind-managers.

No sufferer of fools

Several interpositions were subsequently done by well-wishers, all to no avail. With elections close by, I expeditiously launched yet another account, this time calling it Dhonzamusoro. It survived long enough to carry me through Harmonised Elections of August 2023, and subsists to this very day. As its ill-fated predecessors, Dhonzamusoro pulls no punches, and pummels opponents with deserved, proportionate severity. I have never been the kind that suffers fools; or the type that stomachs arguments which are as porous as they are un-canvassed.

Tsvaru akadana tivu!

I come from the sworn belief that once you project yourself publicly by way of your thoughts, these should have been well digested and tested enough to survive scrutiny and counterpoints. Above all, you proceed – as you must – on solid facts and with some modicum of grasp on issue and areas. Particularly so when your tone is one of belligerence and haranguing deprecation. For that to succeed, you need to be on all fours; throwing stones certainly invites brickbats. Tsvaru akadana tivu (a slap invites a full blow), to use a Shona parlance.

You cannot be tearful after tearing others, or expect a kiss for kick. I intent to keep up the fight for the liberation of Tinoedzazvimwe; intent, too, to run both Jamwanda2 and Dhonzamusoro, both without fear or favour, and in tone consistent with rules of reciprocity. Which is to say, I promise to give what I receive. As Shakespeare’s reviled Jew Shylock in Merchant of Venice put it, “the villainy you teach, I execute!” In the same vein, the courtesy you show and give, I gladly return.

Congratulations Pophi!

I am writing this piece before election of the new Speaker of the 7th South African Parliament, post that country’s elections. The President is also yet to be elected by the same South African Parliament. Elective sessions are still in progress, both provincially and nationally. Others have concluded. For instance, Pophi Ramathuba is now set to be the new premier of Limpopo. Congratulations to her.

Offices present new, sobering, even curbing realities, as she will soon learn and know. Limpopo Province abuts Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland South Province. Limpopo is dry and thirsty, and requires some assistance from Zimbabwe to slake its thirst. Limpopo houses Musina Border Post at its northern-most margin; back-to-back with it is our Beitbridge Border Post, itself gateway for South Africa’s northbound traffic and trade.

This is Africa’s busiest port, with plans underway to turn it into a one-stop border post for greater efficiencies and smoother traffic. Cde Ramathuba was part of Presidents Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa’s respective delegations when an assessment visit at the highest level was undertaken. Again, congratulations, Dr Ramathuba, and welcome!

DA brings relief to guest workers

Interestingly, DA’s Zille who, alongside Tony Leon, was part of that party’s negotiating team with the ANC for some working relationship towards forming a post-election Government in South Africa, stressed on the role and value of migrant skills from Zimbabwe to the South African economy. Zimbabwe’s skills, she stressed, were so critical to the functioning of the South African economy that any decision to ban or disrupt them, would adversely affect the South African economy. Zille was expressing the view of Big Business in South Africa, which for obvious and well-known historical reasons, is the foremost employer, and predominantly white, whatever the color or patina of its front offices.

I raise this in light of a near-consensus within almost all but two South African political parties – DA and EFF – that xenophobic anti-migrant policy and attitude, was itself a panacea and quick fix to South Africa’s widespread malaise, whose political outcome has been the current hung electoral result ANC which is writhing from. That result, which has raised and resurrected organized white political power in the form of the DA, itself the party of Big Business, means South Africa’s compromise Government, would have revisit this matter in favour of migrant labour.

That means a long reprieve for Zimbabweans in that country. The irony of it all though is that this concession to guest workers in South Africa – the most recognised yet misleading face of which is black – owes to a non-black led Party, to which fellow black parties have had to acquiesce as a matter of coalition compromise. This is quite sad and ironic.

Southern Africa must reset expectations on SA!

Whilst I write this piece before the voting rituals are complete, outcomes are fairly easy to predict. Broadly, South Africa is now under an ANC-DA-IFP-PA coalition, which coalition proceeds to constitute a Government of National Unity, GNU. Which is to say, MK, EFF and other parties viewed as extreme by “mainstream” politics, are out of the coalition and, by dint of that fact, out of the GNU. They in turn have since reconstituted themselves as the Progressive Caucus, a reposte to the derisive Coalition of Doom moniker and label which the DA had pasted on them. All told, it means South Africa will be governed through inter-party compromise, not through individual party compacts.

The future is likely to see variance between the position of the South African Government and that of each constitutive party in the coalition. That has a direct bearing on all of us in South Africa’s neighbourhood. We must budget for a South Africa which is fairly inward-looking, and for which decision-making will be a convoluted process proceeding on even buffeting compromises.

If yesterday we found the ANC government slow in taking decisions with sub-regional impact or repercussion, today, tomorrow and until the next election, and hopefully not beyond, the ANC-led Coalition is likely to be even more hesitant and frustratingly slower for South Africa’s regional country partners . We must thus reset our expectations, including scenarios where dictates of coalition are proffered as an alibi. Big Business model for South Africa in SADC is that of core and periphery, in its own favour!

A President stronger than the ANC

Second, President Ramaphosa tonight emerges as a re-elected President of South Africa and head of South African Government. His Presidency through today’s re-election, comes from votes from ANC, DA, IFP and PA, at the very least. He will be a President born out of a miscegenated, coalition vote. This makes him a President from the ANC but installed by the governing coalition.

The one point which many in the ANC, inside South Africa itself, and certainly in the neighbourhood have not foreseen, is that President Ramaphosa is now virtually insulated from ANC’s curtailing internal processes, including and especially the mechanism of recall. This is one big, ironic outcome of the coalition, namely that the Leader of a weakened ANC, emerges as in fact strengthened and even insulated against its internal processes. To that end and in that limited sense, his Presidency is the strongest and most assured Presidency since 1994!

This remains so for as long as he does not upset the politics of Big Business, embodied in the DA, politics which mortgage him. A DA sulking from unmet expectations can easily drown the coalition to precipitate a fresh general election at will, now that ANC is alienated from both MK and EFF. We need to note that, too, as Coalition South Africa’s neighbors.

DA expands its footprint in all three arms of State

Third, while I write before full results are out, the Speakership of a new South African Parliament will go to the ANC’s Thoko Didiza, beating EFF’s Veronica Mente predictably by a wide margin. As with the Presidency, ANC’s Speakership comes at the very least from votes from the coalition. The trade-off with the DA is that ANC in turn supports the DA for Deputy Speakership. This means the DA now secures a solid presence in both the Executive and the Legislature, two key pillars for daily governance and law-making respectively.

Its deputy speaker will play centurion against unwanted, bills that might injure Big Business interests. Regarding the Judiciary, we all know the complexion of the South African Bench, as well as its jurisprudential tradition and mores. It remains white, moored in a long apartheid-shaped status quo and thus conservatively pro-white, pro-business and pro-western interpretation of constitutionalism. Where a “bad” escapes the DA centurion, the predominantly white Bench will bowl back. Zimbabwe must take particular notice of this. Legal issues of this country have, in the past, ended in South African courts.

Numbers and Power on portfolio allocation

Fourth, once the elective rigmarole in Parliament is done, the next dynamic to watch out for is President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet. Whilst one cannot say beforehand who is in and who is out, one can safely surmise that the new Cabinet will reflect the makeup of the governing coalition. Which is to say President Ramaphosa will allocate portfolios to the ANC and each its coalition partners after consultations.

Of course numerically, the rule of relativity will apply. But in terms of power, I see the DA pushing a hard bargain. Who will man those portfolios will most likely be left to respective leaders of each Party in the coalition. It happened here at the formation of our GNU in 2008/9. In our case, ZANU PF made sure it controlled Defence, Foreign Affairs, Information, Justice, among others. It gave away Finance and Home Affairs, among others, while ensuring it seconded strong deputies in those ministries it gave away. That strategy worked in that ZANU PF was able to drive the agenda in the GNU. I doubt that model is replicable in South Africa, and the Region must take note.

Watch out for the Coalition’s retreat on Strategy

All this progress registered to date has been enabled by a Framework Agreement on the Statement of Intent, itself the first concluded instrument for a coalition and a GNU. This had to happen first, to allow South Africa to beat the 14-day deadline by which Parliament is required to elect a President. What remains outstanding, which is a key dynamic to watch out for is a National Strategy Seminar of the governing coalition, which is set to follow the election of a President. It is likely to come sooner, as this gives shape to Government by way of areas of particular accent or emphasis.

To the extent this is directional, we are likely to see the DA, in partnership with Big Business, leaning hard on the ANC and showing its strong hand. Already, DA’s Steenhuisen has etched out key areas his party will defend during the retreat. These are: Constitutionalism, principally the Bill of Rights “in its entirety”, protection of South African Institutional Pillars (read Judiciary!), stable macroenvironment for Business and, a clean, efficient Government. Impliedly, this means the DA would take particular interest in who President Ramaphosa appoints in Ministries of Justice, Finance and Public Service, Utilities and possibly Lands and/or Agriculture.

An additional point and pointer made by the DA is a rather unguarded declaration that South Africa will never again be governed by a single party! I hope those in the ANC got it. I hope our Region gets it clear that South Africa is already touting itself as the new model of doing politics and governing in SADC! This exerts pressure on future electoral politics in our Region, as South Africa strives to turn its own model born out of weakness into a new shibboleth in governance.

Rule of law versus rule of justice

There are broad areas of convergence between parties in the coalition. All parties are agreed that unemployment must be tackled head on, through accelerated job-creation. Whilst this sounds like some pro-poor consensus, in reality, it privileges Big Business, itself the dominant creator and provider of jobs. In the name of job-creation for the poor, ANC might easily find itself making wanton concessions to Big Business, including on the privatization or removal of strategic parastatals, as long demanded by Corporate South Africa.

While these were essential under apartheid, they are now touted as an albatross under a black Government, with Big Business wanting to take over those same spheres of utilities. All this will be clamored for in the name of macroeconomic stability, efficiency, fighting corruption and to assure growth! Other areas include probity in Government, maximum accountability and fighting poverty. ANC will be alone on Land Reforms, assuming it still believes in pushing that agenda. DA will be watchful that ANC does not adopt politics of the so-called Doomsday Coalition, while EFF and MK will accuse it mealy, neo-liberal approach to a wartime grievance and goal. My hunch is that ANC will stay the current position of willing-seller, willing-buyer, coupled with repossession of underutilized or abandoned land, all of which have stymied Land Reforms since 1994, while appearing to project the ANC as a party of rule of law, to the applause of propertied white South Africa. While ANC likes rule-of -law, the MK and EFF will obviously push for the-rule-of-justice for the broad, landless black majority. This has a bearing on Namibia

White hyena, mottled hyena!

Penultimately let me address a false argument which those inside the ANC, in the EFF and MK, and most of us in the Region have been making, routinely without sufficient interrogation. This is the argument that ANC has sold out in taking the DA as a coalition and GNU partner. This patently untrue and vacuous, while providing false gratification to those laying the charge. Here is how. While ANC’s wish-image over the long years of its Struggle has been to view and project itself as a left wing political movement, it has never been that, much as it entered some convenient alliances with formations purporting left-wing tendencies like SACP, UDF, Student Movements and some Unions. Straightforwardly, ANC remained distinct but friendly to SACP.

That means it had no wish of appetite for a left-wing agenda, but wished some tactical alliances with movements with left-wing linings. Second and more emphatically, since 1994, ANC never governed as a left-wing party. From Mandela through to Thabo, Motlanthe, Zuma to Ramaphosa, ANC has always governed from the Centre, albeit with trappings of proto-nationalism. Except for the right-wing FF+, ANC and DA have never had real, substantive differences: ideological, programmatic or even in terms of instruments and institutions for governing South Africa. Let no-one carp about differences as if they ever existed, except by way of nuances and foibles.

Don’t divide leadership, the Party!

Finally, Southern African Liberation movements must now know divisions and schisms especially at the level of top echelons of leadership, very easily sink the ship. While many claim ANC declined under Ramaphosa, in reality it started declining since the recall of Thabo Mbeki. And with each recall, ANC’s organic vote fragmented inexorably. This process could have gone on a while longer, if Zuma was not Zuma, namely an intelligence guy who saw a huge opportunity to turn personal bitterness into a credible programme of attrition against the ANC. demobilizing MK was ANC’s most suicidal decision. You never dismantle your Stormtroopers ahead of creating alternative power base, something the ANC should have learnt from late President Mugabe and the ZLWVA.

That fallout between the late President and his erstwhile fighter colleagues, marked the beginning of the end. South Africa never learnt a thing, and thus met its comeuppance from the ill-fated decision. Liberation movements and their supporters must jealously guard the unity of the leadership and thus of the membership. For me this is the biggest take-away from South Africa’s electoral imbroglio.

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