Which way, South Africa?

Khanyi Magubane

It’s with horror I read that pre-election violence has again reared its ugly head in my beloved KwaZulu-Natal recently.

As a Zulu woman I take this quite hard, because I don’t understand why Zulus must continue to kill each other because they belong to political parties formed out of ideologies which were never African to begin with.

But as headlines of the violence continue to reignite the excitement of political journalists in newsrooms across the country, the unanswered question remains, “Where are we headed?”

When President Kgalema Motlanthe announces this year’s election date, the election code will officially come into full effect.

The code spells out the acceptable and unacceptable behaviour of South Africa’s political parties in the run up to the polls.

Even if we all behave, though, the question will not become any clearer, I suspect – or will it?

This year’s elections come at a particularly interesting juncture in our politics. Who ever thought there would be a split in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in our time?

I suppose I’m just trying to come to terms with the enigmatic cloud that hangs over the 2009 elections.

But I have faith in South Africans, because I suspect they know at a deeper level that vote they must, and so now are listening carefully to what the different political parties are saying ahead of the elections.

I’ve been listening too, and what I’ve heard has ranged from brilliant to ridiculous.

At the launch of his party’s 2009 election manifesto on 25 January, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi made a great deal of sense, I thought, particularly his view on education.

“In spite of all the ANC’s policies – some of which were good – the education system has proven to have failed our youth – for an uneducated youth leads to a non-performing country, which spells out the demise of our future,” he said.

“This is happening not because our children have suddenly become less intelligent, but because the machinery required for their education, formation, stimulation and assistance has become more inefficient.”

I quote Buthelezi not because I particularly buy into his political ideology, but simply because he made sense.

Some of our politicians’ promises have been ambitious. And so they should be.

Desire is not bound by the limitations of reality. I believe politicians need to show us what kind of society they envision for us South Africans, and show a commitment to achieving that vision.

No one, I believe, expects all the promises to be delivered at the end of every five-year term; it may take time and many years to achieve those goals.

But without consensus on where we are going, which route do we know will eventually get us there? Is it the ANC route, the Congress of the People route, the Democratic Alliance route, the African Christian Democratic Party route, or the Freedom Front Plus route?

Each political party seems to think it’s their own.

When I watch TV or listen to the radio, I hear politicians capitalising on the failures of the government more than they highlight its strengths and what is has achieved. This is strategy, I am aware, but I still wish to hear something that will give me a clear picture of the way forward.

If all political parties – ruling and opposition – would commit to putting South Africans first before political battles and do away with self-interest, than yes, to answer a blog title I saw recently, South Africa can produce another Barack Obama. It was, after all, his involvement in the movement to oppose South Africa’s apartheid regime that first fuelled his passion for politics.

Addressing Wesleyan University Graduates in the US in May 2008, Obama said his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement at university increased his scope of understanding of the world beyond him. It was during those days that he made a decision to work at a grassroots level to bring about real and lasting change to the people of his country.

The people of South Africa want the same. They want to see their lives transformed at a level that is visible and tangible to them.

They want to listen to leaders with sincerity, who move them on an intellectual, logical and emotional level.

I think that the 2009 elections will be uncomfortable for all parties, as politics has dominated the South Africa agenda over the past year in a unique way.

South Africans have grown politically. They are now able to sort the fluff from the solid and are becoming aware of the power of their vote – my vote, which I will not let go to waste.

According to a recent Human Science Research Council survey, almost 80% of South Africans plan to participate in the 2009 national and provincial elections.

This is a good sign; the people are getting ready to speak.

Khanyi Magubane is a journalist, published poet, radio broadcaster and fiction writer. She writes for MediaClubSouth Africa, and brings with her an eclectic mix of media experience. She’s worked as a radio journalist for stations including Talk Radio &702 and the youth station YFM, where she was also a news anchor. She’s been a contributing features writer in a number of magazines titles including O magazine and Y mag. She’s also a book reviewer and literary essayist, published in the literary journal Wordsetc. Magubane is also a radio presenter at SAfm, where she hosts a Sunday show. She’s currently also in the process of completing the manuscript of her first novel, an extract of which has been published in Wordsetc.