Political Notebook | Hail John Steenhuisen, the president’s shadow


Political Notebook | Hail John Steenhuisen, the president’s shadow

MAX DU PREEZ is cautiously excited about the new pre-election coalition just formed in Kempton Park, and writes about the Marikana massacre being exploited by populists.


THE cynics and the commentariat can gossip and snipe, but the multiparty charter for South Africa, born in sin as the moonshot pact, is an extremely important and welcome development in our politics.

If the egos can be kept in check and the process is managed as effectively as the lead-up, the initiative might just gain momentum and capture the voters' imagination.

The coalition represents about 35% of the national electorate, so many voters from other parties, especially the ANC, will need to be turned.

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The real test will come when next year's election campaign gets under way and the parties within the new coalition have to compete for votes against each other.

It's an excellent concept: the parties in the pre-election coalition maintain their own identities and compete for votes, but voters are informed that they are part of an agreement that will form a government if they collectively receive the most votes.

When the election results are announced and the new coalition achieves 50 plus 1%, the pre-agreed arrangements come into effect.

After intense negotiations (assisted by prayers and specialists in breathing, meditation and trust-building, according to independent chairperson William Gumede), it was decided that the role of head of government business should be upgraded and given to the leader of the largest party. The vice-president currently holds this position.

This new role, a sort of super-coordinator and the president's shadow, is earmarked for DA leader John Steenhuisen, neatly addressing the problem that he, as a white man, can hardly become the president. It was decided that the president won't necessarily come from the party with the most votes.

A new cabinet must reflect the country's diversity and be selected based on merit according to the parties' performance in the election. The cabinet will also be reduced in size, and all members of the executive authority will be subject to lifestyle audits.

The presence of the IFP in the coalition undermines the criticism that it's merely a group of DA and former DA members plus the Freedom Front.

Smaller parties such as the Patriotic Alliance, Good, Bongani Baloyi's Xiluva and the ACDP are not part of the agreement, but the door is open for other parties. If the process can maintain momentum, some of the smaller groups will probably join in the hope of being part of a winning team.

PA leader Gayton McKenzie has already said he will suspend his party's current cooperation with the ANC and become part of the multiparty coalition. Ironically, his condition is that the coalition should never work with the ANC.

The question still remains whether the new potentially significant party that hasn't really moved out of the starting blocks, Songezo Zibi's Rise Mzansi, will ultimately become part of the coalition.

Zibi's wait-and-see approach is probably wise, but he can't wait too long before showing his colours. Rise will hold a manifesto congress next month and will decide on cooperation with others only after that.

If his party becomes part of the pre-election coalition and performs well in the election, Zibi could potentially be a good presidential candidate.

As Gumede said yesterday: South Africans are desperate for hope.

This could actually be a game-changer.

The opportunists feast on Marikana 

The fatal shooting of 34 miners at Marikana on August 16, 2012 remains a bloody stain on South Africa's history, but almost equally concerning is the reality that we seemingly haven't learned many lessons from it.

No one has been successfully prosecuted for the massacre, and hardly any of the recommendations from the Farlam Commission of Inquiry have been implemented. The police's approach to crowd control and crime intelligence appears to have changed very little.

What is happening unabated is the exploitation of the tragedy by political opportunists and populists for their own gain.

This is especially true of the EFF and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Amcu's leader, Joseph Mathunjwa, gave the main speech at the commemoration of the shooting, with Carl Niehaus and Dali Mpofu also on the stage.

Mathunjwa, a multi-millionaire with a fleet of expensive vehicles, a guesthouse and numerous other properties, made wild and sometimes contradictory claims, lambasting South Africa as a failed state and asserting that the constitution enables the oppression of workers and the masses — “the constitution must fall!"

He simultaneously expressed a desire for a communist party to mobilise the masses, while also stating he is tired of “Marxist theories" that don't create job opportunities.

He also expressed support for federalism, calling for more power to be given to provinces and traditional leaders. Mathunjwa suggested that the legal system should be changed so that accused individuals are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

He mentioned that Amcu wanted to purchase the mining company Lonmin, “but the neo-liberal government gave it to Sibanye". According to him, Sibanye has done nothing for the widows and orphans of Marikana.

Sibanye also commented on Marikana this week: an opinion piece by CEO Neal Froneman in Business Day.

If Sibanye hadn't acquired Lonmin, Froneman says, it would probably have led to a “nightmare scenario" with 30,000 job losses and a devastated community. Froneman claims Sibanye has initiated an intensive healing process that includes providing new homes for all the widows and financial support for their children's education.

Froneman, one of the country's most influential business leaders, also put an interesting spin on South Africa's decline: “Ironically, the dire state SA has fallen to gives me greater hope for the future. Two years ago I saw us headed for the abyss of a failed state. However, the state is now emasculated, and as such through public-private partnership the private sector now has the ability to make a difference. The two big examples are that we are now generating electrical power on an increasing scale, and we are working in real partnership with the public transport system.

“Business now needs to look beyond the present and think about relationships with the government in future. The relationships being put in place right now are essential. But we also need to consider the possibility of a change in government leadership, whether after the 2024 election or the one thereafter. We need to start paying attention not only to working with the governing party of today but also to the parties that might become part of a governing coalition in future. We need to begin offering them support and giving them direction in the spheres that will continue to be of interest to us, whoever the government of the day might be."

Ambassador Moe

South Africa has a new ambassador in China — a legitimate one, not just an appointed ANC cadre. Her name is Motswedi Modiba, a 26-year-old from Pretoria who goes by the name Moe. She gained significant attention in China when she became the first black participant on the popular TV show Sing China and sang fluently in Mandarin. She attended the Pretoria Chinese School from Grade 1 to 12.


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