Parties have nothing to offer, except attacking the ANC

EFF president Julius Malema launched the party's election manifesto in Soshanguve, where among other things, he attacked the ANC's Land Reform policy.
EFF president Julius Malema launched the party's election manifesto in Soshanguve, where among other things, he attacked the ANC's Land Reform policy.
Image: Rudi Louw

When considering the abundance of choices represented on our ballot paper, it is often said that we have a healthy democracy.

The governing party and its legacy is increasingly more contested and opposition parties have displayed vehement resistance to its dominance and what has manifested as arrogance over the years.

Although robust debate and contestation of power is healthy in any democratic society, we have seen something shift over the past 25 years of ANC rule.

Not only do opposition political parties make it a point of keeping the ANC in line, they tend to find purpose in not critiquing the party but disgracing it.

Opposition in SA has become a game of spite and petty bickering, rather than the offering of alternative solutions. In this way the ANC, ironically, creates and controls opposition politics.

A live television debate between youth leaders of the ANC, DA and EFF was recently broadcast. The host gave each representative the opportunity to put forward their solutions for the issues they have identified as urgent.

No sooner had the debate started than the EFF began arguing its solutions on the basis of the failures of the ANC and the DA. Time ran out and viewers were left with very little to ponder on besides the venom political parties spit at each other.

The ANC in all its failings remains firmly in control of political debate because opposition arguments are based almost solely on characterising and defining the ANC. It remains the source and the outcome of politics, which may explain some of its arrogance towards critique.

It has been said many times that the EFF is a product of the ANC and this idea has been framed in different ways.

For some, the statement points to its leader as the physical product of ANC politics and political education. For others it means that the reason for the party's existence is a direct response to the ANC as an ailing political party.

Whatever the interpretation, it is clear to see how the ANC, although considered the nemesis of opposition, has a firm hand in the construction of political opposition. In the same way that the DA, through its evolution and various rebranding exercises is guided by the need for the ANC's demise rather than its proposed vision for SA.

Another manifestation of this is VF+ and its "Slaan Terug" campaign. The premise is that the ANC and all those representing it have dealt them a blow and that they should retaliate. Again, an entire purpose constructed from the need to see the ANC destroyed.

This circular process of political opposition seems to have become normalised in a democracy, spite and bickering has been mistaken for debate.

It seems rational for opposition politics to keep its foot on the neck of power, but a big part of our voter dilemma is the absence of trustworthy alternatives. It even seems disingenuous to have the conversation because we have accepted that political parties are politics, but how many alternatives have we explored?

The political landscape has remained in the hands of party politics which often occupies space that is desperately need for dialogue about systemic disadvantage and civil fragmentation for example.

Khan is a PhD Critical Diversity Studies candidate