Republicans have named Donald Trump as their official nominee for the American presidency.
Trump is not a typical presidential candidate for America, the oldest democracy in the world. He’s not particularly smart and knows more about hotels and beauty pageants than global affairs.
But Trump’s candidacy is no surprise. Republicans have nominated a below average person for president before, and the American electorate approved. Before Trump, there was George Walker Bush, who wasn’t particularly bright either. Bush was proudly ignorant!
America is no exception. Public life is full of comical moments. Hlaudi Motsoeneng has been full of entertaining antics lately. He put up quite a performance the other day, dismissing the decision by the broadcasting regulator to desist from censoring news. A few days later Motsoeneng capitulated, promising to comply with Icasa’s ruling.
If Motsoeneng was going to shrivel so easily, why did he bother putting up the bravado? I suppose he doesn’t know any better. It must have felt good defying common sense until he realised when he got to court that he wouldn’t win.
Much like the protracted dance around with the illegally dismissednow-rehired SABC journalists.
Motsoeneng fired them for something he now publicly admits was wrong.
But despite the Labour Court ruling that the dismissals were unlawful, the SABC locked three of the journalists out of the building on Wednesday, only to backtrack the very same day in the face of further legal action.
This sham is symptomatic of a much bigger problem.
The party-in-government is fractured. Leaders are pulling in different directions.
Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary-general, insists on implementing the party’s decision that Motsoeneng and his similarly incompetent board chair, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, leave the SABC. They’re inept.
But, Motsoeneng remains in charge and his boss, Faith Muthambi, did not even bother to show up at the meeting called by the ANC to discuss Motsoeneng’s dismissal.
Muthambi is just a rookie minister yet Luthuli House has no power of over her.
This simply shows that President Jacob Zuma, to whom Muthambi answers, is completely in control of the ANC.
The co-called collective leadership holds no sway over its president. The fact is, Zuma does as he pleases.
The signs have long been there. Besides Motsoeneng, Dudu Myeni is still chair of SAA despite her lack of competence for the job. And, the proposed investigation into the Gupta’s toxic influence over Zuma and his proxies has been aborted.
The list of examples showing an unhinged president is endless. All of it defies common-sense. And it is definitely not good for the ANC’s campaign.
The ANC’s challenges get worse: Zuma is the face of the party. He is affable and tells good jokes, but his political worth is at it’s lowest level. He has dragged the ANC into his endless problems. But now the party has his face on its massive billboards all over country, including at airports.
Even Cape Town’s airport is adorned with ANC billboards bearing Zuma’s face. Can someone please explain to me why a party on a decline can advertise itself using the face of a person with dismal ratings? Is this really the kind of advertisement that seeks to improve the fortunes of a party?
However, it’s not all lost for the ANC. Nominating mayoral candidates before the election was a smart move. It was obviously occasioned by the declining brand of the party, but the decision was shrewd nonetheless.
Some mayoral candidates have better ratings than the party.
This is certainly true, for instance, of Danny Jordaan and Parks Tau. Jordaan is unlike most of Zuma’s appointments. He has excelled as mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. Corrupt officials have been fired, rubbish is being collected, the municipality has taken over old-age homes, most of which were in a terrible state, and schools have returned to normalcy as non-teaching staff are employed to attend to cleaning, secretarial and security duties.
Election candidates are a healthy mix from the various camps, including the veteran Mike Xego and the youth leader, Andile Lungisa. Both had ambitions of being mayor, but deferred to Jordaan as the popular choice.
That said, the party was late in getting its campaign off the ground. The empty stadiums we saw earlier at the party’s events were an honest sign of a disaffected party cadre and public. Posters were only put up just last week.
Then this week two men repeatedly shot ANC councillor hopeful Nceba Dywili in the upper body when he stopped his car in Zwide, Port Elizabeth.
It’s going to be tough battle, but Jordaan has given the ANC a chance in Nelson Mandela Bay.
With just 9% less than the ANC’s support, the Democratic Alliance is putting up a fierce fight.
Mmusi Maimane has been there almost every week in the last two months or so. Not only was he inaugurated there as party leader, but Nelson Mandela Bay Metro also presents the DA with the best chance of spreading their control beyond Cape Town.
And their mayoral candidate, Athol Trollip, is a tireless campaigner. But whilst affable, Trollip has also proven to be a divisive figure in the party. He has alienated a number of coloured leaders who were key in swaying Port Elizabeth’s coloured communities to move away from the ANC to the DA.
This has improved Jordaan’s prospects of wooing coloured voters back to the ANC.
Of all the metros where the ANC faces stiff fights, Johannesburg has run the slickest campaign.
Unity in the region and co-operation between the region and the province, have given the ANC in Joburg a solid footing for mounting an effective campaign.
And, their campaign didn’t just start in this election year, but started in June 2014.
The party’s electoral drop in the 2014 national election gave its leadership a serious scare.
They’re fighting on two fronts: suburbia and the ghettos. Julius Malema’s EFF is a strong contender in informal settlements, whilst the DA dominates conversations in the suburbs.
But Tau has responded well to both challenges. Reviving township economies, youth employment schemes, such as Joz @Work, and installing wi-fi connection in the township must have improved his ratings.
Suburban folks are likely pleased too that the city’s credit rating has improved, something that seemed to elude national government.
Here the threat to the ANC is not the DA, but the EFF. Youth’s disenchantment with the status quo might just run too deep. Young people still come to Jo’burg expecting to “find gold”, only to be met by closed doors and closed mines.
The EFF is exploiting that disaffection. The electricity outages may just have endeared them more.
Tshwane should be a real worry to the ANC. Whilst Sputla Ramokgopa has implemented programmes somewhat similar to those of Tau, he hasn’t led a cohesive party structure.
Tshwane leaders have shown themselves to be more obsessed with personal stature, than focused on public good. They’d rather divide the party and set the city on fire than see a rival ascend over them.
If the ANC loses there, it may be just punishment, the kind of a wake-up call the party needs in that region. We’re truly becoming a competitive democracy!
Mcebisi Ndletyana is associate professor at the University of Johannesburg and a fellow at Mistra