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Political Noise Masks Political Developments

OVER the next few months there will be much snarling and sniping at the opposition parties which have signed up to the Democratic Alliance-initiated ‘moonshot pact’, now formally renamed the Multi-Party Charter for SA. 

It will be criticized as an anti-ANC vehicle and, among some, it will be slammed as an ‘anti-Black’ movement by the DA and the Freedom Front Plus. Other signatories to the pact such as the Inkatha Freedom Party, ActionSA, and others will be denigrated as lackeys of whites.

All that is to be expected in our loud, racially polarized, society and its very long history of separate development and apartheid. Indeed, many of us would be surprised if no criticisms of a racial nature were not made.

The tragedy of this noise, however, is that we may end up losing sight of some of the positive elements of the agreement – and there are quite a few. Indeed, some of the recommendations around governance are something the current governing party should take a serious look at because, in my humble opinion, they could help make the party more effective if it were to adopt one or two.

Take, for example, the decision to use a merit-based approach in the parties’ allocation of positions in national and provincial Cabinet. Explaining the decision, independent chairman for the talks, Professor William Gumede, said the parties will “look for the best candidate for the position, among them or outside, and that’s what will form the basis for appointments”.
He went on: “It will not be politically motivated, patronage-based or cadre deployment-based.”

Ministry of Misfits

At the moment Cabinet ministers are appointed to their portfolios based on their power and influence in the ANC and its allies, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party. Many appointees are largely clueless about their portfolios and inexperienced in the management of complex systems, meaning that they fail spectacularly in the jobs.

An example of this is the ministry of employment and labour. Although the current minister is a former trade unionist, business has criticised him for failure to help make placing talent in jobs easy. Even the ANC Youth League criticised him, saying that it appears that he is in fact the “minister of unemployment”. It said his removal is “an urgent matter”.

Lifestyle Audits should be the norm

Further, the parties in the ‘moonshot pact’ have prioritised fighting corruption, and will begin by subjecting all their new Cabinet members to lifestyle audits. Why this isn’t the norm already boggles the mind.

The partners also say they will ensure that the new national and provincial Cabinets will receive their mandate from the coalition formation, and then go out and govern based on the mandate of these partners. These ‘executives’ will be divorced from those that take up the legislative arm of government. This will, in essence, mimic the US system where the executive carries out a specific mandate over a certain period, overseen by the legislature.

Limitations of the coalition

There are limitations, of course, to this pact. First, the parties currently in the forum are too few and it is doubtful that they will get the fifty percent plus one vote that they need to govern. If they are serious about getting into power, they should be hunting down leaders of parties like the United Democratic Movement, the independents organised by former DA leader Mmusi Maimane, the African Christian Democratic Party, and many others. They should be building a big coalition that agrees that it is all about performance and delivery and not pride or ideology. Make the circle bigger.

The moonshot pact is a significant movement in our politics. It does not mean change will come, but it does show that some leaders are thinking about what lies ahead for the country if voters decide to bring about change.

There have been many attempts at toenadering in SA politics. Remember how the union between the DA and Agang was welcomed with enthusiasm. It didn’t go anywhere. This coalition might not go anywhere, either. But it is a significant shift that is worth watching in the next few months.

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