Last week, after the Democratic Alliance in Parliament chose not to vote in support of changing the Constitution for the controversial expropriation of land without compensation policy, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema, announced that they would oust Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Athol Trollip. Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya believes that the move is not for the common good. He says, to begin with, it is simply a racist move.
The Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) plan to topple the Nelson Mandela Metro City Government might be a great way for the party to demonstrate its influence even though it does not have power, but it is a step backwards for the gains of the post 1994 South Africa.
To start with, the plan is racist.
“Why not [Johannesburg mayor Herman] Mashaba, why not Solly [Msimang from Tshwane]? Because the mayor of the DA [Democratic Alliance] in PE (Port Elizabeth) is a white man, so these people when you want to hit them hard, go after a white man. They feel a terrible pain,” Malema responded when asked why the two other mayors of the cities the EFF voted with to elect a DA candidate were spared.
We can discuss the academic meaning of racism as being institutional, systematic and manifesting in power relations but, let us not fool ourselves, racism is more than that. It includes holding prejudices and victimising others purely on the basis of their race.
Our racist past is wasted on its historical victims if they too start limiting their thinking along racial lines. Julius Malema and the EFF’s stance to overthrow Athol Trollip as Nelson Mandela Metro mayor has all the hallmarks of such a failure of consciousness, whilst pretending to be revolutionary.
The decision to overthrow Trollip for the sins of his party’s parliamentary caucus’s decision is a slap for local government democracy.
It suggests that the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, and by extension of any municipality anywhere in the country, can have a good public servant dismissed just because you can do it and have the numbers to allow you too.
Such arbitrary use of power is never good for any society.
Catholic Social Teaching (CST) points out that, among other things, we must all seek to preserve human dignity, the common good, allow for everyone’s participation in social and political life and remember that we hold power in stewardship for the marginalised and future generations.
Racism (or if you insist, racial prejudice) is inconsistent with seeing another human being as deserving of dignity.
It suggests that instead of seeing others as fellow creations, worthy of dignity and the right to participate, racism reduces them to simply being the colour of their skin and, therefore, deserving of special treatment based exclusively on that.
The common good cannot be served by punishing (or elevating) a public representative regardless of their record in office. To overthrow Trollip because of the colour of his skin is no different to keeping Bathabile Dlamini because of her sex. It is whimsical and irrational.
Political parties need to remind themselves of the purpose for their existence – or at least their alleged purpose. They all claim to want to improve the common good.
In South Africa that means destroying racism, sexism and the limitations on the quality of life and of life opportunities people have, based on race, sex, sexual orientation, class background and, even, the rural-urban divide – among other things.
If policy decisions are not actively tackling, in one way or another, these and related matters, they cannot claim to be an exercise in improving the common good.
There is general agreement that the South African electoral system is imperfect and needs to be improved upon. This is seen particularly in our inability to vote directly for mayors, premiers and presidents.
Instead of well-grounded facts as to how the EFF’s latest move is beneficial to the common good, we face a bizarre case: one party (the EFF) seeking to impose on another party (the ANC) whom it should field as a candidate (Mcebisi Jonas) for mayor so as to remover the mayor elected by a third party (the DA).
How could this possibly reflect the will of the people in that municipality?
If anything, it smacks of the imperialist tradition of deposing popular and elected heads of state (if they do not meet the tastes of the imperialist) and replacing them with someone more palatable – or someone you hope to be more pliable to your will. This is being proposed by a party that holds Thomas Sankara – a popular leader deposed of by a Western imposed puppet – as an icon whose example is to be followed.
There are no differences between the EFF’s leadership sitting in an office in Johannesburg and deciding who should be a mayor of another city, to Luthuli House telling the people of Tshwane that Thoko Didiza will be their mayor if they are elected to form a city government.
Both are top-down decisions imposed by party elites. Hardly the kind of stuff you expect from a party claiming to be down with the people.
If you are astute, you would have noticed by now that there has been no mention of whether Trollip is a good or a bad mayor. That is because this seems neither here nor there.
There may very well be an exceptionally good reason as to why he must go, but if it is about the arbitrary fact of being born Caucasian or male, or that his comrades elsewhere decided on something totally separate to the governance of his jurisdiction, then the people of Nelson Mandela Bay Metro are having their rights expropriated unjustly.
Photo: Nelson Mandela Bay Government
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