Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rethink Deployment in South Africa---M&G Editorial

Rethink deployment

Oct 16 2009 06:00
South African Mail & Guardian Editorial

An important lesson President Jacob Zuma is learning during the resurgence of service delivery protests is that a charm offensive can go only so far. At some point, you have to sit down and find ways to address the pressing grievances of people on the ground effectively.

Zuma has been in office for only five months, but the incidents of anger and destruction in the Standerton township of Sakhile, in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg and in Diepsloot, in the north of Johannesburg, this week have to be seen as a protest against 15 years of ANC rule.

Between burning tyres and shouting slogans, the township residents were adamant that they want to see the chief himself and show him how the ANC's local leaders persist in defying the party's official objectives and raiding the local government treasure chest to enrich themselves.

Zuma had just returned from a visit to North and South America, but Sakhile should have reminded him just how much he is needed at home.

He set an unfortunate precedent when he travelled to Balfour after service protests there, paying an unannounced visit to the unsuspecting mayor and township residents.

Being a man of the people has its price -- he clearly will not be able to visit every township in every corner of South Africa where service delivery frustration has exploded on to the streets.

If he can't be in many places at once, what should he do?

Take a long, hard look at the effect that the deployment policy of the ANC has had on standards of service delivery.

The people of Sakhile say their councillors are guilty of corruption and insist they want to be able to choose their own candidates for 2011's local government elections, rather than being forced to vote for representatives chosen by party gatekeepers.

Zuma must face the fact that many leaders are part of the ANC because of the party's mysterious deployment policy, which provides them with jobs. Little thought goes into what the job entails and whether they fit the bill.

In an Afrikaans poem in his new book, Ek Stoot die Trollies vir die Miesies, ANC treasurer general and former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa is blunt about the expectations of ANC members who came from exile after apartheid: "Julle belowe/ons sal leiers wees/ons sal lekker lewe" (You promised/we will be leaders/we will live the good life).

These expectations were dealt with by dishing out government jobs to those who fought the good fight. Many of those who were rewarded in this way failed to deliver on township residents' expectations, driving them on to the streets in protest.

Zuma created more job expectations when he gratefully accepted the support given by Cosatu and the South African Communist Party in his battle for the ANC's top position. Now the left also wants a piece of the pie and is demanding seats on the national and provincial deployment committees which allocate posts. ANC nationalists are fighting a rearguard battle to keep the party for themselves.

Zuma cannot rush to every township riot to show that he is serious about service delivery and, in any event, schmoozing township residents will not cure the deep underlying ills in riot-torn areas.

But what he can do is rethink the policy of deployment, starting a new culture which rewards hard work and makes it clear that an ANC membership card is not an automatic ticket to the good life.

A simple peace offering ...

It's seldom that people focus on the good news that comes out of Africa, so it's wonderful that the world is abuzz this week with the news that one of our own, President-of-the-World Barack Obama, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

It is the only Nobel prize that's handed over in Norway, instead of Sweden, which will be a relief to Swedes who are anticipating protests. There are sure to be people out there who will refuse to understand how the commander-in-chief of an army engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq can be the poster boy for peace in our time.

Let's ignore the nay-sayers. Of course, these are the same people who say it's a little odd that Africans are so desperate to claim Obama as one of their own. After all, it's hardly a cause for pride that many Africans have to leave their continent to get an education and a future and that their offspring have to make their mark by becoming Americans or Europeans.

And shouldn't we feel just a little disappointed that our own Morgan Tsvangirai, an African-African (that's an African-American who hasn't got his Green Card yet) who was also in the running, lost to a man with a bigger marketing budget?

According to the Norwegian Nobel committee, Obama deserves the prize because "his diplomacy is founded on the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population".

There's no mention here of what happens to the bits of the world that don't share the values of America, Norway and associated trading partners.

Possibly they'll have peace inflicted upon them. To quote Gandhi, who never won the peace prize despite being nominated five times: "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?"

Good question, Mahatma, good question.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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