Elections a chance to change your mind

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IOL cope INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Cape Minstrels entertain ANC supporters who attended the launch of the Western Cape ANCs election manifesto at Delft South sports complex in Cape Town. The writer warns that election rhetoric can be a serious insult to citizens. Picture: Adrian de Kock

Brand loyalty should be based on the brand caring about what you care about, not on history, says Mosiuoa Lekota.

Johannesburg - The past few weekends have seen much razzmatazz and fanfare accompanying the launch of various political parties’ manifestos.

The parties used these launches to promise you a utopia if you elect them into power in May. Some said they would double your social grants, others want a better life for all, while some simply recycled what we heard the last time we went to the polls: several million jobs (or was it job opportunities – it’s getting confusing), free housing, etc… the empty promises go on and on.

For an organisation to deliver on its promises and to attain its goals, the size of its ambition is not the predictor of success; rather, it is the person allocated to the role of achieving these goals that is the predictor of success.

When presidents of political parties – who are out of touch with the everyday lives of ordinary South Africans, or who are morally and ethically compromised – scream at the top of their voices promising you, the voter, that they are going to fight corruption, just how dumb do they really think you are?

Well, maybe they can be forgiven for feeding voters this dribble – it’s worked for the past 20 years!

Giant building wraparounds have surfaced in the Joburg CBD, promising millions of jobs. But any half-witted economist will tell you that governments do not create sustainable, long-term jobs. Why do I say this?

The state is mostly a consumer, not a creator of wealth.

When the state absorbs millions of the unemployed, it does so at the expense of the real economy and ultimately things tend to spiral out of control.

The government can, however, establish an environment where job creation is possible. But no one will tell you so in their manifestos; they would much rather spin “job creation” into “job opportunities” creation – again seriously insulting the intelligence of the voter.

Election rhetoric can be a serious insult to citizens: when the same failed individuals are moved around from one portfolio to another, and when the party recycles the same failed promises of yesteryear, we have to be seriously dense to think that a new outcome will emerge (this brings to mind the well-worn “definition” of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result).

To revisit my earlier point: it’s not the policies that are the problem in South Africa; it’s the people who are supposed to transform policy into reality that are the problem.

It boggles the mind when organisations with a proven history of failure and disregard for the hopes and aspirations of the electorate are sent back to represent the people in Parliament. The “better the devil you know” idiom comes to mind in this instance.

How about daring to hope for success, for change?

The very reason we elect public representatives every five years is to give you, the electorate, an opportunity to change your mind, to clean house, and for the country to renew itself.

We have had five years of sailing on a rudderless ship, with corruption becoming more entrenched; an increasingly brutal police force (it should be a police service); an economy growing at a snail’s pace; unsatisfactory levels of unemployment; high levels of substance abuse; declining standards of education; and a deteriorating exchange rate.

It’s your choice. I urge you to rise above the rhetoric, because brand loyalty should be based on the brand caring about what you care about, not on history.

As one upstanding business publication says in its ad campaign: “Understand your country. Or lose it.”

My message is similar – stand up for your country because you are about to lose it!

* Mosiuoa Lekota is president and parliamentary leader of the Congress of the People

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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