With the upcoming election, one is bound to hear the Western Cape governing party claim to good governance, demonstrated by items such as clean audits, better than average service delivery standards and paying suppliers on time. Some of that is factual, depending, however, on where one lives in the province.
But is good governance really the ultimate arbiter of what should constitute political leadership? Should we only care about clean audits and paying suppliers on time?
What about being a good government that cares deeply for the poorest and the indigent and places them at the centre of policies and budgets and that does not treat them as an appendage to the demands of the rich?
This 2021 Local Government Election should be about good governance and good government. The Western Cape is becoming a scary and dangerous place for the poor and indigent.
When do you know a government is increasingly obsessed with “good governance” and slipping off the “good government” radar? It is when they will use the might of their law enforcement agencies and legislative powers to penalise and persecute the people they deem to be damaging their good governance image.
Over the past year, we have increasingly seen a weak and isolated mayor, void of any education in constitutionalism, justice and human rights, succumb to the militarist faction in his Council and declare all-out war on the City’s poor and indigent, hoping to score another term as mayor. It failed, but the dogs of war have been unleashed and now cannot be withdrawn.
We have seen a premier and his cabinet sit back in the same city where the poor and indigent are being persecuted, stating that they have no influence over the City’s actions, thereby giving de-facto approval to the persecution of the poor and indigent.
While the message appears to be “if you obey the law you have nothing to fear”, the evil underbelly of the message is “if you stick to our rules of how this City is to be run, and keep quiet about injustice, lack of housing, and the poor and say nothing about inequality and racism, then we can let you out. Otherwise, go back to your townships and stay there”.
Cape Town is a city in Africa – not Europe or the US. But the good governance crowd is obliterating everything African about Cape Town and, other than a few “African restaurants” in its now pervasive European cultural context, the extent of African influence and respect for African heritage upon life in Cape Town is purely for its economic value and not for its human rights or political assets.
The entire Africanness of our existence has been relegated to telling a (poor) story about the San and Khoi, a township tour and a braai at Mzoli’s in Gugulethu. The African narratives of history and culture are squashed into side-shows.
This visible inequality in Cape Town is fuelled by an elitist angst. Features of a police state encroaching on our ordinary and necessary freedoms. Cape Town today reminds one of 1985 when PW Botha announced the state of emergency. Under the guise of “restoring law and order”, he attempted to crush the resistance to apartheid.
Cape Town is beginning to feel like PW Botha’s National Party acolytes are emerging in places of power, with by-laws and security agencies “to restore law and order”.
I see the converted crowd to this good governance doctrine saying “Amen” while they watch the persecution of the advocates for good government.
Have they all finally decided that good governance is all they want, even if it’s done by a PW Botha-esque crowd? Committed democrats should hold on to both, for good governance and good government are two sides of the same coin.
Choosing only one side is the end of our democratic journey and the beginning of the journey to becoming a dangerous police state.
* Lorenzo A Davids.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.