Lessons from the 2024 general elections

Mabila Mathebula. Pic: Supplied

Mabila Mathebula. Pic: Supplied

Published Jun 5, 2024


Mabila Mathebula

What is that which swells a man’s breast with pride above that which any other experience can bring to him? The right political choice which will be treated as sacrosanct.

When PW Botha used to justify the homeland system, he used to say that South Africa was a country of minorities. People used to reject his divide and rule notion in favour of an envisaged non-racist and a non-sexist nation, however, the notion of an integrated nation is a slippery as an oiled eel.

Have we managed to become an integrated ‘rainbow nation’ for the past 30 years? The ANC-led government has demonstrated their willingness to put the world in order by taking Israel to the International Court of Justice but is our nation in order?

Confucius said: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order, to put the nation in order; we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” The current coalition challenges compel us to use Confucius’ dictum as our yardstick by which we measure national order. We may safely say that South Africa is a country of coalition governments.

Napoleon Hill once told his students that he would accept a dictionary as a gift on condition they removed the word impossible from the dictionary. Had Hill lived, he would have requested his student to return the word impossible to accommodate political behaviour. It is impossible for political parties and governments to be perfect.

When the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) announced the results on Sunday, it was palpable that the road to success for all political parties and the IEC is always under construction – you will never arrive. It would be disingenuous for any political party to claim elevation to a perfection status when perfection is like a mirage. As human beings our goal is to strive for perfection since the total achievement of perfection is an impossible endeavour.

When politicians campaign, they ostensibly tell their followers about their lofty goal of constructing a perfect society and when the election results are announced, they intrinsically concede that perfection is an impossibility. Perfection in politics is like a bottomless pit.

Voters are franchised at the voting booth but they are disfranchised when political parties carve out a coalition arrangement. When a political party wins an outright majority, we can safely say that “The people shall govern”, however in a case of a coalition arrangement, the political parties have the right to either govern or misgovern the electorates.

People speak by putting a cross on the ballot paper but their voices are muted by any coalition arrangement after the election. Seeing that coalitions will dominate the South African political landscape, it would be prudent for the IEC to insert the coalition option on the ballot paper with the view to enabling electorates to choose their preferred coalition partners. The coalition arrangement should not be the prerogative of the political parties but the prerogative of the voters.

For example, if I voted for the ANC and I disagreed with the EFF policy on immigration or disagreed with the DA policy on the minimum wage and the ANC decided to go into a coalition arrangement with either the EFF or the DA, I would feel like a person who never voted or whose vote was a spoilt vote. Simply put, I would feel disenfranchised and disillusioned.

We live in an era where people do not have a propensity for reading anymore. Political parties have taken pains to write their manifestos but how many people read academic manifestos? Some of the new political parties had a target for a two-thirds majority. The ANC has done a sterling job in carving out sterling policies over 30 years, the only problem is the failure to implement those well-crafted policies due by the deployment of unqualified and under qualified cadres to key positions.

The new political parties must not be ambitious to govern but they must employ a gradualist approach and zero-in on one area and must not employ an ‘atlas syndrome’ – a belief that you can solve every social problem. A ‘general dealer approach’ does not work for new political parties. It is time political parties specialised before they could graduate to the ‘general dealer approach’. For example, if Rise Mzansi focused on youth unemployment as their campaign speciality and used a broken record approach in their campaign, young people and their parents would have voted for them.

When one is at the voting booth, one is no longer thinks of a voluminous manifesto with a catalogue of promise but he thinks what the party stands for. It is time to form political parties that specialise in a particular social problem. Jacob Zuma was crafty enough in his campaign, he did not like “Ramaphosa’s ANC”. The MK Party voters did not need to read a manifesto in order to vote, Zuma used the broken record approach in his campaign. A manifesto should be used as a strategic planning document and not as a campaigning document.

Our Constitution is lauded as the best in the world, the Constitution dictates that where a party never gained an outright majority, it must work with other parties. Political parties are now forced to defy their isolated heroes’ status to become spirited teams. You campaign individually as political party but in a coalition arrangement, you are compelled to work collaboratively with other people. Collaborative management means that political parties must leverage diversity.

There was a time when South Africa paid more attention to corporate governance and established the King Committee on Corporate Governance, headed by former high court judge, Mervyn King SC. South Africa is now moving from corporate governance to collaborative governance. We need to establish a committee on collaborate governance that will manage coalition agreements.

It is up to political parties to develop new competencies such as spiritual intelligence. According to Zohar and Marshall (2000), “By spiritual intelligence we mean the intelligence with which we address and solve problems of meaning and value, the intelligence with which we can place our actions and our lives in a wider, richer, meaning giving context, the intelligence with which we can assess that one course of action or one life-path is more meaningful than another… SQ is the soul’s intelligence it is the intelligence with which we not only recognise existing values but with which we creatively discover new ones”.

Any leader who has developed SQ can work collaboratively with other leaders.

The following are the indications of a highly developed SQ:

– The capacity to be flexible (actively and spontaneously adaptive).

– A high degree of self-awareness.

– A capacity to face and use suffering.

– A capacity to face and transcend pain.

– The quality of being inspired by vision and values.

– A reluctance to cause unnecessary harm.

– A tendency to see the connection between diverse things (being holistic).

– A marked tendency to ask “Why” or “What if” questions and seek “fundamental” answers.

Being what Psychologists call “field-independent” possessing a facility for working against convention (Zohar and Marshall, 2000).

In our spiritually stunted world, our leaders need to develop SQ in order to deal with a myriad of challenges such as coalitions.

Author and life coach Mathebula has a PhD in Construction Management.

The Star