‘Long live Usindiso!’ chant fire survivors 

Protestors gathered in Marshalltown to highlight the plight and neglect of survivors from the 2023 tragedy. 

Almost six months after a devastating fire, survivors say they have been left worse off. Now, the ‘Marshalltown Fire Justice Campaign’ (MFJC) has made a demand for adequate housing for the group.  

The MFCJ organized a march to demand adequate housing for fire survivors. Photo: Kabir Jugram

Residents of the Denver settlement, just outside of the Johannesburg CBD, were led by the MFJC on April 26, 2024, as they approached the doorsteps of provincial power.  

No one met the group at Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda’s office, but a representative, Puleng Chabane who is the deputy director of rapid responses accepted the memorandum of demands at Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi’s office. 

The MFJC was initially established to give support to victims of the Usindiso building fire on August 31, 2023, that claimed 77 lives and displaced hundreds.  

According to General Moyo, a co-ordinator of the MFJC, those displaced by the fire have been made to live in poorer conditions.  

A Denver settlement resident holds up a sign which reads: “Eliminate housing backlogs with decent houses”. Photo: Kabir Jugram
Protestors marching through the streets of Marshalltown.
Photo: Kabir Jugram

 “[The shacks] can collapse at any time because there’s heavy underground mining activity, and when there’s flooding the people cannot sleep!…  Those one-room shacks are built with cheap materials,” he said.  

The lack of security and overcrowding in the settlement has also made women more vulnerable to Gender-Based Violence according to Moyo.  

Siphiwe Ncobo, a street vendor originally from Newcastle, lost her husband and child in the fire and has since been relocated to Denver. Despite a monthly R1 500 rental, she said there is no water, electricity and cooking facilities.  

Ncobo also claims she has seen up to seven people share a one-room shack. “It’s a squatter camp, not a hostel” she said.  

Speaking to those gathered, Mametlwe Sebei, president of the General Industries Workers Union and co-ordinator for MFJC, accused the government of ‘constitutional delinquency’ for failing to provide fire victims with their constitutional right to adequate housing.  

Sebei claims the government uses foreign nationals as scapegoats for a lack of resources, despite the numerous dilapidated buildings in Joburg CBD that could be repurposed for the displaced.  

“The black working class in particular get to bare the scapegoating, blaming and bashing of the elite that is incapable of resolving the many crises of their system!” proclaimed Sebei. 

In that sense, the march was more than a demand for adequate housing. It was a collective voice of frustration aimed at a government that continues to neglect its poor.  

Despite that, spirits were high as the crowd marched through the streets of Joburg CBD. The young and elderly alike could be seen dancing and whistling in the blazing sun, giving meaning to their chant as they proclaimed: “long live the spirit of Usindiso, long live!” 

Co-ordinators of the protest explain the purpose of the march. Video/YouTube: Kabir Jugram

Citizens unite in ‘We The People Walk’

Locals unite, in the north of the city centre, in JHB, to raise their voices to spotlight urgent human rights concerns.

A 5km march starting at the Old Fort building in Kotze Street, with the aim of fostering a collective action towards a more equitable and inclusive future, capped off this year’s Constitutional Hill Human Rights Festival.  

Event organizers celebrate the success of the We; the People Walk, uniting communities for human rights and democracy Photo: Thato Gololo

The peaceful protest, organized by the Constitutional Hill, comes during the month of Human Rights and saw people march through Braamfontein on Sunday, March 24, 2024. The festival honours the memories of those who died in the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre.  

Marchers held flags and posters with slogans like, “It’s your right to know it all.” Attendee, Princess Mkhwanazi told Wits Vuvuzela that she had fulfilled her responsibility as a civil citizen by partaking in the walk. “It’s for highlighting it to everybody, that as much as they (are) in their houses or at work, they also have human rights that should be respected, followed and adhered to,” Mkhwanazi said.

Marketing manager at the Constitutional Hill and Wits alumni, Joshua Sibeko, said, “What we stand for is that only the people of South Africa can change South Africa, if it was not for the people, South Africa would not exist.”

Other activities during the family-friendly festival included education on constitutional rights, film screenings, discussions, and taking people through the motions of voting on mock ballot papers.

WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Activists to protest new cannabis legislation

Marijuana lobby group raises concerns about the signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill by President Cyril Ramaphosa at their annual indaba.

The Marijuana Board of South Africa (MBOSA) wants to delay the signing of the Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill as they argue that in its current form it fails to meet their needs and lacks clarity about uses.    

Secretary Ras Thapelo Khunou Addressing attendees of the Indaba. Photo: Ane Davey

These concerns were raised at the sixth Marijuana Friendly Indaba, an event hosted on Human Rights Day, March 21, by MBOSA, at the Kempton Park Council Chamber, which allowed activists and enthusiast to ventilate their concerns. 

The group plans to host a nationwide protest on the 4 May 2024, just 25 days before the national presidential election. 

Beyond concerns, the indaba had a panel of speakers facilitating conversations on cannabis cultivation, consumption and community empowerment.  

A range of issues also came from the floor, including but not limited to: the history of cannabis in South Africa, the economic empowerment of traditional cannabis farmers and indigenous communities and building relationships between community stakeholders like traditional healers and the South African Police Service.  

Chairperson of the Cannabis Development Council of South Africa, Ras Garreth Prince, wrote a letter to the President Cyril Ramaphosa to reject the bill. In it, he urges Ramaphosa to not sign the bill, and send it back to parliament.  

 “The current iteration of the bill falls short of constitutional standards and fails to address the legitimate interests of the cannabis community,” emphasised Prince.  

The letter written by him was accepted by the Indaba, as confirmed by Ras Thapelo Khunou, secretary of MBOSA, during the resolutions of the indaba.  

The organisers of the protest, Dave Sewell and Candice Nel extended the invitation to all, “it’s inclusive of everyone, nobody’s excluded,”  said the pair.

Bodies like MBOSA and the CDCSA are working hard to make the herb safely accessible and well-regulated for all South African citizens who consume cannabis for recreational, medical or religious purposes.  

FEATURE: Do we need a national referendum for coalitions?

A national dialogue on stabilising coalitions in our democracy was held to find common ground; but was overwhelmingly met with disagreements, walkouts, and boycotts.

Picture this – it is 2026 and South Africa is on its tenth democratic president. Public confidence in the government is at an all-time low shown by well over half of eligible voters not turning out to vote.

Power and water cuts are frequent, wastewater treatment plants are spilling raw sewage into rivers and unemployment, inequality and poverty levels remain on an upward trajectory. Yet, no administration has enough power to implement policy or provide service delivery because another motion of no confidence is around the corner, threatening their tenuous positions in key national departments.

This hypothetical becomes a reality if coalitions at a provincial and national level operate similarly to coalitions in the country’s wealthiest city, Johannesburg. 

Since the 2021 local government elections, Johannesburg has seen a revolving door of executives – five administrations in two years. Three of the five have seen partnerships with the African National Congress (ANC), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and other ideologically aligned parties. The other two seeing coalitions with the likes of the Democratic Alliance (DA), ActionSA, the Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) and other largely anti-ANC and EFF parties.

This is why a dialogue on developing a framework for stabilising coalitions was hosted by Deputy President Paul Mashatile for political parties on August 4 to 5. However, it caused more friction than consensus – with an expert suggesting that a national referendum is needed for people to democratically decide how coalitions function before next year’s election.

Referendums are nothing new to our country in formulating a working democracy, as evidenced by the one in 1992, when (only) white voters indicated whether they supported the negotiations with newly unbanned political organisations, leading to the proposed end of the apartheid system.

In his analysis of the event hosted at the University of the Western Cape, a senior lecturer of political science and governance at Wits University, Dr. Kagiso Pooe, said that the dialogue did not provide a solid framework for stable coalition governments because “power politics was the main game.”

Quelling the chaos

In May 2023, a conceptual document was created by the Institute of Elections Management Services South Africa (IEMSA). The document identified the dysfunctionality of local government because of coalitions and provided suggestions to stabilise these marriages of convenience to best serve residents rather than party interests.

Instability at the local government level has “resulted in diminishing public confidence, poorer service delivery and allegedly millions of rands squandered.” as said by the author of the document Nkululeko Tselane.

However, coalitions are here to stay. The 2016 and 2021 election results in major municipalities showed no political party emerging with an outright majority. Something the ruling party is alive to, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula admitted: “We are fully confident that 2024 will result in not us or anyone having the outright majority to govern.”

The DA, ActionSA, IFP, Vryheidsfront Plus (VF+) and three other ideologically aligned parties have already signed a pre-election coalition pact with one another, in anticipation of this reality.

Infographic: These are the 2021 municipal results in metropoles of Gauteng, with no outright winner, each municipality was forced into unstable ‘marriages of convenience’ to achieve a 50% + 1 to form a government.  Graphic: Seth Thorne

Blame game ensues

Although the consensus from parties was that they believed that the issues of coalitions stemmed from their formation, those hoping for an agreement on the way forward were left bitterly disappointed. This is because political party leaders sought to shift the blame of instability from themselves, rather than meet each other in the middle.

As has been the case at the municipal level, larger parties blamed smaller parties for the instability, and smaller parties pointed the finger right back.

The “[root of the issue is] not about the formation of coalitions, but the reality that politics in South Africa is failing and cooperation is going to be needed,” argued Pooe.

Thresholds and boycotts

The EFF boycotted the initial dialogue citing the “ANC’s involvement in the formulation of the framework… [is an] attempt to protect their fading grasp on power.”

The two current largest parties, the ANC and the DA, are suggesting implementing legislation which would ensure that the party that receives the most votes within a bloc governs the coalition. They also argue that should be a minimum threshold for parties to join any coalition (1%).

Pooe said this is an example of power politics on full display, and “gives insight into the fractured nature of power politics in South Africa, the ANC and DA in one corner and other smaller ones [in the other].”

Parties such as the VF+, Good, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) are strongly opposed to these legislative suggestions. Dr Pieter Groenewald of the VF+ said that these suggestions were “not based on true representative democracy.”

Pooe expected opposition given much of the country’s link to kingmaker politics at the local government level – which is a system where smaller parties generally decide the fate of larger parties. “[The opposition to the threshold] only makes sense [because] parties like them and others would want to negotiate what the new rules of the game might look like.”

It is important to note that these suggestions could inhibit the growth of other parties and arguably prove hypocritical from some of the contributors. “It’s rather odd that had… this proposed action occurred in 1994, there would be no DA today,” said Pooe.

The horse has bolted

Backlash arose when Cooperative Governance minister Parks Tau revealed that a bill on coalition governments was already in the process of being developed and is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Pooe believes that this lies at the heart of the problem.

Some parties are accusing the ANC and DA of sidelining contributions from smaller parties and using these dialogues as a coverup of a preexisting deal between the two largest parties in the country.

However, both parties refute this. Mashatile criticised the accusations from opposition parties arguing that “inputs saying that the ANC and DA have a grand deal… there is no deal.” Meanwhile, DA leader John Steenhuisen responded on social media saying “[The DA] want to build an opposition majority that will unseat the ANC, not keep (them) in power.”

In an open letter to Mashatile, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa slammed both the bill and dialogue: “… it is safe to assume that the Bill has, firstly, already taken into account the ANC’s basic ideas and secondly, it does not take into account the majority of opposition parties’ views on most issues, for example on the issue of thresholds.”

A way forward

Pooe believes a referendum is the only way forward. “We have had a multiparty approach, and to change the game so drastically needs a referendum. This referendum should speak to things like thresholds,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the ANC in government has a history of feigning public participation and then simply ramming through policy positions… and given the ANC and DA seem to have a spotted a chance to resolve their failures to map actual coalition talks, it only makes sense for them to create new barriers to entry,” Pooe added.

Coalitions are seemingly here to stay and legislation would shift how our democracy currently operates. With no real consensus amongst parties as to the way forward, maybe it is best for us, the everyday citizen that feel the negative effects of bad coalition deals, to be as decisive as possible at the polls come 2024 to decide how our democracy should operate and function going forward.

Summary of the views of each of the parties represented. Graphic: Seth Thorne

FEATURED: IEC officials alongside political party representatives counting the secret ballot votes at the Joburg City Council on May 5, 2023, electing its 5th mayor in two years. Photo: Seth Thorne

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Opposition parties sign on the dotted line 

A group of South African opposition parties have signed a coalition pact ahead of next year’s elections and promised the electorate an “alternative government”. 

Seven political parties signed an agreement ahead of the 2024 national election, they pledged to work together to unseat the African National Congress (ANC) and keep the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) out of power. 

Party leaders labelled the two-day negotiations held at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park a “great success” as it resulted in the signing of a common declaration labelled the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa.  

This pre-emptive formation hopes to avoid the chaos seen in municipal coalitions across the country. 

“If we want to unseat the ANC as a government then there is no other option because there is no single opposition party who on their own will get a majority [of the vote]… we must ensure that we work together [so] that we have a stable coalition,” said Vryheidsfront (VF+) leader Dr Pieter Groenewald. 

The DA, IFP, VF+, ActionSA, Independent South African National Organisation (Isanco), United Independent Movement (UIM) and the Spectrum National Party (SNP) agree that this, “alternative government” as IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa put it, would be one that promotes a free-market economy, decentralised power and minimal government interference in business.  

Hlabisa argued that the bloc would be decisive on matters of “crime, unemployment, loadshedding…” because the “current government has failed us”. 

No red and yellow here 

ActionSA president Herman Mashaba signing his party’s declaration of intent to join the multi-party charter next to independent chairperson William Gumede as Emperors Palace on August 17, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne

Parties are open to broadening the pool of partners in the months to come if they share their governing priorities and values. 

Leader of ActionSA Herman Mashaba said that they ruled out any possible working agreements with the third largest party, the EFF because of fundamental ideological differences as they are a party who are self-described as following a Marxist-Leninist school of thought. 

When asked if this agreement would push the ANC and EFF to form a coalition agreement of their own, parties shrugged it off, and Mashaba said, “they can do what they want”. 

In response, EFF spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys told Wits Vuvuzela that the issues parties want to solve (like unemployment and poverty) are the same, however, their approaches are fundamentally and ideologically different. “We are unapologetically a leftist party [and are] willing to work with parties who would implement similar ideological policies,” said Mathys. 

Who rules the roost? 

The bloc is in agreement that power would be shared, relative to the proportion of votes counted. The party with the most votes was promised the position of deputy president.  

But these candidates have not yet been chosen, Hlabisa said that deciding on a candidate before the elections would “give an unfair advantage to that party.” 

Given the highly publicised squabbles amongst party leaders, a professor at the Wits School of Governance and independent chairperson of the convention, William Gumede, said that “[party leaders must] rise above petty squabbles, egos and every decision they make must be in the public interest.”   

The ANC lost its overall majority for the first time in the country’s democratic history in the 2021 municipal elections, which gave rise to the idea that no political party will achieve an outright majority alone to govern, following 2024’s elections. 

Parties argued that by setting the terms now (should they come to power) they are not left scrambling in the 14 days after the elections to form a united government. 

FEATURED IMAGE: A collage of all of the party leaders of the multi-party charter during the closing remarks of the two-day conference at Emperors Palace on August 17, 2023. Photos: Seth Thorne

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Malema: “We are the dreams of our ancestors realised!” 

As the Economic Freedom Fighters celebrated turning double-digits, their party president did not hold back in his criticism of the ruling party during their birthday celebrations. Wits Vuvuzela’s Seth Thorne and Sbongile Molambo were there to watch it all unfold.

“It is not a matter of if, but when we are in government next year” (and variations thereof) were the utterances most echoed by the EFF party leadership on Saturday, July 29 at FNB Stadium in Soweto. 

Over 100 000 EFF supporters from across the country traveled in over 1 000 buses, painting the stadium red as the EFF celebrated their 10th anniversary. 

Aesthetically, the event was nothing short of a spectacle. The black stage on the pitch was adorned with massive screens, flowers, balloons and later in the day, fireworks, champagne and a birthday cake.  

The invitation to the celebration extended beyond EFF members, with traditional leaders, artists and leaders of other political parties present on stage. These party leaders included Bantu Holomisa of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), who called on “opposition parties to unite as the ANC has “eaten the country’s money.” Others on stage included Vuyolwethu Zungula of the African Transformation Movement, Azapo and the Pan Africanist Congress. 

Born out of need 

EFF president Julius Malema’s speech began with the formation of the organisation, describing it as the directive of the community of Marikana following the 2012 massacre. “We listened to the people of Marikana and formed a party,” he said.  

Malema called the ANC an “organisation of murderers”, who killed miners in “defense of capital” on that fateful day. Malema said president Cyril Ramaphosa belongs “in prison” for the massacre and the Phala Phala scandal.  

Malema also made the friends and foes of the EFF aware that if “you are a supporter of a progressive agenda, you are a friend of the EFF”.  

In their various ‘happy birthday’ messages, the speakers, including Holomisa and Zungula, all alluded to how the formation of the EFF has changed the political landscape of the country. 

Looking to 2024 

The keynote speech was laden with electioneering talk, as Malema called for land expropriation without compensation, the nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy.  

Commenting on crime and corruption in the country, Malema called on the “ground forces [to] go reclaim the streets against criminals.”  

Despite being in multiple coalitions with the ANC, he said the party is “corrupt” and should not be trusted with power, as it “has failed to emancipate its people,” he said. “Unlike the ANC, [the EFF do not] bribe voters” but rather attracts people “wanting freedom in their lifetime”. 

Malema also criticised the Nasi iSpani programme, led by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. He claimed that applicants were not properly vetted and as such would lose their jobs in no time. He also claimed that the programme is an attempt to bribe votes out of young people.  

Various party leaders called for a collective effort to unseat the ANC next year, especially though coalitions. “There is no future in this country if we do not work together… if we do not unite we will not win as the opposition parties next year,” said Zungula.  

Mihlali Tyebisa from Wits’ EFF student command said that “the event was mind-blowing for many; it was a clear demonstration of what is to come.”  

FEATURED IMAGE: Julius Malema ends his speech with a bang as he is lifted into the air, with confetti and smoke machines going off on Saturday, July 29, as proceedings come to an end. Photo: Seth Thorne

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EXPLAINER: The Nasi iSpani programme unpacked

Thousands of permanent Gauteng government jobs were advertised on youth day 2023, and with the ANC holding onto a slim majority of power in the province, they cannot afford to fumble this programme.

FEATURED IMAGE: Screengrab from the explainer video. Photo: Seth Thorne

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The mechanics of state capture explored 

Billions have been stolen from the state due to corruption and collusion, but many still don’t know how or why – this book seeks to change that. 

Every day South Africans are feeling the brunt of over R49 billion of public money lost to state capture, as money meant for essential services has been used to enrich politicians and their networks.  

The new book State Capture in South Africa: Why and how it happened, is the product of nearly five years of research from the group of authors. In it, state capture and its impact are analysed with a fine-tooth comb.  

On July 18, 2023, co-editors Mbongiseni Buthelezi and Peter Vale launched the book at Exclusive Books, Rosebank. A discussion with three of the contributors interrogated how and why such a large amount of money was stolen since around 2008, when the Gupta brothers repeatedly secured lucrative deals with a number of key state-owned entities.  

Contributors included professor at the Wits school of law, Jonathan Klaaren, researcher at the Public Affairs Institute Devi Pillay, and journalist turned researcher Reg Rumney. 

(From left to right) Pater Vale, Devi Pillay, Jonathan Klaaren, Reg Rumney, and Mbongiseni Buthelezi discussing some of their key findings as to how and why state capture occurred at their book launch on July 18, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne

Defining state capture  

The definition of state capture itself was widely contested, as it presents differently in various parts of the world. What was agreed upon was that most countries have experienced some version of it.  

Broadly defined, it is the process whereby private individuals (like the Gupta brothers) influence legislative and/or procurement processes through their connections to political actors (like former president Jacob Zuma). 

Co-conspirators and the shadow state 

Pillay focused on the middleman role played by professionals, such as auditors like KPMG, in state capture dealings. She said they “use their specific skills to benefit a third party” at the expense of the state.  

“Professional firms legitimize corruption and operate secretly…with inherent conflicts of interest,” added Pillay. 

Klaaren unpacked the concept of state capture as being the contestation of a constitutional and shadow state. The former is a state where the power of the government is limited by laws, while the latter is the power wielded by private individuals and vested interests, who can manipulate state apparatus.  

Media capture  

Rumney argued that by capturing the media, one could capture the minds and hearts of the public. This is exactly what the Gupta brothers sought to do so through their own media companies, including ANN7 and The New Age. 

“People still value democracy, which is why authoritarians keep up the illusion of it” said Rumney. This was seen by the attempts at starving independent media of state advertising and taking over the ownership structures of “independent” publications (which the Gupta’s attempted to do) to control the narrative and evade accountability.  

“A weakened media is much more prone to state capture…[however] private and donor funded media is why [the state is] still surviving,” said Rumney. 

The evening concluded with questions from the audience, most of the which were if the country was fully captured. The panellists argued that only partially, as it is true that ailing institutions with massive budgets, like Transnet and Eskom were captured, however crucial institutions like the Treasury and the Reserve Bank were not – despite desperate attempts.  

The panel warned that if these institutions fall victim to state capture, that is a fast track to a failed state.  

FEATURED IMAGE: The product of 5 years of research, proudly displayed in front of a packed audience at its launch at Exclusive Books in Rosebank on July 18, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne

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Voters, stop waiting for messiah, save yourselves – panel  

South Africans should see through fearmongering by politicians and the idea that a single person or party will save the country.  

Voters must vote for values such as justice and solidarity, rather than pledging loyalty to one person or party in the 2024 general elections, in order to progress as a country. 

This was the take-home message from panellists at a discussion titled “Where to from here… The state of South Africa” at the Kingsmead Book Fair on May 27. 

The discussion was witnessed by a packed school hall of potential voters and facilitated by economist and futurist, Bronwyn Williams. Journalist and political commentator Justice Malala, Wits media studies associate professor Nicky Falkof and journalist-turned-politician Songezo Zibi, made up the panel which critically unpacked issues including fear among the citizenry and the messiah complex – the idea that a single person or party will be the saviour for the country.  

Wits professor Nicky Falkof and journalist Justice Malala listen to questions from the audience at the Kingsmead Book Fair on May 27. Photo: Seth Thorne

Author of The Plot to Save South Africa, Malala discussed the idea that good leadership can get a country through the worst of times. He used the example of Nelson Mandela stepping up when the country was at the brink of a civil war in April 1993 following the death of ANC leader Chris Hani. A “messiah” did come forward in the shape of Mandela to shape the country’s political landscape.  

Malala argued that this worked because Mandela was driven by the desire to create a prosperous country, rather than a desire for power – whereas the current leadership’s interests are rooted in political power and it lacks the will and understanding to fix the country’s problems.  

Associate professor Nicky Falkof – who described politics as being mostly driven by emotion – said that legitimate fears of violence in the country were politicised, resulting in a culture and narrative of fear which impacted race, class and gender.   

She used an example unpacked in her book, Worrier State: Risk, anxiety and moral panic in South Africa, that violence is a threat in South Africa, however, violence with white victims (who are a minority) dominates the media landscape and is presented as more gruesome than other crimes. Calling this the contemporary myth of “white genocide”, Falkof said, “The white far right has tried to convince people that the deaths of white people are far more brutal than those of anyone else.” 

This creates panic among communities in an already fearful country and politicians use this legitimate fear to mobilise support by running fearmongering campaigns claiming that only they can solve an issue that has been blown out of proportion and context.  

Author of Manifesto: A New Vision for South Africa Songezo Zibi said that the country’s political and legislative systems were “fundamentally faulty”, however, blaming the ANC was “the easy answer [whereas] we have serious structural problems that brought us here”.  

A major structural problem is the electoral system wherein constituents do not know who their representatives are. Party members are sent to legislatures and given powerful positions based on their connections to a person or party, rather than sent by their communities to represent their voices in decision-making processes.  

“[This undermines the] value of the culture of democratic participation” leaving representatives disconnected from civil society and vice-versa, said Zibi.   

The public’s interests have become lost in this disconnection between representatives and society, because the electoral system that was adopted in 1994 “created a block of faceless individuals” that the government overlooks and calls “our people”, said Zibi. 

The discussion was concluded with a few questions from the audience. With the questions all relating government shortcomings, such as electricity and education, the panelists all stressed the importance of changing the poor voter turnout in the country, and emphasised that the only way for the country to progress would be to vote those inhibiting it out of power.

FEATURED: Journalist-turned-politician Songezo Zibi makes a point at the Kingsmead Book Fair on May 27. Photo: Seth Thorne

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SLICE: Politicians to the left; influencers, right! 

The hiring of influencers by political parties deprives voters of the opportunity to interrogate what politicians have to offer.  

With the 2024 elections around the corner, politicians can be expected to use celebrities and influencers to persuade South Africans to vote for their parties.  

Celebrities have become central figures in modern politics globally by using their influence to lead party campaigns and social awareness campaigns. South Africa is not a stranger to this kind of culture. In the 2019 elections, celebrities such as Bonang Matheba took to Instagram with the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC presidential candidate, telling followers to follow their lead and vote for the ANC

Four years after the success of Ramaphosa’s campaign, Matheba is singing a different tune about how the ANC has failed the country. This proves that she did not have the expertise to make any politically influential statements in the first place because now she is calling for Ramaphosa to resign. 

The fusion of politics and pop culture has not served our democracy well as thousands of people would have taken endorsement of politicians by Matheba, DJ Zinhle and the late Kiernan Forbes at face value rather than interrogating their utterances.  

Some celebrities even take the baton and run with it into politics, as proven by Donald Trump who moved from The Apprentice showto the White House as the US president. Media reports slammed his term in office because of a lack of expertise to make the right decisions that even saw him refusing intelligence briefings that were crucial for his position.

Brookings, a public policy organisation based in Washington, USA reported that his lack of understanding of the political space made Trump to shut down resources such as the global health security team that would have helped minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Most American presidents fail when they cannot comprehend the government they inherit,” the organisation said. 

Recently in South Africa we have witnessed Kenny Kunene who became famous in 2014 for eating sushi off naked women become an acting mayor of Johannesburg for a day at the beginning of May. Questions of his capability to carry out the duties were raised because of his position as an entertainer. I was one of those who questioned what made him drop the chopsticks and move into politics and why he was entrusted with such responsibility.   

An article in the journal Political Psychology highlighted that “Research has shown that a politician’s involvement in a scandalous behaviour can severely damage candidate evaluations and may also decrease voting intentions.” This could cause voters to have mistrust when celebrities move from the entertainment industry to politics.  

This raises the issue whether politicians should stick to being public servants and celebrities remain influencers and entertainers. But what qualifies one to be a politician? In 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported  that “Many MPs insisted that educational qualifications are not the key to a seat in Parliament — being a good politician is what counts.”

The South African Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, but that right comes with responsibility. During the 2024 elections, I would like to see less of influencers in the political space and if we do see them, they should be aware that words have meaning. They should educate themselves about the parties they are endorsing to their followers.

I would like to see more politically present politicians with a focus on service delivery rather than those with a social media presence. South Africa is dealing with crises of water and electricity among many challenges. As a voter I would rather know what the different parties plan to do to solve these rather than listen to celebrities who see politics as the next paid campaign. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Aphelele Mbokotho. Photo: File

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INFOGRAPHIC: Joburg mayoral election unpacked

On May 5, 2023 Al Jama-ah’s Kabelo Gwamanda was elected executive mayor of the country’s economic hub, Johannesburg by fellow councillors. The process for selecting the mayor was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, this infographic explores some of those twists and turns.


FEATURED: The executive mayor Kabelo Gwamanda reading his oath during the process of being sworn in. Photo: Seth Thorne

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WITH GALLERY: Kabelo Gwamanda elected as Joburg mayor 

After nearly two weeks without one, Joburg has its fifth mayor in just 18 months. 

Al Jama-ah’s Kabelo Gwamanda has been voted in as Johannesburg’s new executive mayor by councillors in a secret ballot at the City Council sitting on May 5, 2023. 

Out of the 266 ballots cast Gwamanda received 139 votes, while the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Johannesburg caucus leader Mpho Phalatse got 68 votes and ActionSA’s Gauteng chairperson Funzi Ngobeni, got 59 votes. 

This was the council’s fifth attempt at voting in a mayor since the resignation of Al Jama-ah’s Thapelo Amad on April 24. A sitting on Tuesday, May 3 was postponed due to squabbles amongst coalition partners.  

Messy horse trading  

Failed negotiations among those in the former ‘multi-party coalition,’ saw the DA unable to come to an agreement with ActionSA, IFP, VF+, ACDP, UIM and PA.  

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela DA Johannesburg caucus leader Mpho Phalatse said that the reason negotiations failed is because the DA could not come to terms with the proposition by the Patriotic Alliance (PA) to nominate Kenny Kunene as mayor. “[We] could not fathom how such could be allowed,” she said. 

The PA, the swing vote in council, then put their weight behind Gwamanda, alongside the ANC, EFF, Al Jama-ah, AIC, AHC, ATM, Good, PAC, Cope and APC. In return, Kenny Kunene received an executive position and now has control over the city’s transport portfolio. 

Gwamanda labels this coalition as “one of national unity” which will continue to “prioritize service delivery,” arguing that regime change in the city will not negatively impact service delivery. 

Former mayor Thapelo Amad said that the election of his Al Jama-ah colleague is a good thing for the city, stating that “the city is in capable hands”.  

ActionSA mayoral candidate Funzi Ngobeni says that his party is happy with the working relationship with the ACDP, IFP, UIM and VF+, however it is “unfortunate that we could not get DA on board.” He says that the aims of the partners now are to be “a constructive opposition”.  

FEATURED: IEC officials alongside political party representatives counting the secret ballot votes at the Joburg City Council on May 5, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne

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