The one thing that is keeping Theresa May and the Conservatives in power in the United Kingdom is their opposition, the Labour Party. No matter how much the Tories have made a mess of the Brexit negotiations, the string of senior cabinet ministers quitting and the deep divisions that beset them, the one thing that does unite them and which they will fight off is seeing Jeremy Corbyn kneel before the Queen and her asking him to form a new government.
The same could be said of the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape. Their disastrous management of the water crisis, which will continue, their inability to bring stability to public transport and their powerlessness to stop bullets from flying on the Cape Flats, never mind the fathomless factions which beset them, all coupled with their own string of recalls and resignations, the one thing that unites them is their unwillingness to see the ANC win the Western Cape.
A strong opposition is simply keeping a weak government in place.
Yet, as with the UK, it is the sentiments of nationalism that continues to unite the DA provincial government in the Western Cape against the ANC. Hardcore nationalists, with the sentiments of a post-truth society as tools in hands, fought and won the Brexit vote in the UK. It is hardcore nationalists in the DA, also equipped with the tools of fear and ignorance common in a post-truth society, that continues to hold the Western Cape ransom.
Take for example the DA sanctioned SMS sent out earlier in the year. Through their registration drive, the DA, flip-flopping on whether the SMS was official or not, finally laid claim to the message that read: “ANC & EFF working together to take all private land and homes. You can only stop this if you’re registered correctly to vote! Check now.”
The SMS is based on fake news and has all the intention of creating fear. We can expect more as we approach next year’s elections.
Fake news and fear is exactly what nationalists such as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Marie Le Pen and Matteo Salvini use to garner the support and sympathy of people who are on the peripheries of society. These prominent figures of the establishment create the farce that they are against the establishment and then target the most vulnerable in society: immigrants, women, children, Blacks. The“other” is to be seen as the ‘real’ threat rather than the system which established the elite classes in the first place and made these elitist leaders.
Our post-truth society, it must be remembered, is not based on reason, fact and scientific analysis rather it is based on sentiments and impulsive emotions that often ranges from a deep sense of cultural pride, to fear and hatred. Generalisations, lies and myths are often used to persuade vulnerable voters into electing people who seek only to divide and re-enforce the established elite.
The irreparable damage and discord that Brexit would cause to a modern UK, Europe and globalised world was not a consideration for those who pushed the “Leave” campaign. The subsequent negotiations, especially by the UK side, has not had any less of these irrational, emotional and ill-conceived ideas. Even now, two years after the referendum, Brexiteers are head strong in their determination not to see the devastating and adverse effects the UK leaving the European Union will have. The United Kingdom today is as divided as it has almost never been before given this once in a lifetime and therefore historic crisis.
Cape Town and the Western Cape too has faced a once in a lifetime crisis in how it has mismanaged water supply. Since 2007, a year into the then Zille administration, the City of Cape Town was warned of the upcoming crisis in the shortage of water. A Water Demand Management Unit was set up, then already, with various initiatives projected. Yet Mayor Zille and subsequent mayors in that office, together with the rest of the provincial government of the Western Cape, did not take the threat seriously given the gross underfunding and undermining of this unit as well as the lack of expenditure on water infrastructure.
Having concentrated on the National Health Insurance system in the last few months during his questions to the Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the PMQ’s on 4 July 2018. Prime Minister May’s cabinet colleagues had come wearing NHI badges celebrating the seventieth founding of the system and thinking that Corbyn would again concentrate on the NHI. Not so. He went for busses; public transport as an important ingredient in a growing economy.
Corbyn highlighted that bus services had been cut by forty-six percent in budgets and passengers, especially by the elderly, have fallen. Bus fares have risen, said Corbyn, by thirteen percent. In other words, bus fares have risen three times more than what passengers were getting paid. Finally, Corbyn poignantly prodded the question to May as to whether she considered public transport as an essential public responsibility or whether it must be left to the fate of the market.
While the bus strike experienced earlier in the year was a national one and while there is talk that there may be yet another, the Department of Public Works and Transport headed by the DA’s Donald Grant has been disastrous in its ability to facilitate negotiations between fighting blocks in the taxi industry. Grant has proven just how absolutely incompetent he is in facilitating dialogue in the taxi industry and putting pressure on PRASA and Metrorail to improve their services and safety drastically. Needless to mention that Grant will escape responsibility by blaming national government. Why then does he have “transport” in his portfolio?
The point of course is that like the May government, the Zille government cannot identify with the use of public transport. Has Donald Grant ever relied on public transport to get around? Yet the DA’s core constituency relies on the public service to get to work and to travel. This lay at the heart of the DA establishment’s distance from the constituency in whom they inspire only fear.
Sadly, given our liberal democracy, we are limited in our examples and therefore have to look to western countries such as the United Kingdom. Ideally we would like to look to other democracies, especially in the global south. Yet our realities in a post-truth society, where sentiments of fear and nationalism are fanned, are the same. Daily, we are confronted by fake news and DA politicians who are not reliant on competence and delivery but rather on fear and ignorance.
Like their SMS during registration the DA will stoke national fears in minorities and continue to spread fake news in order to cover up their inability to govern. Already, Mmusi Maimane is talking about the borders. He may just soon suggest building a wall. The only thing keeping the disastrous DA in government is the ANC.
Wesley Seale is a PhD Candidate at Beijing University in China