A cesspool of negativity

by The Editor

SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. Today, the ANC regularly accuses the DA of ‘opposing for the sake of opposing’ but what of its record in opposition, in the Western Cape legislature? Does it practice what it preaches or, like so much the ANC says and does, is that criticism little more than hypocritical posturing?

Quotable Quotes

How the ANC opposes for the sake of opposing

It’s a slur as old as South Africa’s new democracy: ‘The DA is opposing for the sake of opposing,’ the ANC complains, ‘it attacks the ANC and offers no solutions’.

It is a helpful piece of propaganda (in an unthinking kind of way) which compliments nicely the ANC’s other, tired old line: ‘The DA hates the ANC,’ ergo, ‘the DA hates black South Africans’. After all, the ANC argues, if the DA’s purpose is just to criticize the ANC then, by default, it must have something against black people in particular – because the ANC is the one true voice for all black South Africans, at least so the ANC’s self-referential mantra goes.

Of course, as with much the ANC says, that criticism doesn’t hold up to close examination. The DA has over he past 10 years released a myriad policy proposals and positions papers (a number of which have been adopted by the ANC itself, the Youth Wage Subsidy, for example). And when it does criticise, whether you agree with its position or not, it is founded on some kind of rational argument.

The truth is, bad news sells and so, ironically, there is little space in the media dedicated to those many positive suggestions the DA puts forward. (Ask the DA’s media office – issue a critical statement: big news; issue an entirely positive statement: matchbox story on page 6). I say ironically, because the ‘opposing for the sake of opposing’ line was for a long time touted by the media too; less so today.

Perhaps more importantly: the DA’s criticism is not some emotional response to an impulse to denigrate. Oversight and accountability are constitutional requirements those people who voted for the DA mandated it to uphold. And on election to office each DA public representative puts their hand on the constitution before making a sworn undertaking to that effect.

And, of course, there is no shortage of things to be critical about – it’s not like the ANC boasts an exemplary record in public office (something to which the media, these days described by the ANC as some kind of unofficial opposition for its critical coverage, will no doubt attest).

But that is all by way of introduction. The key point is this: the ANC is now in opposition, in many local councils but, also, on a larger scale, in the Western Cape legislature – the only province it does not control. So, after all those years of berating the DA every time it criticized the ANC, how has the ANC faired in that legislature? Is it a model of proactive policy suggestions? Is it ‘solutions orientated’? Are its members reasonable and fair in their criticism, proposing alternatives as well as oversight?

You have got to be joking.

The ANC caucus in the Western Cape legislature is a cesspool of negativity and hate for the DA.

For anyone wanting evidence to this effect, go watch a session live in that legislature. For those without that much energy, read the HANSARD from Premier Helen Zille’s recent response to the debate on the 2012 State of the Province Address. You can find it here. Helen Zille is barely able to complete a sentence without being interrupted. Indeed, the first ‘interruption’ came even before she had started to speak.

Just imagine, for a moment, the DA behaved like that in the National Assembly, when the President spoke; imagine the outrage; the accusations of a lack of ‘respect’.

But, it would appear, different standard apply to the ANC when it is opposition. Then, anything goes. It makes sense of course – the ANC thinks it governs by divine right (literally), no wonder it acts with nothing more than disdain when democracy itself delivers to it an outcome not accommodated for in its masterplan.

Perhaps the ANC’s attitude in the chamber is a good thing, in the sense that it is authentic: a genuine portrayal of how the ANC feels about competiton, democratic debate and the loss of power. Certainly it reveals it as intolerant, petty and hostile. And that isn’t an act. That is a real expression of how it feels. That is the real ANC.

Which brings us to our quotable quote. It is from 2010, shortly after the ANC lost the Western Cape in the 2009 election, and by the ANC’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly, Dr. Mathole Motshekga, to the ANC Caucus in the Western Legislature. You can read the full speech here, but the relevant section is as follows:

“Our role as the opposition Party in this Province must be constructive and informed by the multitude of challenges and problems faced by our communities. We must not copy and adopt bad political habits of criticising and opposing for the sake of scoring political points. The ANC is not in a publicity contest with anyone, we have a political program to implement, and we should therefore advance sound and superior arguments for our criticisms and give credit whenever it is due. As the ruling party, our task is to remain exemplary to all South Africans, including the DA.”

Priceless. Good intentitions but, as the State of the Province Debate revealed, there is a significant gulf between what the ANC wishes to portray itself as and its authentic self.

The ANC really and truly does oppose for nothing more than the sake of opposing.