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playing the tribal card

By unknown | Sep 05, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The silly season is on us. Soon we will see politicians hugging and kissing (even snot-nosed) babies, trying to show their paternal or maternal side.

The silly season is on us. Soon we will see politicians hugging and kissing (even snot-nosed) babies, trying to show their paternal or maternal side.

This sudden public display of the love of children (especially those from poor communities) is driven by one thing - to win votes in the 2009 election.

Even those marginalised communities - where politicians are a rare sight - must brace themselves for an invasion of campaigners in slogan-bearing T-shirts who will be calling on people to vote for their parties.

There is going to be an avalanche of election messages couched in innuendo and subtleties with the objective of winning the hearts and minds of the electorate.

In KwaZulu-Natal the ANC has fired the first salvo with a message that says "voting for the ANC is voting for Zuma".

Taken at face value the message sounds quite innocuous. But there is also a nuanced play on Zulu nationalism to appeal to all Zulus across the political spectrum to vote for the ANC.

Essentially what the ANC is saying to IFP supporters is that they will be voting for another Zulu if they vote for the ANC in next year's election.

This message is premised on the assertion that some IFP members do support Zuma in his quest to have the corruption charges against him squashed. This because they see the charges against him as part of a political campaign driven by Xhosas such as President Thabo Mbeki.

So, either by omission or commission, the ANC is now appealing to Zulu ethnic consciousness to garner support in KwaZulu-Natal.

During the Zuma rape trial his supporters displayed T-shirts saying "100 percent Zulu boy". The nuanced message in that slogan was clear: "Zuma is proud of being a Zulu and is facing this persecution because he is a proud Zulu."

Such a play on the ethnic consciousness is dangerous, more so if it is done by an organisation with a long history of fighting ethnicity and racism.

The ANC could be seen to be so desperate that it draws on "counter-revolutionary" tactics to win support in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Democratic Alliance once fell into the same trap with its "fight back" election slogan.

The slogan boomeranged when black votes were deciphered as meaning "fight black". They saw it as a call by a minority white party for them to fight against a majority black government led by the ANC.

The ANC might not necessarily suffer the same fate as the DA. The party could still win the majority of votes but the long-term effect of such regressive tactics are too ghastly to contemplate.

Despite fervent denials, especially from our political leaders, ethnic consciousness in this country is like a simmering volcano that can erupt at any time.

Surely the ANC does not want to be responsible for such an eruption?


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