SA needs an effective opposition

Thabile Mange

Thabile Mange

Fourteen years into our democracy, South Africa's politics is still racially inclined. And for some reason black people strongly believe that whites are the ones who perpetuate racial politics in our country - just like in the past.

A certain newspaper columnist once wrote that he's yet to meet a black racist. Does this mean blacks are not racist? The columnist's argument was that racism is all about power - economic power, that is. The columnist concluded, based on the above, that there is no way blacks can be racist.

Does that mean poor whites are not racist? I think not. If racism is not genetic but power based, as the columnist suggested, then it follows that blacks can be racist too. I know many people, especially blacks, might not agree with me on this one.

The majority of people in this country are eager and desperate to have an official black opposition. This might be because the ruling ANC has become too powerful and arrogant. As a result the ruling party sometimes disregards the wishes of the poor masses.

Political analysts have always held the view that a black and effective opposition will emerge from the ANC. I think this analysis is based on African countries' experiences where a strong opposition emerged from within liberation movements. Will a black, effective and official opposition emerge from the ruling party, as in other countries on the continent?

The formation of the Congress of the People (Cope) by ANC dissidents led by Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa has raised the hopes of some of the people of this country that we might, for the very first time since 1994, have a black opposition after next year's election.

Does this mean the Democratic Alliance (DA), which is generally viewed as the white opposition, is ineffective? That is a moot point. However, there is a school of thought, particularly among blacks, that the white opposition is ineffective and its politics destructive.

My view is that the DA serves the interests of the white minority, a point the party consistently denies. The fact that the DA fails to attract black votes does not mean it is ineffective. The truth is that people vote on the basis of loyalty, not policy. However, it appears this will change in the not so distant future.

The pertinent question is: will the new black opposition be effective? There is no easy answer. General Bantu Holomisa broke away from the ANC to form his political party, the United Democratic Movement. Holomisa's party has, however, not been effective.

There are other black political parties such as the Pan Africanist Congress and Azanian People's Organisation, that have strong struggle credentials and rich histories but have nothing to show for it. As a matter of fact, these parties are as good as dead.

It is true that the white opposition in the form of the DA does not represent a true reflection of our country's demographics. Hence the desperate need for a black opposition.

That said, there is no guarantee that the emerging black opposition - in the form of Cope - will offer the kind of alternative that the majority of people in this country yearn for.

lMange works for Joburg Water. He writes in his personal capacity.