NDZ deserves a better campaign strategy

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has adopted a campaign of desperate people whose only chance at winning is about agitating the black poor and driving a wedge on the fragile reconciliation process, writes YONELA DIKO

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as a senior comrade and stateswoman, sits at the very centre of the success of the ANC and its government over the last 23 years. Until 2012, when she was deployed to the African Union, she had been one of the sharpest pencils for all administrations and had long been considered Presidential material.

Her performance at the AU is also not separated from the measured successes championed by South Africa of a stable and conflict free continent, a continent able to amass its own resources for development, entrenching of democracy and a more integrated Africa. These are Dlamini-Zuma’s successes tied at the hip with the successes of ANC, South Africa and Africa.

So why has her campaign not been about these successes, but predominantly about an agitation of black people about ‘’white monopoly capital’’, agitation of women about patriarchy, agitation of young people about youth unemployment and a general exploitation of existing antagonism among various sections of the country? Why has Dlamini-Zuma chosen to paint a dim 23-year picture of an ANC government (which she was part of) in order to emerge as the hope for redemption?

Her whole campaign has been about black entitlement and none of the responsibilities or black successes that have characterised the South Africa dream. One easily gets the feeling that the campaign itself is not hers. It’s almost as if she was approached to run for office by a gang, with a given script and specific pointers that would form pillars of her campaign and she obliged. She has adopted a campaign of desperate people whose only chance at winning is about agitating the black poor and driving a wedge on the ever so fragile reconciliation project.

The idea is to overpromise and to scream those promises louder as entitlements, telling people all the things that are due to them and that they have been denied for many years.

The problem, of course, with such campaigns is that they are likely to further entrench this heavy sense of disillusionment with our government which is in no small measure due to what many people see as a string of broken electoral promises from party political leaders. The gap between our election campaign promises and realities on the ground has been widening with each election cycle.

It is surprising that every-time one listens to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma one cannot help but fear she is trapping herself in this well-known political sin of over-promising and under-delivering, a sin that has come to characterise the discontent and growing mistrust of government over the years.

Radical Economic Transformation, which forms the core of the NDZ campaign, at least as rhetoric, offers a certain level of redemption for the poor who are predominantly black, but as a programme, it is communicated without a plan or timeframe or even a responsibility expected from its beneficiaries.

Speaking at a cadres’ forum at the Empangeni Town Hall in Kwazulu Natal, Dlamini-Zuma took what has been the campaign rhetoric of all her chief campaigners, an agitation of black people about their lived reality to the next level. She went to town questioning the very freedom we now enjoy, asking poor black South Africans whether they can boast about being free.

It’s a dangerous paradox of an ANC leader telling people that the ANC has not done anything for black people in the last 23 years, but will most likely make a 180% turn if she makes it in government by telling people that the ANC has done so much, when the demands of her campaign promises started making their heavy demands.

NDZ then went to her other campaign pillar, a male bashing exercise which culminated in a dubious research which claims 70% of women’s income is spent in households, while only 30% of men’s income is spent in the home. She could not substantiate the origins of this “research” or cite its source when questioned further on it.

The male bashing programme flies in the face of the strides the ANC has made in constitutionalising gender equality, firstly in the ANC constitution and in the country’s constitution. According to the ANC constitution, 50% of all leadership positions, from NEC down to BECs, must be held by women. Since the 1991 ANC conference in Durban, women representation has been gradually increasing in all ANC structures, culminating in the Mbeki-led ANC which finally arrived at 50%.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, South Africa is one of the top ten countries in the world with very high women representation in Parliament. According to the IPU, ‘South Africa is second in the continent on women representation in Parliament, where the African National Congress upped its quota of women in government from 30% to 50% in 2009’. The legislation is a key driver of female representation.

NDZ does not need to misrepresent the progress women have made under an ANC government just to agitate them to vote for her. After she has won, she will battle to convince the very same women that indeed the ANC had done so much for them.

NDZ also taps into the pain of Youth unemployment, using a bizarre motivation for a skills revolution, young people who must upskill themselves out of fear for their jobs to be taken by foreigners. Her campaign is like a journey through the country’s discontent from the various sections of society, race inequality, patriarchy, youth unemployment, xenophobia, it’s all there. She paints a picture of a country in decay, without any counter-vailing successes which would explain why the ANC has dominated the political landscape for the last two decades.

Short-changing the country’s success in order to come out as the solution to our problems is not a sustainable campaign strategy.

At a rally in South Carolina, during the 2016 election campaign, Hillary Clinton said, “I want you to understand: I will not promise you something that I cannot deliver,”. “I will not make promises I know I cannot keep. We don’t need any more of that.”

Of course, she was campaigning against a man who made big promises, about some big big walls, an annihilation of other countries and arresting of dictators, lowering of tax for the rich, lowering of regulations for the rich and a total disregard for minorities etc. As we now know, that man won, Hillary lost.

Today, no one can doubt that by this man winning, that country stumbled into decay. That country lost.

NDZ can still rescue her campaign and bend it towards the successes of the ANC, the country and the continent; of which she has been right at the centre.

Diko is a media strategist and analyst

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