This lady would get my vote

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Married: 28 January 2014. Divorced: 2 February 2014. The union between the Democratic Alliance and AgangSA died unconsummated.

I know I mentioned last week that a week is a long time in politics, but this has to be a record.

Already, the recriminations have been flying fast and furious between parties.

I don't really care who's to blame. It was an opportunity to elevate our country's politics to a new plane, and it is an opportunity lost.

In that sense, it is not unlike the formation of the Congress of the People (Cope) in 2009.

Cope captured 7% of the vote in that election positioning themselves as the third largest party in Parliament ahead of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Cope promptly imploded from infighting between founders Mosiua Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa.

Cope do not feature in the political landscape at all at present. I expect them to be wiped out in the coming elections.

Where does this leave us as a nation?

There are a couple of philosophical questions that emerged from this DA-AgangSA debacle.

Should electioneering in a multiparty democracy be driven by grassroots decision-making by party structures? Or should a charismatic leader call the shots?

The DA's Helen Zille received approval from her party's highest decision-making body to proceed with the AgangSA merger/acquisition.

AgangSA's Mamphela Ramphele did not get the same from her team. This is cited as one of the reasons for the deal falling apart.

In the DA's case, the process makes sense to me – Zille is part of an established political machine, which has developed rules and procedures over decades. She cannot act unilaterally.

In AgangSA's case, it is now clear that Ramphele acted without consent from her party faithful and that dissatisfaction on their part was a catalyst for coitus interruptus.

This does not make sense to me because AgangSA doesn't exist without its leader.

It was built around a vision conceived by Ramphele – there is no other person yet named to her election list. Surely the party faithful, having chosen to follow her vision, should not dictate what that vision should be?

The structured party approach has worked very well for us in the past and still works very well for the DA.

It works less well for the ANC today where tens of thousands have joined the party seeking fortune rather than the ability to serve.

So we have Jacob Zuma who is clearly unpopular with a large number of ANC voters around the country, who have no choice but to accept him as their presidential candidate because the structures say so.

We need a better way, and that way is to directly elect the president.

Think back to 2008. Hilary Clinton was the preferred candidate of the US Democratic Party with the backing of most of that party's structures. Meanwhile, an upstart young senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, believed he could do a better job even if his party disagreed.

Obama took to social media and outlined a vision of what he intended doing. It wasn't about what he and his team would do. It was about him and him alone. But he persuaded enough people to buy into his vision to persuade the US public to vote him into office. Twice.

Directly electing the president is an idea whose time has come, but in order for it to work, it has to be driven by the ANC.

The fact of the matter is that the core of our country's political intellectual capital sits within the ANC.

Unfortunately, the party structures mean that nepotistic incompetents like Dina Pule get put forward to govern us while the likes of Pallo Jordan or Joel Netshitenzhe are sidelined.

Now imagine if we had a situation like the US where the parties hold primary elections to decide their presidential candidates ahead of the general elections.

Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Baleka Mbete, and many others can put their names forward.

ANC voters – instead of party delegates – could then vote in the primaries to elect the person most suited to the voters to take the party forward.

I believe there are enough people within the ANC who are dissatisfied with the job Jacob Zuma has done as president and who recognise that his tenure has adversely impacted on the party's trust and respect.

If the ANC proposes a constitutional amendment allowing for parties to hold primaries like the US, I believe they will easily get the requisite two-thirds majority to do so.

I would vote for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma without a moment's hesitation.