An old adage of inspiration is that the person who says it is impossible should not interrupt the person doing it. Of course, no motion for betterment goes unopposed, and for the most part, I’d say that a fire truck would be silly to stop and deal with cur dogs barking at the wheels, but never before have I seen such a poor take of such a promising proposition. The irony is lost on Mr Anthony Johnson, an American-based writer, when he offers a political critique on South Africa in “Herman Mashaba wants you to forget” (Mail & Guardian, August 9) while his country burns as the gears of its two-party system grind and rust.
That Mashaba’s time as a mayor can be quantified in figures is of little interest to his naysayers; over 800 corrupt and incompetent government officials removed from office, 5 000 title deeds delivered to Johannesburg’s poorest residents, an administration that finally addressed Johannesburg’s lucrative yet crumbling infrastructure by fixing its roads, 151-million litres of water tanks built in informal settlements, R341-million brought in by Mashaba’s law-enforcement unit, and all this under the weight of a corrupt ANC, and a Democratic Alliance that would rather he spend his time bringing lawns up to their standard than fight the corrupt system he’d inherited.
It would be in poor taste for Mashaba to attempt to make us forget, as Johnson posits: we’d be much better off remembering what Johannesburg was like under a mayor who was actually competent and who was not hell-bent on robbing the country’s resources, as is so clearly the intent of the ANC. If he were capable of accomplishing all that he did under two oppressive regimes, his potential in an independent party is almost unimaginable.
Johnson criticises Mashaba on three areas: trying to evict illegal occupants of buildings, trying to enforce the law and trying to help the poor — although, none of these to his standards. Perhaps we should look to the United States for their unparalleled genius in managing their poor population, or their lenient policing system.
In between all of this, Johnson is correct in that Mashaba did not make as much progress as he, or any of his adherents, would have liked. Yet it would be ignorant to focus on the shortcomings, rather than the fact that Mashaba is one of the only honest politicians we have. It’s noble to try and fail, and, seeing where he’d failed, Mashaba took the correct course of action — he formed his own party. The DA is stringent and delusional, imagining a South Africa that resembles their dream of a white-Socialist-European “utopia” whereas the ANC is a money-hungry beast who cannot fill its pockets with tax and bailout money fast enough. To sit on the sidelines and project political shortcomings on to a man whose intentions have been proven pure, whose policies are demonstrably workable and whose experience in the area has shown him competent, would be the height of apathy.
There is no such thing as a perfect politician and, ultimately, the solutions we seek will not be found in politics, but within ourselves. Still, a good government can help. Mashaba’s policies are simple, they’re understandable and they are objectively workable: fix corruption, fix education, restore law and order, insist upon legal immigration, reform this country’s broken electoral system and incentivise the private sector to bring jobs back. Mashaba has laid out workable ideas on how all this could be accomplished. I’d rather back him up than ponder upon the difficulty of trying to better a city under the bureaucracy of the ANC or the DA.
Angelo Ryan is a South African-based freelance journalist who has covered local and American politics since 2015. He has followed Herman Mashaba since his tenure as Mayor of Johannesburg and has been backing his bid for presidency pending the launch of his party later this month.