Loyalty and Alienation in the Johannesburg Election Results

What’s interesting in Jo’burg election results is that the DA grabbed support from the ANC and all the also-rans, picking up minority wards in the likes of Lenasia, Mayfair and Mogale City.  The DA now holds 35% of the municipal seats in Johannesburg, versus 27% following the 2009 elections. 

Service delivery is not a simple decisive factor, it is complex one.  Service delivery certainly is a problem:  a half a million people are waiting for houses, sanitation is a muddy slimy disaster for hundreds of thousands, matrics find it difficult to migrate successfully into an upwardly mobile workforce, bus projects have yet to serve the northern Johannesburg workforce — and these are issues that are far bigger and weightier than potholes, flat tyres and broken rims that plague motorists who can afford to have cars in the first place.

In the long view however, the ANC has delivered.  South Africans in general and Gauties in particular, are much better off than they used to be.  In Gauteng, the have-nots have been marching steadily into the ranks of the middle class since 1994, as defined by the LSM groups of South African marketing-speak.

This is an ANC success story, but for the all the ones who have been served, there are those that are still in dire need of decent living conditions. 

It’s 15 years on, and the ANC still pulls the heartstrings of loyalty and a kind of fervent nostalgia for that blessed unity which walked through fire and overcame a tyrannical and inhumane government.  Whipping up struggle passions with revolution and hate rhetoric is a successful short-term strategy;  it deeply resonates with those with personal losses, and those still impoverished and waiting for service delivery to come to home;  it provides a common enemy, against which to unify. It fires up a community spirit that overwhelms and replaces voter apathy, and offers an aspirational image of flashy success – a fancy Sandown house, multiple luxury cars and an uber-bling Breiting Wrist Watch.   So as strategies go, struggle songs and the continued deployment of Julius Malema and his me-too comrades, Nceba Faku and Jimmy Manyi,  play a key role in retaining ANC power, no matter how much they embarrass and make Jacob Zuma and the party leadership cringe. 

“Down with white political parties, down! Down with those who vote for white political parties!”

“Go and burn The Herald! We will face a bullet with a bullet!”

Helen Zille is a “dancing monkey” from “monkey town,”

“They (whites) are criminals, they should be treated like that.”

“the problem with Cape town is too many Coloureds”

“dubul’ ibhunu” (shoot the Boer)

“Don’t come here with your white tendencies”

“Umshini Wami”  (bring me my machine gun)

“the racist Helen Zille’s garden boys.”

But a challenge to sustain it may be looming on the middle horizon.  It is clear that the hate speech of the ANC rabble-rousers have alienated South African minority groups, as reflected in the 2011 Johannesburg poll results in minority wards.  This in itself is not a threat to the ANC: the minority groups will remain minorities as long as the lines are drawn along racial identity.  However, that the DA finds an audience at all in Alexandria, and went on take ward 32 and secure from 5% to 10% of the vote in other Alexandria wards,  is remarkable.  The tongue-in-cheek buzz in Olievenhoustbosch is that those with RDP houses, mostly relocations from Alexandria and other distressed settlements, were the ones talking up the DA.  In the lead up to the Gauteng elections, the DA focused on an inclusive, issue-oriented message, with very little ANC bashing, other than the toilet shit, in sharp contrast to the ANC’s most popular orators.

Is it possible that the more service delivery from the ANC, the more they need to “consolidate the back vote,” in the words of Gauteng ANC chairman Paul Mashatile?  And how will the black vote be consolidated?  More service delivery or a growing cadre of strutting Malema mini-me’s to keep the fires burning?  I am optimistic that hate will eventually lose its appeal, if only because the opposite is too horrible to contemplate.  Perhaps it will be hard to find the time and energy to hate your minority neighbour when you are working very hard to pay a bond on a suburban townhouse and save a nest egg to get the first of your family into a tertiary institution.  Youth born post 1994 will begin to come of age in advance of the next elections and painful and personal apartheid memories will not be in their mix of motivation at the polls, but racial identity will. 

Can a ruling party in our non-racial democracy really be a blacks only party?  There was a day when a vote for the ANC was a vote for a non-racial democracy.  But for now, it looks as if the ANC is covering its bases with divergent strategies that will lead to a deeper rift  in the next 2 or 3 elections, and the DA is already preparing to pick up the pieces.


Dear Technorati


“JXA94VUY296C” it whispered.


RE:   JXA94VUY296C   

Today I started to register this blog.  Technorati comes famously recommended so it seemed like a good place to start.  The process is an unusual one, and it is rather serious and even a bit creepy about digital fingerprints, bringing to mind visits to South African Home Affairs or the flashy newish and über secure American Consulate in Sandton, where I fight off an irrational fear and sense of guilt, of having done something terribly wrong that will now be discovered, even though I don’t lie, steal, cheat, or even speed or litter, which are easily national pastimes here in South Africa.    “Eventually they will catch you,” I hear in that electronic male voice that Laurie Anderson uses when she is spoofing on forms of control, she calls it “the voice of authority”.       

I like Laurie Anderson, these days I’m listening to The Ugly One with the Jewells while I commute, and I particularly like “The Ouija Board,” where the Ouija tells Laurie Anderson that she was a racoon in her first life, then a bird, then a hat:     

“We said “a hat?” We couldn’t figure it out.
Finally we guessed that the feathers from the bird
had been made into a hat. Is this true?     

“Yes” spelled the Ouija.
“Hat counts as half life.”     

And then?     

“Hundreds and hundreds of rabbis.”     

Now this is apparently my first life as a woman,
which should explain quite a few things.
Eventually though, the Ouija’s written words
seemed to take on a personality,
a kind of a voice.
Finally we began to ask the board
if the Ouija would be willing to appear to us in some other form.     

“Forget it, forget it, forget it, forget it, forget it, forget it. ”
The Ouija seemed like it was about to crash.     

Please, please, what can we do we were nagging now
so you will show yourself to us in some other manifestation?     

“You should lurk. You should L, U, R, K. Lurk.”     

Now I never really figured out how to lurk in my own place,
even though it was only a rented place,
but I did find myself looking over my shoulder a lot.
And every sound that drifted in
seemed to be a version of this phantom voice
whispering in a code that I could never crack.     

“JXA94VUY296C” it whispered.     


Finding Dante

The Dante Club by Mathew Pearl         

I quite enjoyed this historic literary romp through post civil war Boston.  The snarky, competitive literary cliques, the plight of the veterans, the hypocrisy of liberal white race relations, and above all those disreputable, scandalous Italians and Catholics, Dante included.        

 William Dean Howells, James Russell Lowell and Charles Eliot Norton are divided by much but united by their protective worship of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and their membership in the Dante Club, working together with Longfellow to finish the translation of  The Divine Comedy.  Oh and yes, I nearly forgot, there are gruesome, oddly familiar murders, dangerous occurrences and a mystery to solve.        

 I heartily recommend The Dante Club to middle-aged English and History majors and minors, but I think some avid mystery and detective fans will find the most engaging aspects of this novel to be a bit lame.  Sorry for them.        

 But the best was that Mathew Pearl brought Dante back to me on an appetising platter; I dusted off a yellowing paperback edition of The Inferno that last saw the light of day 35 years ago in a collegiate dorm room, and quickly discovered that the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation, is, for plain speaking Americans, the King James Bible of Dante translations.  You can find it free on the Project Gutenberg.  The University of Texas Austin has a rich, interactive, multimedia study guide with Dante-inspired art and recordings in Italian of significant passages, called Danteworlds.       

 In the 2nd circle of hell, Virgil and Dante are greeted by Minos, who judges all who enter and then winds his nasty tail around them a    

Minos in Hell

Michelangelo's Minos in the 2nd Circle of Hell


 certain  number of times to designate to which circle of hell they will be eternally confined.  Fearsome Minos snarls and growls,  and all the sinners line up eager to confess, even though it’s a bit late for that.  Why is that?  Why are they eager?   You’d think that after a  life-long practice of denial, justification and rationalisation all the sinners would be in an habitual groove.  I suppose it’s because Minos scares the hell out of them.  Check out the snake’s meal.     Dante too almost gets judged, but Virgil sets things straight and the pair find themselves in the storm-tossed torture chamber of the Lustful:        

I came into a place mute of all light,
  Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
  If by opposing winds ‘t is combated.        

The infernal hurricane that never rests
  Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
  Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.        

When they arrive before the precipice,
  There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
  There they blaspheme the puissance divine.        

I understood that unto such a torment
  The carnal malefactors were condemned,
  Who reason subjugate to appetite.          

The Lovers Whirlwind by William Blake; after speaking to Francesca and Paolo, Dante faints dead away


   The rushing slipstream of lovers eternally entwined and buffeted whip by, and Virgil points out Semiramis, Cleopatra, Helen, Achilles, Paris, Tristan,  and a thousand more “Whom Love had separated from our life“.   Dante is utterly gobsmacked, full of pity and completely bewildered that all the great lovers of myth and history are in hell.   What, love is not redemption?            

At this point  Dante notices a particularly heart-rending pair, Francesca and Paola, who stop by because Dante’s heart is soft with pity for them.     

 Paolo and Francesca were historical contemporaries of Dante.  By most accounts, Francesca is the victim of a manipulative and deceptive political marriage to Paolo’s brother Gianciotto, a capable general and heir, but hideously deformed, ugly, and some say, darn right mean.  Francesca and Gianciotto meet, but  Gianciotto has been swapped with his handsome brother Paolo, and it is love at first sight for the pair.  Francesca only learns of the ruse on the morning after the wedding, when she awakes to find the hideous Gianciotto by her side, whereupon she throws a fit.  So unfair.       

But here’s the kicker, when Dante enquiries about what got the party going, Francesca replies:        

 “One day we reading were for our delight
  Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
  Alone we were and without any fear.      

Full many a time our eyes together drew
  That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
  But one point only was it that o’ercame us.      

When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
  Being by such a noble lover kissed,
  This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,    

Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
  Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
  That day no farther did we read therein.” 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882): Paolo and Francesca, 1862. Watercolour on paper.

Reading about Lancelot makes them cave, and Dante and Virgil look on Francesca and Paolo in hell.

OMG! It’s that dangerous writing thing again.  It’s double jeopardy; he is both lover and writer, cause and effect:  Dante faints dead away.


A bit about the Longfellow translation:    

And a couple more recent efforts of the Dante-inspired: