The ANC seem to have lost the ability to feel its citizens’ pain

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By: Howard Feldman, Synthesis

Today I learned that the “G-Wagon” is actually called a Gelande Wagen, and that if the urge is overwhelming, it can be rented for a mere R35 000 per day. I also learned that the African National Congress is even more out of touch than I had thought possible and that much like integrity, empathy is not a strong suite for senior members of the party.

It is hard to imagine a more tone-deaf example than a report in News24 that ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula had hit the campaign trail in an armoured Mercedes-AMG G63 owned by celebrity bodyguard and University of Fort Hare fraud and corruption accused Anwar “Dogg” Khan. He chose to do so, not in Inanda in Johannesburg, belonging to the country’s elite and employed, but rather in the Inanda of North Durban where some of the poorest and most disenfranchised live.

The black G-Wagon, apparently valued around R3 million, is considered the epitome of luxury. It is not difficult to imaginine how much of a proverbial sore thumb it stood out as, as it traversed the potholed roads of the area. What is more of a challenge, is to understand how the irony (and shame) didn’t strike him when he then tried to convince voters that the R350 per month basic income grant was something to be grateful for … and that it should be motivation enough to return the ANC to power.

Concerns of corruption and of links to Khan aside, it is worth considering why it didn’t seem to occur to Mbalula or any of his advisors that this flagrant show of wealth was not only cruel, but also in terrible taste. It takes the inability to “read the room” to the point of political dyslexia and illustrates just how little the party feels the pain of the disenfranchised. Worse is that they are doing this while asking for their support and vote.

If “chutzpah” required definition, this campaign visit would be the perfect fit.

It is well accepted that the members of the ANC do not walk among the people of the country. They seem to live by different rules, are held to a different standard and seem to have lost the ability to feel the pain of its citizens. Which is perhaps why they seem bling to the challenges of surviving each day in South Africa.

With years of corruption and little accountability, with unemployment, crime and infrastructure at an appalling level, and with the party on the brink of insolvency, the choices made by the secretary general of the party is jaw dropping. It underscores the disconnect and also brings to life the famous concern of Chris Hani:  “What I fear, is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benz’s and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and to gather riches.”

In reality, members of the ANC should not be allowed to have generators in their homes for when loadshedding hits, should not be allowed to send their children to private schools and should be forced to utilise public hospitals and healthcare. They should be precluded from having private security that insulates them against the rampant crime of the country. That they have the ability, at tax payer’s expense, to access all that the private sector provides, means that they have little incentive to solve the issues that plague real people in the country.

They should also not be allowed to take a Mercedes G-Wagon on a campaign jaunt and to extol the virtues of a R350 monthly grant.

As we edge closer to the elections, political campaigners from all of our political parties would do well to consider not only the words of Hani, but also George Orwell in his famous book Animal Farm: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”