South Africa: Why do people vote for the ANC?

By IndepthAfrica
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Dec 11th, 2012
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Jeremy Gordin
Jeremy Gordin says electorate seems to be suffering from a case of battered wife syndrome

We’re standing – or, in my case at the moment, sitting – on the cusp of the Mangaung conference, due to run from 16-20 December. Indications are that ANC president Jacob G Zuma, also president of the republic, will emerge as president of the ANC for another five years.

I have written “due to run” because I don’t know what the ANC will do “about Mangaung” if Nelson Mandela dies in the next six or seven days. Maybe “they” won’t do anything at all, I don’t know. Of course it’s almost treasonable even to suggest that Mandela will die; but he will, I’m afraid – and, in his case, I think that it will be sooner rather than later; it seems clear that he has pneumonia …

Last week I asked why, if Zuma’s such an unmitigated loser, he looks likely to emerge as the winner at Mangaung. One of the points of my article was that, notwithstanding all the evidence presented so forcefully and carefully against him, the ANC faithful in the branches look set to return him to power.

The discerning reader will have realised that the main irony of this is that it’s almost incomprehensible, it beggars belief, that people (the ANC folk), having been presented with such clear evidence, could vote for Zuma…

… unless of course everyone in the ANC has been brainwashed or is a moron; or that the whole ANC has, as a group, been smoking Little Julie Malema’s socks or has fallen under the spell of a malign gay tokolosh, which amounts to pretty much the same thing and is what the readers of the Daily Sun would have us believe.

I then (last week) made some suggestions, and some others made some, about what might be the cause of the wilful blindness and deafness – nay, the actual antagonism – of ANC members to what seems to the rest of us to be pretty damn clear.

I have some further thoughts.

But I want to widen this inquiry away from Zuma, wide boy that he might be, into looking into just one other reason why the majority of Seffricans have voted – and are likely to continue voting – for the ANC, for at least another 10-15 years.

For notwithstanding all the evidence against the ANC, as presented by the media, the DA, the NPA, the chattering classes, and so on, Seffricans throughout this “wide and sad land” (NP Van Wyk Louw) will keep bringing the tripartite alliance back into power for the next decade and a half, if not longer.

We can call my inquiry the Gordin Commission of Inquiry into Why People Vote for the ANC.

Now then, let me ask you this. What do you know about battered wife syndrome?

Other than having been whacked a few times by my gorgeous wife, I myself don’t, or didn’t, know much. All I could recall about the subject was an interview of some years ago on BBC TV when the interviewer, a woman, put it to Kingsley Amis that as much as 33 percent of English women were beaten by their husbands; what did he think of that?

“Well, given the way women behave,” Amis replied, “I’m surprised the percentage is so low.”

Alright, stop that. … According to Wikipedia, the following: “Battered person syndrome is a physical and psychological condition that is the basis for the battered woman defence that has been used in cases of physically and psychologically abused women who have killed their abusers. The condition was first researched extensively by Lenore Walker, who used Martin Seligman’s learned helplessness theory to explain why abused women stayed in destructive relationships.”

And learned helplessness is defined as ”the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond even though there are opportunities for it to help itself by avoiding unpleasant circumstances or by gaining positive rewards. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation” [my emphasis, as the academics say].

Related to these is Stockholm syndrome or capture-bonding: “a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. …Battered-wife syndrome is an example of activating the capture-bonding psychological mechanism …

Now let me try to make translate these Wikipedia words into something a little more user-friendly.

Let’s say that “battered wife syndrome occurs when a man (it’s usually a man, whatever the PCs say) beats the bejeesus out of his spouse or partner, sometimes to the point of death, and the partner does nothing (as in leaving or calling the cops or cutting off his peanut, etc) because she is dependent on him.

“She has no security; she is terrified (understandably) about being cast off financially (especially if she has, say, little children) – and, moreover, as you will have gleaned from the po-faced definitions above - and this point is especially important to the Gordin Inquiry - she forms a perverse relationship with her tormentor in terms of which she, bizarrely, cannot cope without him. She might, in some sense, even like him …”

Well, I think – given the evidence (some of which we shall now examine) – that the behaviour of the ANC electorate relative to the Party (with a capital p) and those who head it, shows serious signs of battered person syndrome.

Why would I say that? Have I fallen under the spell of a malign gay tokolosh – and lost whatever was left of my tiny mind?

Consider the evidence; consider the number of areas – and I don’t have the space to offer a vast plethora of examples – consider the areas in which this government (the ANC) treats its people, the ones it worked for decades “to liberate”, consider the utter contempt and cruelty with which people are treated.

And yet the majority of the electorate goes on returning the ANC to power. Yes, I know that the poorest of the poor are reminded before elections just who is paying their social grants; and I know food vouchers are handed out just before elections as well. Still, is this attitude to the ruling party – voting for it notwithstanding the contempt and cruelty with which you are treated – not perverse? Is this not a species of battered person syndrome?

Housing. The government just doesn’t build enough houses. And yet it manages to find tons of money to put into nonsense such as Zuma’s ranch or Blade Nzimande’s 7-series – and that’s but two small examples of contempt for the masses. What is built is generally not equitably managed – people bribe their way onto lists, leaving the weakest and most vulnerable still in shacks (the practice is rife in Diepsloot). Because of fiddling and deals on tenders, many houses simply fall down and have to be re-built. Why vote for a government that can’t get its housing policy together, that keeps you in a shanty?

Health care. A disaster. If you’re too poor to afford private health care or a medical aid, you could be in deep trouble. Even at Chris Hani Baragwanath, there are some wards that- as someone I know who visits them has said – are “desperate, absolutely desperate”. Bills are unpaid, equipment is not working, most of the administrators have no idea of what they are doing, in some hospitals the electricity is not working at all; patients bring their own food and nappies for the paediatric ward …Aaron Motsoaledi might be grinding his teeth in anguish, but was this the dream? Is this how to take care of the people?

Courts/Legal system/Prisons. The system is slow and cumbersome and getting slower. Files are lost, filing rooms are mazes, toilets are unusable. The brother of someone I know was murdered two years ago by people whom the family have to see every day; the trial has still not happened; it’s not such an unusual matter. We have awaiting-trial prisoners – people who are “innocent” because they have not been proven guilty – who are sitting in filth and disease and violence in awaiting-trial prisons because the courts are behind or the cops are “still investigating”. There is nothing dignified about this. And many are not rapists and murderers (though some of course are); they stole food because they were hungry and clothes because they were cold. Somebody – I think it was actually Dostoevsky, not Mandela – said you judge a nation by its prisons. That being the case, we are going to get life imprisonment.

Security. It’s mostly black people in townships who get their goods stolen by the thugs. It’s mostly poor black girls and women who get raped. Richer people can afford security companies and burglar alarms and such-like. I often wonder how Nathi Mthethwa sleeps at night. Actually, he has body guards; I’m sure he sleeps just fine.

General Economics. All the jobs not created due to incompetence and diddling around – “should we have a youth subsidy? Should we not? but Zwelinzima and the fellows don’t want one, nyah, nyah” – all the lost and uncreated jobs equal hungry, angry, desperate people. When you screw the economy due to corruption, questionable tender systems and wholesale theft, you screw the people.

Education. The worst thing the previous regime did – I maintain – was what it did to people of colour in terms of education. But what’s going on now might even be worse; I don’t know how you measure it. All I know is that education is an unmitigated disaster. Angie Motshekga and her DG should have been hung by their toes from the top of Table Mountain. (It didn’t happen because Zuma needed the women’s league vote at Mangaung.) They have blighted hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives. It’s a sin. And no one seems to care.

No one seems to care about much any more, it seems to me. Surely this exhaustion, this cleaving to a knackered political party, this helplessness, this voting for the ANC notwithstanding its failures and venality – isn’t this suggestive of battered person syndrome?

Until next year – and let’s hope Madiba’s still with us then – and I wish you a merry Xmas and Hanukkah and a happy new year.

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