home Featured, Politics Reflections on President Zuma and Rural South Africa post-1994

Reflections on President Zuma and Rural South Africa post-1994

By Ayanda Tshazi

In these rural parts of KwaZulu Natal (KZN), in the Midlands, the African National Congress (ANC) should rightfully not have uvalo for the 2019 national elections. The rural people here and in many parts of KZN have seen service delivery change their material lives for the better.

My grandfather in the South Coast once said of the thought of voting opposition parties, “ngoze ngife ngivotela ukhongolose… wake wabonaphi umfazi ongakaze asebenze ehola impesheni?” (I will dies voting for the ANC… where have you ever seen a woman who has never worked and only receives pensions?) My grandmother has never worked outside the family home – a fact that would have precluded her from a government pension in the past. Rural families who benefit from the Old Age pension and child grants introduced by the ANC government know where their bread is buttered and will continue to express their approval at the polls.

A special feature of the homesteads is the inter-generational character of its households. The old people remember what life was like in the olden days, and they are able to teach the younger generations the truth about the past, unlike in urban areas where the narrative is dominated by liberal and constitutional perspectives.

Rural citizens are far less likely to feel offended by Nkandla because, “Zuma is government. If he can build us houses he sure can build himself whatever he wants” – as went one argument in my family. I attempted a feeble, “but it’s our money,” which was quickly silenced by, “I would give him money from my own pocket…” because for pensioners, the money in their wallet was put there by government in the first place.

In my mother’s neighborhood in the Midlands, every qualifying household is in line to benefit from state housing. And the qualifier? No one in the household must be employed by the government. Your housing need is already assumed by virtue of being a rural citizen.

Now imagine if the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) worked the same way – because that’s how many things around here work.

Community and healthcare workers, visit EVERY household here. Healthcare services are provided for free to all citizens. On a 24 hour basis. The service is not perfect – especially in the late night/early morning hours – but it’s there for everyone to use.

Speaking of healthcare, the homestead population hasn’t forgotten that it was Nxamalala who rolled out antiretroviral treatment (ARV’s). We will never forget this because we were the most affected. We are the ones whose families were halved and obliterated by the scourge, while former president, Thabo Mbeki said he didn’t know anyone with HIV/AIDS.

Maybe this explains the disdain many have for “intellectuals and clever blacks” since then.

Opposition parties and rational people in urban areas have been mortified by President Zuma’s seeming disregard for the constitution. The court ruling on the Public Protector’s Nkandla report has given opposition parties grounds to disregard the legitimacy of Zuma’s presidency. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) especially, miss no opportunity to declare that they no longer recognize him as president.

The way this is done unfortunately (or fortunately for the ANC) is regarded with grave disapproval and disgust from rural citizens who may not have a deep appreciation for the constitution, but have high regard for values such as respect for elders and due recognition for those in authority. Young people must conduct themselves with restraint generally but especially in places such as parliament. What the EFF is doing is earning them a lot of shame and embarrassment, if not anger, from the rural population. Even the few that voted for the EFF are likely to punish it for its conduct at the polls. And since the Democratic Alliance (DA) is not an option, guess who will benefit from those angry voters?

How the wheel keeps turning.

Rural perspectives may not at all feature in the so-called “national dialogue”. Rural narratives may be completely absent in the media at large. But, political parties ignore rural sentiments at their peril, because a quick look at our demographics shows that rural Black people are at the majority, BY FAR.

If rural votes gave Maskandi Mroza, song of the year, they most probably will give the ANC yet another term in government. And if they could they would probably not mind giving President Zuma a third term.

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