A new season of possibility is being weighed down

It was Black Friday yesterday, the US retail abomination that follows Thanksgiving every year. In South Africa, there’s a lot of sound and light, very little bargains, even less discounts. And, the allure of e-commerce notwithstanding, it’s as big a super spreader event as Matric Rage on the South Coast.

This week was also the final instalment of the November 1 local government elections as the new councils began voting in their office bearers and metaphorically getting down to work. Al the negotiations to create new power blocs in hung metros were supposed to have heralded a time of principle and purpose; a New Dawn for South African politics – except in the end it was nothing of the sort.

The Democratic Alliance ended up nominally controlling Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and eThekwini, over and above Cape Town which it claimed outright. There were no coalition agreements though but a sudden coalition of the “anyone but the ANC”. For all the reams of newsprint and data in cyberspace expended by the commentariat in the run up to this week, this was one scenario that no one saw playing out. We’ve seen what happens though when the scorned, vexed and wounded coalesce against the ANC – Polokwane gave us Jacob Zuma and a kleptocracy whose fingers we are still trying to beat out of the treasury till.

This week was notable too for the protestations of the Mayor-manqué Herman Mashaba who kept publicly pledging he didn’t want Joburg’s chains of office, while his demands to the contrary were apparently the sticking point in forming a workable, non-EFF coalition government in the City of Gold. In the end, the Commander-in-Thief, turned out to be the kingmaker he always claimed he would be, by forcing the DA take power in spite of itself, its policies or anything else, including the voters.

Was this an act of political altruism; putting South Africa first, fixing the dysfunction of the bankrupt municipalities and most importantly breaking the stranglehold of the once omnipotent ANC ahead of the increasingly important general elections in 2023? Or was this an instalment of Survivor SA without the option of Immunity Island? If so, this was pure opportunism; another ticket for the gravy train – and a snotklap to the ANC to toe the line

We won’t have long to wait to find out which; given the nature of South African politics, we could well have a brand-new set of, suitably chastened, ANC mayors installed by next month. 

Maybe though this is the new beginning; the rising star in the East that the sages foretold. We are on the cusp of the Season of Goodwill after all. The reality though, as the old joke about the East Rand reminds us, you’ll have your work cut out trying to find three wise men and a virgin, even if the DA does run Ekurhuleni for the moment. 

In the end, it’s more of Black Friday than anything else; dollops of debt for the ratepayers, crippling buyers’ remorse for the politicians and stuff you never wanted – and couldn’t use even if you did – for all of us.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 26 November 2021.