There was something unique about the newly-formed Capitalist Party of South Africa (ZACP) that grabbed my attention as soon as I listened to Kanthan Pillay and Roman Cabanac talk on the Renegade Report. This is something I believe has the potential to be a force for good in South African politics.
The ZACP has a set core principles around which they are focused. From this, even if opinions over policy implementation may differ, the principles remain the bedrock of the party. This is hugely important in South Africa’s system of proportional representation. When one casts one’s vote, one is not voting for an individual as in the America or British systems, but rather they vote for a political party which has a list of people to potentially elect as MPs.
Suppose I were to vote for the Democratic Alliance.
Firstly, I believe there are stellar individuals on the DA’s list whom I would eagerly like to see be elected or re-elected to the National Assembly. The problem is that I have no choice but to also vote for all the strings attached to the DA in the form of MPs who are intent on pushing policies that harm this country. I wish I could definitively say that DA is a party that does away with racial politics. I wish I could definitively say that the DA is a party that will protect property rights.
I know that there are individuals within the DA caucus who have a clear standing on those issues, but the problem is that by the time the actual policy reaches the top of the Democratic Alliance’s pecking order, it has swirled into a mush of half-meaningless slogans designed to be palatable enough for the lowest common denominator of South African voter. In short, on a national level, I don’t know what I’m voting for. Am I voting for the democratic socialist pushing critical race theory or the classical liberal who wants to liberate South Africa from an oppressive government? It can’t be both, and it would do the DA well to make up its mind. If I have to vote for both of them, I might as well be voting for the one I like the least.
This kind of ambiguity is part of what has lead South African politics to a very harmful style of hyper-partisanship with party leaders developing a sort of palatable cult of personality. This is dead easy to spot in the ANC and the EFF. The ANC went almost two terms with Jacob Zuma at the helm and supported him through thick and thin. Zuma certainly did have his detractors in the party, but they generally tended to leave starting with the formation of COPE which came in the wake of Thabo Mbeki’s recall from the presidency.
Zuma trudged through his presidency marred by scandal after scandal all with the support of his party. It was only right at the end that he had hurt the ANC so much that party decided that it would be better for him go. With the EFF, it’s much simpler: the party has had an enormous rate of turnover since its inception. It is run like a fascistic cult in which anyone who questions the Dear Leader CIC Julius Sello Malema is deemed subversive and must be neutralised.
With this in mind, ask yourself two questions:
1. How many DA members do you know that have serious disagreements with Mmusi Maimane?
2. How many DA members do you know of that have openly criticised Mmusi Maimane?
To my knowledge, there aren’t any, but I’d be overjoyed if I am incorrect.
Returning to the Capitalist Party, here are some things for which I hope:
Be the party of principle
Thus far, the ZACP has shown that have a bedrock of principles upon which they build their policies, for example, the idea to change times of school classes (an idea which I personally really like). More importantly, ensure that when voters vote for you, they know what ideas they are voting for. This must be unambiguous and unashamed. For this reason, I like the fact that they have chosen to include “Capitalist” in the party name. It is an unashamed declaration of principle, something of which other parties have very little. This is a principle I can vote for.
Do not become prone to partisanship
Recently, Roman Cabanac drew a little ire after he suggested that he would vote DA provincially and ZACP nationally (the ZACP is not in the provincial ballot this year), but this struck me as be refreshingly honest. How many South African politicians do you know of that would willingly advocate voting for a party other than their own? Roman was not without reason here, the DA undoubtedly has a sound track record in the places where they govern – recently the best evidence for this is the Western Cape ANC’s bizarre election campaigning based purely on racial politics, just embarrassing stuff.
In their interview on the Renegade Report, Roman and Kanthan Pillay explain how the party currently doesn’t have the same spiderweb of structures that others have, but rather have ten founding members with Pillay having largely taken on the role of leader, at least in terms of representing the party in media.
I hope that the ZACP will be the first party in South Africa to be free of this bizarre hierarchy that our three largest parties have found themselves in. I think it would be great is the moniker of the ZACP rather meant a loose collection of individuals willing to getting good policies put in place with the commonality being the party’s 10 principles. This would mean that a vote for the ZACP would be a vote for its principles and the individuals it send to parliament would be people who believe in those principles and had good ideas of how to enact them.
Let this be the first party which does not view politics as a career
The ZACP have already expressed their view on this and I agree fully. It is a bizarre set of circumstances in which Julius Malema’s salary is funded by my tax money. It is even more bizarre to think that there are people who see the career of politician as being akin to a lawyer or a doctor, i.e. a lifelong career in which one contributes to society. The problem is that as opposed to lawyers or doctors – or even a coffee shop barista or a street sweeper – politicians do not bring anything of value to society, in fact, they usually do the opposite as a result of their legislation. The salary paid to politicians should be paid on the understanding that the individual is using their valuable time to government a country rather than take up a job elsewhere. The idea that there should be a monetary incentive to become a politician is almost the definition of corruption. Public service should be a service, not a means of getting rich. It is profoundly immoral to become rich off other peoples’ money. If this was the private sector, it would be called ‘theft.’
I like the fact that the ZACP is made up of professionals from a variety of backgrounds. It means that they have a very diverse set of skills when it comes to understanding the real-world impacts of legislation. I hope that this will be South Africa’s model for future. ‘Politican’ should not be one’s profession. Rather, it should be a temporary service after which one may return to their profession.
This is not a radical idea either. In the United States, most senators had a career in the private sector prior to being elected. One of my personal favourite politicians, Rand Paul, is a physician who still performs eye surgeries when Congress is in recess. His father, former representative Ron Paul, specialised in obstetrics.
I sincerely support the idea that public service is indeed a service and not means of gaining wealth. Perhaps it’s time for term limits in our parliament?
The Capitalist Party of South Africa is very new, but I truly think that they represent a model for the future. They have a foundation of strong principles which I know I can support. I wish them the best of luck in this year’s election.