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By William Saunderson-Meyer

Journalist


Corporate money vs. political reality: Dissecting the failures of CSN

It’s emblematic of an enduring political naiveté on the part of South Africa’s business giants, who believe that any problem can be solved by simply throwing money at it.


There is one certainty about the 29 May general election. There is going to be a lot of blood on the political floor. With one-and-a-bit of a political party for every day of the year – 369 parties vying for 400 National Assembly seats – there are going to be a lot of dashed hopes. After the elections, that picture is unlikely to be different. The ANC will remain the biggest party even if it loses its absolute majority. The DA is likely to win the tussle with the EFF and retain the title of official opposition. Any change that…

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There is one certainty about the 29 May general election. There is going to be a lot of blood on the political floor.

With one-and-a-bit of a political party for every day of the year – 369 parties vying for 400 National Assembly seats – there are going to be a lot of dashed hopes.

After the elections, that picture is unlikely to be different. The ANC will remain the biggest party even if it loses its absolute majority.

The DA is likely to win the tussle with the EFF and retain the title of official opposition.

Any change that might take place in who forms the new government depends on the strength of the opposition coalition, the Multi-Party Charter (MPC).

The only other parties with disruptive potential, at this stage of the campaign, appear to be President Jacob Zuma’s stalking horse, the uMkhonto weSizwe party, and Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA.

ALSO READ: Does ex-banker Roger Jardine eye Cyril’s job?

The remainder bin of political hopefuls – the most touted of which are Songezo Zibi’s Rise Mzansi, Mmusi Maimane’s Build One SA (Bosa), and Roger Jardine’s Change Starts Now (CSN) – are, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant.

Individually, these parties will have a negligible effect on our post-election landscape. It’s only collectively, as part of the MPC, that they could make a difference.

Rise Mzansi and Bosa at least have the advantage of having about a year of laying the groundwork for this election. It’s Jardine’s CSN, in existence for less than three months, which is likely to turn out to be the dampest squib of the 2024 election.

It’s also emblematic of an enduring political naiveté on the part of many of South Africa’s corporate giants, who believe that any problem can be solved by simply throwing money at it.

There were promises of virtually unlimited funding from the captains of industry for a party that could “bridge the gap” between the ANC and the DA.

At the time of CSN’s lacklustre launch last year, the Sunday Times reported that R1 billion had been set aside by “powerful financial backers” to ensure Jardine became the presidential face of the MPC coalition.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa’s prospects dim as business backs Jardine

On the face of it, Jardine has the ideal background. A former ANC political activist who had a successful career in the private sector.

So, a great concept – bridge the gap – together with clever people and unlimited bucks. What could go wrong? So far, seemingly everything.

Most intangibly but encouragingly, there has been a public gut reaction against yet another group of wealthy business people thinking they can just buy the top jobs.

And the MPC has not shown any sign, so far, of appointing Jardine as its presidential candidate.

Perhaps if Jardine were a more compelling leader, such parochialism could be overcome.

But on the face of his performance in the public eye so far, if this is the best presidential candidate that money can buy, no wonder we’re so deep in the dwang.

ALSO READ: Mbalula barks, Jardine bites

That the CSN positions itself so close to the ANC is another problem.

I’m not convinced that the electorate is looking for what Jardine calls a “progressive opposition” that nowhere in its manifesto mentions institutionalised corruption, cadre deployment or economically crippling empowerment regulations.

All is not lost. There’s a little over three months for CSN to up its game.

But, as yet, there has been none of the anticipated high-profile defections from the ANC, nor has CSN been able to twitch the needle in the election surveys.

Add in meagrely attended campaign events, despite T-shirts and food parcels, and it’s not looking good.

Corporate SA may have bought a lemon.

ALSO READ: Big guns stand behind new party, Change Starts Now

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