‘South Africa needs regime change’
Futurist says country can do with ‘a political messiah’
Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism
South African politics needs “a redeemer, a messiah” who people can believe in. And presently, says socio-political analyst and futurist Bronwyn Williams, there is no such person or party for anyone to vote for in this year’s polls.
Williams said the political landscape in SA is a tapestry of stagnation and a national quest for real transformation, a strong sense of disillusionment, with a good old measure of hope.
After 30 years of democracy, SA’s mood halos the notion of regime change. This change may not come as soon as South Africans would like it to.
“Looking at recent elections, the Argentinian poll might be a bellwether for our own,” said Williams, adding that it represented a giant break in SA’s recent dominance of left-leaning politics.
“The outcome has been a massive swing towards much more libertarian politics.”
However, she suggested that SA might only see an exaggerated swing in the next political cycle.
“I’m not entirely convinced that things are bad enough in South Africa for us very patient South Africans to start thinking the unthinkable just yet,” she added.
Despite billions being lost to corruption, the sustained mismanagement of state-owned companies, service delivery declines and the dark Eskom ditch, change will remain sluggish at first.
Williams said South Africans were adept at navigating crises and are an immensely patient electorate. This characteristic might lead to a sense of complacency, resulting in the elections being “one version or another of business as usual”.
However, she suggested there remained a potential for future change, suggesting that the 2024 polls could be a precursor to a more significant political transformation, like Argentina’s experience.
The “messiah” concept, she said, is not just about a leader with grand promises but about one who embodies the collective hopes and aspirations of a people, especially during times of crisis.
“There is the need for a political saviour, someone who needs to emerge organically, who resonates with the population’s aspirations and needs.
“A ‘messiah’ is chosen by the people. It is not a role that you can claim for yourself,” she said, adding that while there are many leaders about, the absence of someone who genuinely connects with voters in an inspiring way is clear.
“The ‘messiah’ must transcend traditional political roles. Nobody is doing that.”
SA still has a chance for change though and it might eventually come from a coalition. But it might not be the moonshot pact parties in its current shape. Parties are being born weekly, further fragmenting the opposition landscape.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said Williams, who challenged the notion that larger parties propagate – that a vote for a small opposition party is a wasted vote.
“History changes based on individuals, leaders making new choices, leading in fresh directions,” she said, adding that a saviour might just emerge from such a smaller organisation.
The wasted vote is a line favoured by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the largest party in the moonshot pact of opposition parties vying for votes, and an eventual coalition government after the expected mid-year polls.
Williams discounts the DA’s viability to take over the reins. “It’s not a party of charismatic leaders, which is something that there’s a South African appetite for.”
Its leadership does not comprise transformative figures who are “larger than life, which are actually people worth voting into office”, Williams noted.
“While the immediate future may not bring about radical changes, the underlying societal currents suggest a burgeoning appetite for significant transformation. This election could set the stage for a future political realignment catalysed by the emergence of a leader who can truly encapsulate the role of a political ‘messiah’.”
Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits