Centralised party politics are a dream away from the realities driving communities out of the mainstream and into grassroots activism.
That is the message from civil society activists who have seen the growth of community-driven change emerging from a nation increasingly fed up with theatrics and failures of political powers.
Community leadership appears to be the new frontier for social change.
Political despondency has set the stage for organisations such as AfriForum to wield enough power within remote communities to rival run-of-the-mill political campaigns.
Its leaders, like many politicians, may be involved in some of the more corrosive and racially charged discourse on social media but on the ground, communities appear to buy into the group’s community-driven ideology.
Why is this working?
For AfriForum’s chief executive Kallie Kriel, identity politics is key to creating meaningful unity and so the organisation doesn’t shy away from it, but embraces it.
AfriForum’s relationship with the traditional Zulu communities in KwaZulu-Natal is based on this understanding.
The shared values of nationalism, cultural pride and close-knit community have created these unlikely bedfellows.
Activists are seeing the devaluing of mainstream political power, which was understandable, says ANC Ekurhuleni youth leader Kolobe Mamabolo.
“Looking at the voter turnout during elections, its embarrassing. It’s low because citizens look at political parties as self-serving machines,” he says.
“The ANC is seen as an old liberation party that is no longer keeping its promises to the people, including free education.
“The Democratic Alliance (DA) is led and dominated by white people. One thinks if they get power, they might serve whites only.
“And [Economic Freedom Fighters leader] Julius Malema has been in and out of court, either be it allegations of corruption, racism or inciting violence.
“That’s why citizens just think it’s better not to vote.”
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