Deputy secretary general of the ANC, Jessie Duarte, has hit out at claims that the ruling party hands out free food parcels and t-shirts at events in order to buy votes.
In a post on the party’s website, Duarte criticizes an article published in a Sunday paper by Mcebisi Ndletyana, an associate professor of political science at the University of Johannesburg.
In the article Ndletyana said that the ANC uses state funds all the time during elections. “To some degree, buying voters shows the leverage they have over politicians.”
“Why vote buying is so wrong is that it is a cynical, downright opportunistic act. Soliciting votes through the provision of material gain denudes democracy of all its moral value. It is void of any emotive connection to the democratic system, which is what nourishes popular conviction in democracy.
“This is dangerous – it means people accede to a warped notion of “democracy” so long as their material needs are met,” Ndletyana said.
“Abuse of state resources for electoral gain warrants legal prosecution. One is not just dealing with mere misconduct here, but behaviours that have ominous implications for the future of our democratic republic. There is nothing scarier than a party believing it is the state.”
In he response Duarte said that the idea of the distribution of food parcels at events, be they government or party, being tantamount to ‘vote-buying’ is a deeply problematic assumption that should not go unchallenged.
“Ndletyana’s ‘theory’ appears on the face of things to tally with recent widely-publicized public utterances by the Public Protector herself, where she in fact infers that SASSA is being used as a tool by the governing party to ‘buy votes’.”
One such remark was reported in the Mail and Guardian, where the Public Protector said: “When a Minister is in an event as a Minister, not as a party representative, he or she cannot endorse a particular political party.”
According to Duarte, earlier this year she also reportedly told a UNISA Youth Research Conference: “I have a big concern about food parcels. They are not supposed to be given at a political rally because only people of a particular political persuasion will come.”
“If food parcels have to be given to alleviate poverty, they have to be given in an apolitical way, and not linked to any day of elections,” the public protector said.
Duarte said that thanks to the progressive, pro-poor policies of the ANC, prides itself on having one of the most comprehensive, all-encompassing social safety nets in the world.
Every year, through the South African State Social Security Agency (SASSA), the Department of Social Development delivers a wide basket of social services to millions of South Africans, without which many would be condemned to lives of destitution. Year upon year, SASSA provides social grants to children, the elderly, people living with HIV/Aids, and the disabled, Duarte said.
In 2015/15 the Department through SASSA supported “3 181 959 old age grant beneficiaries, 12 042 973 child support beneficiaries, 223 grants to war veterans, 1 112 767 people with disabilities, grants to 142 180 people requiring care dependency, 490 538 people with foster care grants, and 104 232 people with general grant-in-aid individuals, the ANC representative said.
“This support is given to all qualifying and needy South Africans, regardless of race, sexual identity, gender or religion.
“This assistance has never, nor will it ever in an ANC government, be dependent on the political affiliation of the qualifying beneficiary. Despite this fact, claims are regularly made, as does Ndletyana, that the ANC is buying votes with food/t-shirts.
“This is clearly an attempt to sow doubt in the minds of the public, by implying the ANC is providing food at its events at the state’s expense. To do so would be alarming if one considers that not a shred of evidence exists to support such a claim.”
Although it is necessary to unpack the assumption that government only hands out food parcels to supporters of a particular political party – what is far more problematic is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) suggestion that food parcels shouldn’t be handed out at all at political party events – even if they were privately donated.
“The public should be aware that unless state resources are involved, investigating what is or isn’t handed out at a party political event (or any private event for that matter) is not within the PP’s mandate.
“We live in a country where despite the many gains since democracy, a large percentage of our people continue to face lives of extreme poverty.
“It is not the ANC who is ‘reducing voting to the provision of material gains’. It is Ndletyana himself, who in suggesting that people only attend government or ANC events in hope of a food parcel or a free t-shirt, is insulting the voter,” Duarte said.
The full article can be found here