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Gayton McKenzie is not fit to govern

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    Nat Quinn
    Gayton McKenzie wants to be president, and he’ll say or do anything to make that happen, including trample all over the rights of the poorest among us.
    ‘It is grossly unfair when pensioners use only money [sic] to pay for electricity but people at squatter camps don’t pay, cut all electricity to all squatter camps or make them pay. Fair is fair. Let’s fix the country.’
    Thus tweeted the Patriotic Alliance (PA) leader, Gayton McKenzie, on Wednesday. Last year, he announced that he would ‘run for president’ in 2024. A year later, true to his promise, he resigned as mayor of the Central Karoo district, amid mixed reviews of his performance, to focus on his presidential campaign.
    It’s not an entirely outrageous idea. The PA doesn’t have to become a majority party, or anything. If Thapelo Amad can become mayor of Johannesburg, with a lot of help from McKenzie himself, there’s certainly a plausible if unlikely path to the presidency for Gayton.
    McKenzie, like many upstart politicians in South Africa (and a few veterans), tends to post every passing thought that crosses his mind on social media.
    Gone are the days when policy positions and public reactions were carefully crafted by professional political strategists and pitched to perfection. No, it’s tweet first, think later.
    Some basic empathy, or at least the appearance of it, would serve a wannabe president well.
    Ironically, the Legend of Gayton was originally established by appealing to his newfound empathy.
    ‘Jail rape melted the ice in brutal gangster’s heart,’ read the headline in the Sunday Times almost two decades ago. It wasn’t his own rape, but that of a 14-year-old inmate of the prison where McKenzie served seven years, who was bleeding after being raped by 18 other inmates.
    Two years after his 2003 release, McKenzie told the unnamed reporter: ‘At that very moment, I became sick of crime, sick of all the rapes and robberies. I wanted to change my life.’
    That was when he decided to expose shocking vice and corruption in the prison, and embarked on a motivational speaking campaign in schools to warn children about the hard realities of a life of crime.
    That empathy for the underdog, the victims, the broken and the bloodied, however, seems to have evaporated.
    McKenzie’s dismissal of people who live in shacks is pretty brutal. They are less the beneficiaries of largesse – free electricity – than they are the victims of a government that after 29 years of democracy has failed to uplift the poorest of the poor, has failed to set the economy free to grow and create enough jobs for all South Africans, and has failed to increase generation capacity to match the growth of the electricity network.
    These people don’t choose to live in shacks because shacks are cool, or shacks are comfortable, or shacks are all they want. They don’t refuse to pay for electricity because they’re secretly rolling in it but they’re just greedy.
    They live in shacks because of a system that keeps them poor and unemployed. They don’t pay because they cannot afford it, and because Eskom and municipal distribution networks are broken.
    They are just as much victims as the pensioners who – beyond their Free Basic Electricity allowance – spend their meagre incomes on electricity.
    When looking back at the ANC’s historic achievements, few things stand out. None in the last 15 years, but before that, there were a few successes the party could (and did) brag about.
    One of them was expanding the electricity network to cover the townships, squatter camps and rural areas that the racist former regime had sorely neglected.
    From fewer than a quarter of the rural population in 1994, the electricity rollout reached three-quarters of the rural population a decade later and peaked at 82% coverage in 2014. In 1994, about half the total population had access to electricity. Twenty years later, that figure stood near 90%.
    This was ‘a better life for all’, up in lights, and McKenzie looks at that and thinks, ‘Let’s destroy all that’.
    The problem was that growth in electricity generation capacity, which had risen tenfold to 40GW in the 30 years to 1990, came to a grinding halt in 1994. Another 30 years later, in 2020, total capacity was only 45GW, of which just over half actually worked.
    McKenzie can blame all the poor black people who were added to the grid and kick them back off it, or he can recognise that the real problem is the lack of new generation capacity and the lack of maintenance of the existing capacity.
    He can blame the government, or he can blame the people.
    Electrification saves millions of people from indoor air pollution that is far more deadly than the outdoor pollution from coal-fired power plants.
    Yet McKenzie chooses to blame the people. That isn’t very presidential at all.
    Bad taste
    It is, of course, not the first time McKenzie has left a bad taste in the mouth. His attitude towards immigrants speaks of economic ignorance, visceral hatred, a willingness to rile up angry mobs, or a combination of the above.
    ‘The illegal foreigners are not streaming into SA for our good weather, they are coming here because of the job market, business see them as cheap labour without having to deal with unions,’ he posted in 2021. ‘We need to prioritise South Africans and all illegal foreigners needs to go back.’
    have written before (repeatedly) about how ideologically blinkered and economically wrong-headed that argument is.
    It is true that it is extraordinarily costly and burdensome to hire South African labour, thanks to inflexible labour laws that grossly favour unions and make it impossible to fire as readily as one might hire.
    But that isn’t the fault of immigrants. The economy is not a zero-sum game. There is plenty evidence that immigration, legal or otherwise, is a net benefit to an economy, and creates new employment rather than ‘consuming’ existing jobs.
    Hard line
    He takes a really hard line on immigrants.
    ‘All children of illegal foreigners shouldn’t be allowed in our schools in South Africa, Home Affairs should visit all schools before we do, this is nonsense, we must now explain to South African parents why they children cannot be placed in schools, we warned you,’ posted the king of run-on sentences on Facebook in January.
    That earned him 5 000 likes, and a lecture from a human rights lawyer on the finer points of South African law, pointing out why McKenzie’s view was not only xenophobic, but misinformed and contrary to the law.
    He has said that he would personally switch of the oxygen machines of foreign patients in hospitals, to give preference to South African citizens, and defended his incitement to outright murder on television.
    Just yesterday, McKenzie called for the mass deportation of five million Zimbabweans.
    Not only is McKenzie wrong, his xenophobic utterances are dangerous. They whip up anger and resentment grounded in economic ignorance. They misdirect anger at other residents instead of directing them at failed government policies.
    They could very likely lead to mob violence against immigrants, both illegal and legal, and even against South Africans who don’t look or sound quite right.
    Good idea
    Occasionally, McKenzie gets it right, such as when the PA included an LGBTQIA+ League in its National Executive Committee and he told homophobes, transphobes, and pastors who condemn LGBTQIA+ people have no place in the PA.
    It is hard to tell whether this is out of principle, or just because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The PA website doesn’t contain a single word about what it stands for. It will form coalitions with anyone, as long as the deal gives PA candidates more power.
    At BizNews conference in early March, McKenzie set out some things he promised to do when he gains power, admitting from the outset that the audience wouldn’t like them.
    Bad ideas
    Here are just three of them: ‘Number one, I will bring God back into schools, and into South Africa, because God has been written out of our constitution,’ he said.
    South Africa is a liberal constitutional democracy, not a theocracy.
    If McKenzie wants to practice religion, or advocate for religion, he is entirely free to do so. He is not, however, entitled to force it upon innocent, susceptible children who aren’t old enough to make their own decisions, without explicit parental consent. Nor is he entitled to introduce religion into law.
    South Africa’s constitution guarantees religious freedom and does not allow imposing McKenzie’s particular brand of Christianity, or any other religion, upon everyone.
    ‘Number two, I’m going to make sure that every child over the age of 18 goes to the army. Whether you like it; whether you’re white; whether you’re black; whether you gay; whether you straight. You can throw the gun away, but you are going.’
    I’ve seen proposals for voluntary national service programmes of some description, and they make a lot of sense to teach youngsters skills and discipline that might stand them in good stead when they seek employment.
    Bringing back slaver… eh, sorry, conscription, is a step too far. South Africa is not at war and will not be at war in the foreseeable future. It does not face any significant external threats except some Chinese fishing boats.
    None of those are sufficient cause to raise an army, violate the free will of citizens, interfere with further education, and putting the lives of young people at risk. Besides, we cannot afford to sustain an army of conscripts.
    I’m all for firearm training, but this isn’t the way to do it.
    ‘Number three, I’m going to deport – mass deport – all illegal foreigners, and punish business people that still keep them for a day or two. Now you’re not clapping, I can see.’
    He seems to delight in making controversial announcements just for the sake of being otherwise. Once a gangster, always a gangster.
    ‘Wannabe dictator’
    He’s not always wrong – he wants to abolish racial classification, for example, which is a splendid idea – but when he is wrong, he is monstrously wrong.
    He has no empathy for poor people. He warns of anti-immigrant violence in the same breath that he stokes anti-immigrant sentiment. The man might be able to run a gang, but he has little idea how to run a country. He is a hothead, a menace, and on some issues, a monster. His first instinct when he sees a problem is to whip up violence or use force.
    BizNews called him a ‘wannabe dictator’. That’s exactly right. Gayton McKenzie is not fit to govern a liberal democracy.
    source:Gayton McKenzie is not fit to govern – Daily Friend
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