Messiahs and manifestos: Which do you trust?

South Africa - Pretoria - 17 February 2024. The Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuizen delivers a speech during the party's manifesto launch at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

South Africa - Pretoria - 17 February 2024. The Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuizen delivers a speech during the party's manifesto launch at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 24, 2024


Since the dawn of time, there have been many messiahs with manifestos to convince the multitudes of their message to save the world.

From Jesus to Hasan Mezarcı and Shoko Asahara, all have claimed to have some messianic calling to save the world.

One centred his message on love and forgiveness and ended up being killed by the multitudes.

In the election season, being messianic is quite easy. Building any salvific message off the catastrophic failures of the ANC government is quite easy to do. From promises to create jobs and end load shedding, to plans to sell off state-owned enterprises to the private sector, or astronomically increasing social grants, salvific promises are being dished out like free drinks after a Springbok Rugby World Cup win.

Messiahs and manifestos are just that: promises.

Here’s my rule of thumb for messiahs: the greater the crowd, the greater the bus rental budget was, and the more unrealistic the manifesto will be.

Let’s face the ugly truth: South Africans are tired of promises. Especially election promises. Whether it’s seven or ten promises, they have very little impact on the person listening.

The crowds who listened to Jesus turned on him. The crowds who listened to Hitler paid for it with their lives. The people who followed David Koresh killed themselves or were killed.

I think you get the point. The promises of politicians and religious leaders are to be treated with the utmost suspicion. Because politics is about power before it is about helping people. That power becomes a drug once in office.The South African voters’ crossroads question is not who they can trust to fulfil their promises. It’s who can they trust with power. Look beyond the messiah and the manifestos and look at who can be trusted with power.

The ANC has failed to break up with its corrupt family, choosing comrades over country.

The DA has allowed the Nationalists to feel like 2024 is their 1948, while flirting with cultural appropriation.

The Freedom Front has gone even further by becoming a proxy for the exit and independence crowd.

The EFF has made promises to the crowds that even the combined wealth of the Oppenheimers and Ruperts will find difficult to fund.

Never has an election become so desperate an event to win. Smelling defeat from the putrid rubbish dumps that used to be streets across the country, the ANC is stumbling around like an arrhythmic contestant in a Come Dance With Me competition.

Its opponents are on oxygen drips to not miss a moment to cash in on the ANC’s feeble attempts at redeeming itself. At the centre of all this are the multitudes. It is said of one ancient messiah that “when he saw multitudes, he had compassion on them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd”.

The South African multitudes are an abused lot, treated as voting fodder during elections and ignored for the remaining four and a half years.

As one 62-year-old woman from Barrydale told me in 2021: “They only want our votes, but not our voices.”

As we see political slogans and titles to manifestos, I see the warning signs of obsession with power and promises, and the absence of a caring people-centredness.

The 2024 election is a massive red light to all political parties. The people will no longer be ignored, nor be promised things that are not delivered, and nor will they be patient.

Do what you are promising, now. The announcement by Western Cape MEC for Mobility about securing 180 000 free seats on Golden Arrow buses for youth jobseekers is a great “now” action. The people are tired. They want safety and work. They don’t want the Apartheid Nationalists of 1948, the corrupt cadres of 1994 or the exciters of 2024. They want a decent and prosperous life in the country they love, now.

* Lorenzo A. Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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