OPINION | Joburgers, Politicians are Gaslighting us writes Mandy Wiener

The City of Joburg is without a mayor yet again and will be rudderless for at least the next week after Thapelo Amad resigned in anticipation of a vote of no confidence against him.

Since the tenure of Parks Tau, there has been no mayor in Joburg that has served a full term (keep in mind of course that one mayor died whilst in office).

But the shenanigans and gamesmanship involved in the coalition chaos in the City of Joburg and in Tshwane and Ekhuruleni, mean that there is constant flux.

Every party is at pains to tell the electorate how the instability is detrimental to the efficient running of the city and how residents are the ultimate victims of political expediency.

Caucus leaders and spokespeople regularly assert that their party is the one that is trying to resolve the situation in the best interests of citizens.

It is a farce.

These politicians are gaslighting us.

To gaslight someone is to manipulate them into questioning their perception of reality. It’s manipulating someone using psychological methods so that they doubt their own sanity or powers of reasoning.

We believe that our elected officials are in their positions to serve us as the electorate. We believe that they have our best interests at heart. That’s what they are telling us. It’s just not true.

They pretend as though they are not doing a terrible job. They downplay their own administrations’ mistakes. They try to cover up their own lies. They straight-up lie to change the reality of what is happening. They try to divert our attention. They accuse other parties of doing precisely what they are doing themselves. It’s hypocrisy. Narcissists are abusing us.

Writing in a research paper, Farah Latif, a communications expert from George Washington University, explained that, “Political gaslighting utilizes deceptive and manipulative use of information with the motivation to destabilize and disorient public opinion on political issues.”

Latif describes political gaslighting as a “strategy used to garner support for or against an ideology, viewpoint, or policy”.

So, when politicians attempt to create an alternate reality based on fiction, we should not believe them.

This week Ganief Hendricks, founder and leader of Al Jama-A, told my colleague Bongani Bingwa that it was ‘rubbish’ that Amad was not suited to be mayor and he was being used as a front. He insisted that Amad was a fantastic mayor and, in fact, he was the best mayor since 2016!

Now if ever there was an attempt to create an alternate narrative based on fiction this is it. You would have to be blind not to have seen that Amad was way out of his depth and floundering.

Coalitions require compromise and a genuine, authentic interest in placing the electorate and service delivery first. The immaturity and self-serving nature of our political parties have been demonstrated in how they have been unable to ensure stable governance and continuity in the city.

If this is truly going to be achieved, then political parties cannot place themselves first.

In its ongoing negotiations around its coalition in Joburg, Action SA, the IFP and the ACDP are accusing the Democratic Alliance of not acting in the interests of voters. The DA is insisting that it will not go into coalition with the Patriotic Alliance, which is very much the kingmaker in this situation. The PA has burnt the DA before, and the DA is not willing to compromise and take the risk.

The DA this week unilaterally announced that former mayor Dr Mpho Phalatse will be its candidate for mayor when the council sits next Tuesday. Action SA says it was not consulted about this decision.

Meanwhile, the DA believes it can get Phalatse back into office without the PA. The numbers tell a different story.

Once a new mayor is elected next week, what’s to stop yet another motion of no confidence being moved in that mayor? As we have seen in other Gauteng metros, there is a merry-go-round of administrations. This means budget votes don’t happen, policies get neglected and overhauled and nothing gets done.

This translates into potholed streets, water-shedding, failed infrastructure, rolling blackouts, broken traffic lights and generally deteriorating service delivery.

Dr Kagiso Pooe from the Wits School of Governance told me this week that what we are seeing doesn’t even qualify as coalitions. “It just seems to be horse-trading and people trying to flex their muscle going into 2024 and the unfortunate thing is you only have to go to the CBD and other parts of the city to see that it is the citizens that are getting the rough end of the stick here”.

Dr Pooe argues that the administration needs to be able to continue its work and do its job while politics plays out in the background. There must be consistency and continuity.

That is not happening. But the politicians keep gaslighting us and telling us they care about us when clearly all they care about is themselves.

By Mandy Wiener – The Host of Midday Report on 702

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