Ladies and Gentlemen,
Isn’t it ironic that we are gathered at an event to discuss the upcoming elective conference of the ANC, and yet none of the ANC candidates are here? They were all meant to be here, but they seem to have had a change of heart.
To be honest, I’m not surprised Cyril Ramaphosa isn’t here. After his “new deal” speech the other day, it’s clear he’s come round to DA policy. It would be unfair to give us two speakers.
So here we are – opposition leaders, civil society and the media – all talking about the future of the ANC with no ANC in sight, apart from a couple of dissenting voices. Isn’t that just an accurate metaphor for the state of our nation?
If we want to draw another accurate comparison with our country we need only look to our north at the situation unfolding in Zimbabwe. The story of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is like the canary in the coal mine for Zuma’s ANC.
It’s an indicator that all liberation movements run their course. They fulfil their purpose of defeating unjust regimes, but then they invariably end up on the wrong side of history. Tempted by power and wealth, they become the very thing they fought against.
Decades after freedom was won they still define themselves as national liberation movements. And, as Dr Khulu Mbatha in his book Unmasked reminds us, this demands that there must be an enemy, be it race or colonialism.
The ANC is still seeking to define enemies everywhere. It never successfully transitioned from a liberation movement into a governing party.
Most people have figured out by now that Zanu-PF and the ANC bear a striking resemblance to each other, both in terms of their history and their attitude to power. Same Whatsapp group, as they say.
What’s playing out now in Zimbabwe is, in many ways, a blueprint for the ANC’s inevitable demise. And just as opposing factions within Zanu-PF are pretending to offer the country a fresh start after decades under Mugabe, we have a whole host of “fresh start” candidates jostling for position within the ANC.
Buoyed by a media that has bought into the myth that a liberation movement can and must save itself, these ANC candidates have all miraculously reinvented themselves as corruption-busting friends of the poor.
At a quick glance, they appear clean when held up alongside Jacob Zuma, but it is a trick of the eyes. An illusion.
Because, just as Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa spent three decades doing Robert Mugabe’s dirty work for him, all the candidates in the ANC race have long been complicit in keeping our country trapped in its current state.
In fact, one of these candidates is complicit in both South Africa and Zimbabwe’s failures. During her time as Foreign Minister in the early 2000’s, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma along with Thabo Mbeki helped condemn Zimbabwe to another 15 years of misery under Robert Mugabe.
Their criminal policy of “quiet diplomacy” was nothing less than outright support for Mugabe’s decades-long reign of terror. I hope the recent events in Zimbabwe have caused her to reflect honestly on her role in the country’s turmoil.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It doesn’t matter who gets elected at Nasrec in December – it will make no difference. The ANC is dead. Come 2019, we will have the opportunity to save our country and steer it in a new direction.
Ultimately, the change we need will not come from within the ANC. Our future, in this post-liberation era, lies in a post-ANC South Africa.
I know how hard it is for many South Africans to imagine life beyond the ANC. When a party has dominated the political landscape for so long, as they have done, it is extremely difficult to envisage life without them.
And here I’m not just talking about hard-core ANC loyalists. I’m talking about all South Africans, including the business community, civil society and the media. If you look at the dominant narrative in our media, it is clear that we are still largely trapped in the paradigm of the liberation movement.
But sooner or later we are going to have to step out of this paradigm. We are going to have to do what’s in the best interest of our country, even if that means making some tough decisions like turning your back on the party of your parents.
We are going to have to give our country a brand new beginning.
Change in this country has to mean more than simply replacing one elite with another, while the poor continue to exist in parallel world. Change has to mean more than a handful of quick-fixes in the run-up to elections.
If we’re talking about a new beginning, then it has to offer the people of this country – and particularly young South Africans – a future worth fighting for. A future in which they see opportunities and hope for themselves.
If we want to turn the tide for this lost generation of South African youth, we are going to have to look beyond populist ploys like promises of free Higher Education.
We are going to have to take complete ownership of our children’s development – from cradle to career. This is a huge task – much harder than cutting budgets to pay for free higher education – but it is the most important thing we can do for our country.
This means ensuring that every child has access to some form of early childhood development, and that every child’s nutritional needs are met in these early years. Currently almost 3 million young children don’t receive their daily nutritional needs.
It also means completely overhauling basic education so that our children leave school with something to offer the world.
We must attract and properly train talented and committed teachers, we must curb the unacceptable drop-out rate and we must ensure that parents have a say in where they send their children. We must embrace and enhance technology in education so that we can prepare a generation of youth for the fourth industrial revolution.
After school, there must be options for everyone. This won’t always be higher education, but for those who do qualify, a lack of funds should never prevent them from studying.
Between an expanded university funding model, the roll-out of open online courses and better access to TVET colleges, it is possible to dramatically increase study opportunities for young South Africans.
For those who don’t choose to study after school, a variety of apprenticeship programmes, a National Civilian Service year for on-the-job training and the rollout of National Job Centres will present options for everyone.
This is the scale of intervention that is required. Because if we don’t – if we simply paper over the cracks with stop-gap measures year after year – then we will lose an entire generation, and our country may never recover.
But this is just half the job. The other half is creating a demand for their new skills. We must rebuild a growing, modern economy that can absorb these young people into the workforce, and we must do so soon.
Talk of an expanding, inclusive economy cannot just be wishful thinking.
I believe it can be done. I believe our economy can be re-ignited to reach growth figures that will deliver meaningful jobs.
I believe we can make South Africa an appealing destination for investment – that we can announce to the world we are open for business once more.
But to do so will require wholesale changes to the way government approaches its responsibilities.
It will require of us to deconcentrate, demonopolise and deregulate our economy.
But more than this, it will require specific commitments to efficient, transparent and pro-poor governance – commitments that this ANC government has shown, over and over again, it is simply not prepared to make. And so it will fall to a new government to do so.
I believe South Africa will have every chance at making a full recovery if a new government applies the following four principles:
Firstly, we will need a capable state. The moment you sacrifice quality for loyalty, you have set yourself up for failure. Cadre deployment has crippled the state’s ability to deliver, but yet it remains a key part of the ANC’s policy.
It also enables massive looting of state resources. The Guptas would never have laid their hands on our wealth if they didn’t have insiders in government and on the boards of SOEs to open the doors for them. Cadre deployment is the first step in the state capture process.
The South Africa we need to build will require only the best, fit-for-purpose candidates in government. This will not only ensure the necessary expertise in running crucial departments, but it will also eliminate the scourge of patronage politics.
Secondly, we need a commitment to real fiscal responsibility. We all heard in Minister Gigaba’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement how far our tax collection missed its target.If we want to close this gap, we are going to have to make some hard decisions on spending. We cannot simply tax ourselves to wealth.
This includes trimming our bloated government by combining ministries and doing away with deputy ministers. I believe we can run government efficiently on 15 to 20 ministries. Again, this is something the current government can’t do because this is how they dispense patronage.
It also includes deconcentrating our State-Owned Enterprises. These companies are meant to benefit the public, but instead they are costing the public money. We cannot afford for our SOEs to drain our fiscus.
We are now seeing, at the Eskom Enquiry, how this board was captured and how decisions were made by connected and protected individuals in other state entities.
Thirdly, we need to commit to meaningful redress of our country’s unjust past. And by this I don’t mean the ANC’s version of Black Economic Empowerment, which is nothing but the enrichment of a small elite of connected cronies.
When we talk about B-BBEE, then the emphasis must be on the words “broad-based” – programmes that empower ordinary South Africans through shares and ownership.
It also means creating more black business owners and employers by making redress-specific start-up capital available – what I call a Jobs & Justice Fund.
Giving people title to the homes they live in will also go a long way towards securing their economic freedom.
And the fourth requirement in re-building South Africa through responsible governance is an absolute zero-tolerance for corruption. It goes without saying that this ANC government has fallen woefully short of the mark here.
All corruption, whether in government or in business, should carry a minimum jail sentence of 15 years. And this includes corruption by the President.
Of course, if you want to apply this principle consistently, you will need a prosecuting authority that is free from political influence. And so it is imperative that the appointment of the head of the NPA be constitutionally removed from the responsibilities of the president.
It will also require that our corruption busting unit, The Hawks, become independent once more, as was the case with the highly successful Scorpions.
There is much more we can, and must, do to turn our country around. But applying these four principles will provide us with a rock-steady foundation on which to build a stable country with a growing, inclusive economy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We don’t have to wait until 2019 to see the benefits of these principles applied in national government. For over a year now, new DA-led coalition governments in several metros have been delivering on this post-ANC future, just as DA governments had already been doing in Cape Town and the Western Cape.
And it is important to note that we have been doing so in partnership with a host of other parties. As we expected, these partnerships haven’t always been smooth and easy because they are constructed from the most diverse backgrounds imaginable.
But our new metro governments have shown us that it is possible to bring parties together and overcome differences by focusing on common goals. If the common goal is to improve the lives of poor citizens, then all ideological differences take a back seat.
These coalition governments aren’t just important for the people of the metros where they govern. They are also hugely important for every single South African because they offer a glimpse – a “proof of concept” – of how a future national government can work.
Coalitions help us build a new national identity where many strands can be drawn together.
They also make it possible for people to process the fact that the ANC is dead. Nationally, and certainly here in Gauteng, they only have another 18 months to govern. After this comes a new beginning.
But if we have this opportunity to hit the reset button, then we should do it properly. We should fix all the things that aren’t working for us. And one of these is our electoral system.
In its current format, we have no choice but to depend on a party to do its job. And if it doesn’t, we have no direct recourse.
Now is the ideal time for us to talk about a better way of electing public representatives. The introduction of a hybrid electoral system – part constituency and part proportional representation – will make MPs directly accountable to voters.
And I’d like to go one step further and propose that we consider the direct election of the president in order to put real power back in the hands of the people. If our chapter under Jacob Zuma has taught us one thing, it is that you can never have too much accountability.
These are the things we should be talking about if we want to give our country a new start. Not who replaces who in the ANC.
Whatever happens at Nasrec next month is immaterial. No new leader will change what the ANC has become. It will be business as usual – it will just be someone else’s turn to eat.
And judging by recent events at their provincial conferences, this hand-over of eating privileges is not likely to happen without violence and intimidation either.
So while our attention is focused on Zimbabwe and their palace coup, let us also reflect on how easily their military chose sides and became involved in this Zanu-PF faction fight.
Because this is the natural evolution of a party dominated by corruption and patronage. And given that, here at home, the Zuma faction of the ANC already controls not only the Hawks and the NPA, but also State Security, is it really too far-fetched to suggest that their interests may be defended with force?
We cannot afford for this to happen. What happens in December could set the tone for what happens in 2019. It is crucial that our transition to a new government takes place peacefully and within the protection of the law.
But that’s still 18 months away, and we cannot sit on our hands until then while the wrecking ball of Jacob Zuma’s state capture project crashes through our economy. Even if we are to remove the ANC in 2019, we must get rid of Jacob Zuma now.
It’s a pity the ANC president hopefuls aren’t here today. We need answers from them on what they plan to do with Jacob Zuma should they get elected, as well as a number of other critical questions.
Clearly they are all afraid to stick their heads above the parapet on tough issues, and so the entire country is left speculating about who might be their president next year. That’s not good enough. We need straight answers.
So, given the urgent crisis our country faces right now, I am calling on each of the candidates in the ANC leadership race to tell us whether they will commit to the following four things as soon as they have won:
- Immediately recall Jacob Zuma as President of the Republic of South Africa.
- Immediately institute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into state capture, as per the Public Protector’s remedial actions.
- Immediately announce steps to replace Shaun Abrahams with a new, independent National Director of Public Prosecutions.
- Immediately abandon the nuclear deal for good.
None of these things will save the ANC, but they will go a long way towards saving our country. South Africans have a right to know whether those vying for leadership of the ANC are willing to commit to these four important steps.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Initially I was sceptical about an event like this focused entirely on the elective conference of the ruling party. For me that’s a short conversation – there is no salvation for our country in the outcome of this December conference.
But if it gets us talking about the kind of South Africa we’d like to see – and the expectations we have from a government tasked with building this South Africa – then today could be very useful.
I believe we can do it. I believe we can pull our country back from the brink and reconstruct it the way we want it to be.
But the only way we will get there is if we can make mature decisions as a country – if our young democracy grows up, and our people discover the true power and possibility that lies in their vote. A vote for a better tomorrow, not a yesterday.