A call to the people

An initiative started on Facebook hopes to pull South Africans together in search of a new vision, writes Andile Mngxitama

The politicians have failed us. After 16 years of democracy, we see the great dream of Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko shattered. Our democracy is simply not working for the majority of its citizens.
It’s time to look for new solutions and new inspirations to lead our country out of the current political and economic impasse. We simply can no longer leave it to the politicians.

A decade and a half of democracy has left our country in two zones. The zone that works remains predominantly white and has been joined by a tiny, super-rich, politically connected black elite. In this zone the schools produce good results, the healthcare cures; this zone actually takes for granted basic needs such as clean water and electricity.

The majority zone is trapped in structural poverty. This is the zone of squatter camps, townships and villages. The schools, healthcare, housing and even basic needs such as water and electricity have to be constantly struggled for.

Ironically, this is the segment of society that democracy promised to serve. Yet democracy has only institutionalised its exclusion. Often the marginalised majority have to resort to protest action to raise their ignored voices. The government responds with rubber bullets, pepper sprays and jail. Occasionally protesters are killed. The bonds that tie leaders to the people are broken.

Our leaders have not only eaten off the fat of the land, they are now eating uhuru itself. Reports of ANC-aligned comrades distributing state assets to themselves continue to flourish in the media. Access to power has not served the community but the individual who wields it.

It’s an insult to the dream of liberation to which Tambo, Sobukwe and Biko gave so much to see our people still drink from the same rivers as animals. The politicians are not ashamed to build us toilets with no walls in a country that builds world-class stadiums for soccer.

In the countryside naked white racism continues unabated; farmworkers remain voting slaves. Landlessness remains a reality for the majority. Bafana Bafana may have been booted out of the World Cup early, but South Africa remains the world champion of inequality.

This need not be so. Our country is gifted with the highest deposits of mineral resources in the world. What we lack is the will to serve the people.

The ruling alliance has proved to be structurally incapable of addressing the needs of the majority. It has also shown that it is more than cap-able of serving its chosen constituency, which is old white capital and a small minority of politically connected black bourgeois.

The capacity to deliver was demonstrated admirably by the World Cup—there were no budgetary constraints or an amorphous planning commission and, in less than four years, the ANC government spent billions to host a party and gave to the world what it could not give to its constituency.

Yet the ANC is incapable of uprooting the legacy of apartheid. Instead it has emasculated the capacity for social delivery and instituted self-enrichment schemes called “tenders”. All of a sudden comrades who haven’t built a footpath in their lives land tenders to build roads and bridges.

Delivery has been surrendered to the tender vultures. This is how the ANC alliance seeks to “deracialise” the economy. They get rich, the people suffer.

Our country’s development indices remain appalling. We must wait for another 60 years for a mere 30% of the land to be distributed to blacks. We watch in disbelief as our mineral resources are parcelled out to friends and comrades. Social pathologies such as gender-based violence, xenophobia and generalised violence are a direct outcome of the depressed socioeconomic conditions of the majority.

The politicians, both in the ruling alliance and the opposition, seem to be in agreement on the fundamentals. The Democratic Alliance has perfected its role as a watchdog of the ANC, making sure it doesn’t stray from the status quo. Smaller parties, including the Congress of the People, provide no hope.

We need society to tower above politics right now. We need to find new paths for our nation. One of the initiatives now being contemplated is a “September National Imbizo” (SNI). This initiative was started on Facebook by ordinary South Africans who believe 16 years of bad development is enough.

The arrogance of power needs to be tempered by citizens’ power. The main objective of the SNI is to present our people with a discussion forum—a mechanism to claim back our country from politicians and self-enriching elites; we want a democracy that works for the majority. We need to ask what has gone wrong and how to fix it.

We need to ask the old basic questions again. What would it take to build a caring, happy nation? When we focus on the people and treat their needs with the seriousness they deserve and, most importantly, involve them, half of our problems will be solved. This is what the current crop of politicians can’t fathom.

People actually need very little to lead happy, secure and fulfilled lives. Nature has given our country amazing amounts of mineral resources. What we need to do is to make democracy real by democratising not only ownership but also the distribution of the profits on an equitable basis.

The ANC has proved itself totally incapable of taking care of our national assets, as exemplified in the perennial misuse of our parastatals. The DA has no desire to democratise the economy; it has its heart in the individualism of capitalism. Basically, we are on our own again.

The SNI is inspired by the examples of Tambo, Sobukwe and Biko. The SNI is a call of the people; it has no other agenda than to rescue ourselves from the current national crisis of leadership.

It is hoped that at the imbizo ­delegates will come with solutions, not dogmas, because we care more for our people than for political ­allegiances.

Andile Mngxitama is a member of the SNI coordination committee. Get information on the SNI on Facebook, or phone Zandi at 0738922636

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