Dr Makhosi Khoza, former Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, delivered the 11th Annual Helen Joseph lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Read the full speech below.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof. Ihron Rensburg;
The Vice-Chancellor Designate, Prof. Tshilidza Marwala;
The Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof Alex Broadbent; and
The Director of the CSDA at UJ, Prof Leila Patel
The University of Johannesburg Family
Friends, patriots and compatriots. Thank you very much for affording us the honour to participate in the memorial lecture on Helen Joseph, an outstanding change advocate, an internationalist and an exceptional leader in all respects of international standard. I find a number of parallels between the lives of Helen Joseph and Che Guevara, the latter of which had this to say: “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”
Conscience vs Consciousness
Helen Joseph epitomises the highest form of human consciousness. She is a living testimony of what Martin Luther King Jr declared, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I say this as Helen Joseph was born in England into a life of privilege; she completed her degree in English at the University of London in 1927 and in 1930 married dentist Dr. Billie Joseph. It would have been all too easy for somebody of her ‘skin pigmentation and place of origin’, to have enjoyed all the privileges that came with being ‘white’ in colonial and apartheid South Africa, as so many did.
Instead, this compassionate woman with this highest form of awareness of the human spirit opted for a life dedicated to freeing those that were oppressed. A life, consequently, of persecution. Helen Joseph believed in justice for all human beings, but particularly for black African women. Her extraordinary pursuit of justice led to her being arrested on a charge of high treason in December 1956, being banned in 1957, “becoming the first person to be placed under house arrest in 1962, surviving several assassination attempts, including bullets shot through her bedroom window late at night and a bomb wired to her front gate.”
As we sit here today celebrating the best high purpose-filled life of Helen Joseph, we would be remiss to not remember the many other phenomenal women and men of virtue, such as Ruth First, Victoria Mxenge, Jabu Ndlovu, Dulcie September, who did not survive to experience the greatest moment of South Africa, the 27 April 1994.
The precondition for the highest level of human consciousness, in my opinion, is moral conscience. One’s consciousness is therefore a reflection of one’s moral conscience. Helen Joseph would not associate with any organization that divorces moral conscience from its political consciousness. The only reason she fought the apartheid system is because, it represented an unjust form of consciousness which was at odds with her moral conscience. Her moral conscience passed a verdict on apartheid. It said, “apartheid was a wrong, unjust and unfair system.” Today, the organization she once associated with tells its Members of Parliament that they must not vote according to their moral conscience. The organization she once believed in now puts the life of an individual above that of a collective, the people. Today, the organization that she believed in persecutes truth in the name of organizational discipline.
What is the difference between conscience and consciousness? Are these two not inextricably linked? They are the chopstix of morality; inseparable, interdependent, interrelated, interconnected.
Consciousness can be defined simply as the state of awareness, be it self-awareness, social awareness, political awareness, economic awareness, physiological or spiritual awareness. “It is the function of the human mind that receives and processes information, crystallises it, stores or rejects it with the help of the five senses (taste, sight, touch, smell, sound), reasoning ability, imagination and emotion and/or memory. (Vithoulkas G. and Muresanu DF, Journal of Medicine and Life, 2014 March 15: (104-108) page 2). Therefore, political consciousness denotes awareness of how the physical world operates, be it economically, power relations, processes of interactions etc.
Conscience, however, takes political consciousness to the next level where man is called upon to make a value judgment between what is wrong and right, good or bad, righteous or evil, normal or abnormal, just or unjust, fair or unfair.
The disconnect between conscience and consciousness
Ideally, I would like to focus on the South African future without making a mention of the ANC. However, it is impossible to do so.
Political consciousness in the absence of moral conscience results in a troubled politician. President J.G. Zuma and most of his ANC NEC leadership may have political consciousness but have no moral conscience. President Mandela, on the other hand, possessed both in abundance.
On the 8th August 2017 ANC MPs, myself included, were told to divorce ourselves from moral conscience. These orders did not just come from President Zuma, but also from the ANC collective leadership. It is therefore clearly the responsibility of the ANC as a brand to own up to these directives which placed the moral character of the movement into disrepute; and more importantly plunged the country into crisis. Just as KPMG is now suffering the consequences for their amoral, immoral, unprofessional and unethical conduct, the ANC as a brand must also face the consequences for their actions.
Unashamedly, the ANC collective leadership elevated political consciousness above moral conscience. Unbelievably, the ANC collective leadership erased moral conscience from equation of its decision-making processes on critical societal matters. Simply put, the ANC collective leadership officially totally removed the sense of wrong and right in matters that pertain to the governance of the Republic. Those Members of Parliament who sought to be truthful and followed their moral conscience were persecuted. In response South Africans should exercise their right by voting them out of power. The ANC is not a religion. It is not a product of calling, it is a political organization whose relevance is determined by the quality of service and moral posture in society. As a constitutional democracy we must teach the ANC a lesson by voting them out of power.
Why should South Africa be surprised when corruption and patronage politics are the order of the day in all government departments at every level? The institutionalization of corruption is an unwritten policy of the new alien and corrupt ANC.
It therefore stands to reason that the current political leadership crisis engulfing our country emanates from this disconnect between political consciousness and moral conscience. Given the fact that, our country is going through the worst moral leadership crisis since the advent of democracy in 1994, it is thus important that we reconnect, realign, integrate and fuse together political consciousness and moral conscience. Unfortunately, the country cannot rebuild itself under the ANC rule.
Unfortunately, the country finds itself entangled in the web of the ANC’s internal factional battles and failure to deal decisively with corruption and the institutionalization of a system of patronage politics. The ANC deleted moral conscience from its soul and replaced it with patronage politics and corruption. We therefore have a ruling party that has political consciousness but no moral soul.
The ANC as a ruling party now finds itself in its worst leadership crisis since its inception in 1912. In hindsight, I realize that the ANC disintegration was bound to happen due the fact that its evolution in time began to assume a family lineage character. The latter opens the ANC to the risk of nepotism that would snowball this system of patronage politics until it explodes taking the country with it. Divorcing the ANC from the family legacy and battle for inheritance is almost an impossible undertaking. We are speaking from experience. Moral and ethical objectivity, rationality and reasonability could never co-exist in the face of institutionalized corruption and patronage politics. Rooting out corruption in such a complex organizational structure and tradition will not happen. There is no leader at the ANC December elective conference that would emerge without signing a pact with the Devil.
When a society is led by an organization whose leaders unashamedly defend looting, corruption and break down critical institutions to support democracy and engines of growth such as office of the Public Protector, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Eskom,national treasury, South African Revenue Service (Sars), we should know we are in a serious leadership crisis. The morality of a society is decaying. We are in trouble. For example, Faith Muthambi, the Minister of Public Service and Administration sees nothing wrong with employing and flying her relatives and friends. Now, this is a Minister responsible for setting high standards of professional ethics in all the spheres of government (national, provincial and local government), state-owned enterprises (SOEs). When we say corruption has been institutionalized by the ruling party, this is exactly what we mean. It is normal in the today’s ANC to help yourself to the public purse.
The road to democracy
Fellow South Africans, our road to democracy was bumpy and torturous, yet when we finally arrived at our future destination in 1994, we felt a sense of relief, excitement, jubilation and satisfaction that the struggle against white supremacy and apartheid was not in vain.
Sadly, just over 20 years after the 1994 exhilaration, the nation is disintegrating before our eyes. Our nation seems to be taking the last spot where it is meant to take the first spot and first spot where it is supposed to be taking the last spot.
For example, South Africa ranks amongst the highest in terms of violence, be it farm killings, be it murder and rape of women, be it crime. We are also racing to assume the top spot in corruption, outpacing our rivals dominantly. Yet, when it comes to mathematics and science we are number 139 out of 139 in the world. No nation ever prospered when its position is last in mathematics and science. Neither even under apartheid did we have 50 schools burnt down in one area, and that is Vuwani in 2016. Where was the South African intelligence? Probably busy chasing after some ANC faction. Where is the political leadership in all this? This begs a question, why have we not heard of an MEC for education or responsible Minister being fired for the burning down of schools or for the Marikana Massacre?
Violence against women is at its worst. Human life has become so cheap in our society. We never thought that we could have a repeat of the Sharpeville massacre or June 16, 1976 tragedy in the form of Marikana 2012 tragedy, where more than 34 South Africans were killed. The Marikana tragedy is still not over, it is 2017 and people continue to be killed in the mining community. Our political leaders do not take the responsibility. Instead, the Police Commissioner Piyega was our fall woman. Why did the Minister of Police not get fired for the Marikana Massacre? In contradiction, he was reshuffled. There was then no consequence. Yet, some fictitious intelligence report is enough to fire Minister of Finance and his deputy. I do not remember such happenings in the post-apartheid era, where the Minister of Finance as well as his Deputy Minister and the DG of National Treasury all leaving the institution in one year. To top it off, we then have the Public Protector going for the Reserve Bank when the country’s economy is battling.
When it comes to the quality political leadership index, I suspect we would make it into the Genius Book of records for protecting and giving the second term to the most disgraceful President the world has ever had. We gave the world President Nelson Mandela, when the world cheered us, we were angry and gave them President Jacob Zuma. What a contradiction?
By beginning to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the key embodiments of what constitutes the leadership qualities of Helen Joseph’s stature, caliber and moral stamina, we believe this would contribute in elevating the critical importance of moral and ethical leadership in building a prosperous and united society.
We are also hailed as having the best Constitution in the world, but its disregard by the ruling party diminishes its worth. We are therefore number 1 in terms of a country that did not like being famous for the right thing.
We have a President that remains in office despite violating the Constitution, our supreme law of the land. He has violated every rule of his own ANC constitution. Truth be told, can we only blame him for this or should we blame the ANC that shields him? Why should we give the ANC another chance in 2019 when it has disregarded our will as the people of South Africa?
The state capture where the Gupta family controls state affairs. The landing of this Gupta family in one of our national key security point. No politician fell for this scandal instead some Bruce Kolwane became our fall guy. Why should our youth and women entrust the ANC with the responsibility to govern in 2019?
The power of the voter
A voter is a very powerful person in a democratic and constitutional dispensation. A vote gets to hire and fire political parties. A vote is the most powerful instrument in the hand of a citizen. Therefore, the voter must not just complain about corruption, nepotism, arrogant leadership, poor service delivery, high unemployment rates, crime, violence, poor quality of education, low economic growth etc., the voter must exercise this right wisely. For example, in each election the ANC promises to deal with corruption, crime and high unemployment rate, yet in each election especially the national and provincial elections we vote them back. A voter can correct the anomaly in society through a ballot. The moment for a voter to shine comes once after 5 years, please exercise it wisely.
Despite the many challenges we have in our country, the South African voter now understands the value of their vote. The 2016 local government elections saw real democracy at work when traditional ANC voters stayed at home. That is not enough.
A need to shift the perspectives of the voter and the liberation movement
In societies that emerge from the liberation struggles be it against colonialism or colonialism of a special type or apartheid etc., corruption gets institutionalized. When liberation movements become ruling parties, entitlement to govern at will without regard to moral standards and ethics creeps in as they control state resources, organs of state, the economy, in some countries even courts. They literally become bigger than God. Remember! The ANC shall rule until Jesus comes back and goes back. Government departments thus becomes the patronage dispensing machine.
The longer the voter realizes that she or he has freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom to establish a political party, freedom to moral conscience, the better. In fact, precisely because of this entitlement liberation struggle syndrome, we should create more political parties so that the power is evenly spread.
Having the political power concentrated in one or two parties in societies like ours is suicidal. Either way, it has a risk of reversing the gains of freedom. Those who did not believe in black government, say, you see, we told you a black man cannot govern himself. Yet, on the other hand you have the liberation movement turned political party, saying, “you see, we told you. Without us, apartheid is coming back.’
Ideally, after the liberation struggle, it should be the parties formed during the new dispensation that ought to win. Liberation struggle sentimentalism is reversing the gains of our hard earned victories.
“The ANC was founded in 1912 to defend and advance the rights of the African people after the violent destruction of their independence and the creation of the white supremacist Union of South Africa.” The ANC has undoubtedly achieved this mission. Expecting it to usher us into a united and prosperous South Africa is sadly suicidal. Evidence suggests that transitioning a liberation movement into a governing one does not move beyond establishing systems for the future, as soon after that, the liberation movement turned ruling party starts undoing all the gains it has made.
Christopher Clapham captures this well in his question, “the curse of liberation” where he chronicles the past legacies and the challenge of transition in Africa. He argues, “Throughout Africa, and indeed in much of the world, there are movements that have fought long and hard, with great heroism and often at a great cost, in order to achieve the liberation of their peoples and their territories from oppressive regimes… Once liberation has been achieved and the former liberation movement has assumed power as a national government, the struggle has generally been regarded as an enormously positive legacy for the new state and the regime that rules it. The more intense the struggle, indeed, the greater advantages conferred on the new government… the now victorious movement inherits from the struggle a powerful sense of legitimacy; these are the people who have been prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause, and who come to power with an abiding memory of the martyrs who have died in order for them to do so… Nonetheless, virtually all liberation movements have experienced considerable difficulties in actually making the transition from struggle to government… As the problems mount, it becomes all too easy to view the legacies of the struggle not as a blessing but as a curse.” In order for South Africans to continue cherishing its glorious liberation struggle history, it is pivotal that we make necessary shifts soon so we may not end up thinking of our hard earned democratic victories as curses. We have to accept that the ANC that we know accomplished its mission. We have to confront the brutal bitter truth that this new alien and corrupt ANC is undoing all that we fought for.
Our vote is central in ensuring that South Africa gets back on its united prosperous path in 2019. Never before, has the future of South Africa rested in the mighty hands of our youth, black or white, Indian or coloured, female or male, as according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), 80% of the 26.2-million registered voters in South Africa, in 2016 are 30 years and younger. This suggests that the 2019 elections will not be fought on the struggle credentials tickets as by 2019, more than 80% of voters would have been born from 1987 onwards.
These young South Africans must know that the future of this country is in now solely in their defining hands.
Has the current ruling party made any significant strides in addressing the issues confronting our youth today? Judging by the fees must fall campaigns, judging by the increase in corruption to an extent where it is institutionalized, judging by the increasing number of unemployed graduates, judging by the fact that of the 27.7% unemployed if we expand this definition to include those who have stopped searching for employment, we are talking about a figure that is close to 40%, according to Statistics South Africa first quarter of 2017, 56% of these unemployed people are the youth. The youth has the opportunity to change the political landscape in South Africa. It has the opportunity to hold the current government accountable.
In honour of Helen Joseph, a phenomenal woman of substance who exhibited the unifying ideals of feminist empowerment, it is also important to remind South African women that they make up over 14 million out of 26 million registered voters in our land. This represents a staggering 53% of the South African sky. In other words, the 2019 elections marks the change in the political landscape which has been dominated by ideologies. As Amilcar Cabral reminds us, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children”
Has the current government done enough to promote and protect the rights of women? How will the current government explain the insults hailed at Khwezi during the rape trial involving a man that would soon be promoted to the position of the Head of State? The majority of ministers in the cabinet of the Republic of South Africa were generously rewarded for protecting the alleged perpetrator than the victim? How would the ruling party explain never charging its President for violating the ANC Constitution, Rule 25.17.7 which reads:
The following conduct by a member, officer bearer or public representative shall constitute misconduct in respect of which disciplinary proceedings may be invoked and instituted against him or her:
Engaging in sexual or physical abuse of women or children or abuse of office to obtain sexual or any other undue advantage from members or others
How would the ruling party explain the persecution of woman who chose to speak truth to power and stay true to her moral conscience, a right guaranteed in the supreme law of the land yet was summoned to Luthuli House, charged by an unlawful provincial structure and it doesnt end there; charged even by an ANC Study Group with concurrence of its Secretary General and removed from the position of chairperson of parliamentary portfolio committee? Yet, there were male comrades who had done the same and never charged.
The future of South Africa is in the hands of the youth and women.
Our youth and women must rise and grab that mighty pen in 2019 to correct this anomaly.