South Africa

South Africa

Op-Ed: Can South Africa’s constitutional democracy be sustained?

Op-Ed: Can South Africa’s constitutional democracy be sustained?

Despite the troubled time that South Africa is going through, it is not on the verge of becoming “just another failed African post-colonial experiment”. Far from it. This it the climate for optimism. By SIPHO PITYANA.

This is edited text that Pityana delivered at the Bram Fischer memorial lecture at Oxford University on Thursday 19 October 2017.

It is humbling to deliver a lecture named for Bram Fischer, who dedicated his life to the struggle for South Africa’s freedom and the dignity of his fellow citizens, sacrificing his own freedom in the process. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in his memory.

Equally, it is an honour to follow in the footsteps of extraordinary South Africans who have delivered previous Bram Fischer memorial lectures here, such as Denis Goldberg, Navi Pillay, Justice Edwin Cameron and that lion of our legal profession, Advocate George Bizos.

This occasion is tinged with some sadness, however, given the recent passing of one of this lecture’s originators, Lord Joel Joffe. Accept my deepest condolences – Joel was an exceptionally courageous man, and will forever occupy a special place in the hearts of South Africans.

There are four aspects to this memorial address:

First, I will outline how the Zuma regime turned the ANC into a political party hostile to South Africa’s Constitution, which has truly faced its severest test under his watch.

Second, I assert that under Jacob Zuma’s catastrophic leadership, the ANC has betrayed its historic mission. When this moment came for Bram, when Afrikaner anti-imperialism became racial chauvinism, he took the difficult step of breaking ranks with his fellow Afrikaners to become part of a liberation movement. It was he who said:

I engaged upon these activities because I believed that, in the dangerous circumstances that have been created in South Africa, it was my duty to do so.”

Genuine ANC cadres today face their own “Bram Fischer moment” in deciding to stand up and speak out against the free-wheeling corruption and contempt for the poor that has increasingly come to define our government and party.

Third, I pre-emptively celebrate the anniversary of the Save South Africa campaign which was launched on 2 November 2016, as a culmination of civil society’s escalating, collective defence of our constitutional democracy.

Finally, I caution against the increasingly popular view that South Africa may have become “just another failed African post-colonial experiment”. It is not.

However, we cannot, for a second, be complacent, lest we’re totally engulfed by these stormy seas. This period requires calm heads, skilful navigation and a steely resolve. Like Bram Fischer, we must have unwavering confidence in, and commitment to our cause, which is – once again – to deliver our country from those determined to destroy it.

Zuma ANC’s affront to the Constitution

The ANC chose Jacob Zuma as its president in 2007, fully aware of his shady and unscrupulous character. After all, with a long list of corruption and racketeering charges hanging over his head, and widely publicised allegations of rape and sexual assault, his lack of a moral compass was hardly a state secret.

Less than two years later, he moved into the Union Buildings and took control of the Republic. He has manipulated country and party to his own ends ever since.

That he remains the President of the country today – despite the growing catalogue of crimes of which he stands accused – is a stain on our nation’s history. That the ANC – the party of Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela – has not only not moved decisively to recall him, but has unscrupulously defended him, is a disgrace from which it may never recover.

Few of us here would have imagined that a leader of the ANC could single-handedly sabotage the efforts to advance the development of our state, uplift our people after decades of repression under apartheid and centuries of colonial subjugation. But he appears to have done just that.

If we are to search for positives of Zuma’s tenure, it might be that he has done more than anyone else to vindicate South Africa’s choice of a true constitutional democracy as our preferred system of government. Anything short of that, and we would already be another failed state.

Disablement of Institutions of the Criminal Justice System

Zuma, the crime suspect, had clear priorities after taking office. His first order of business was to disable and repurpose the criminal justice system. It was a cynical move, with lethal consequences, that very few saw happening until it was too late.

The first casualty was the Directorate for Special Operations – popularly known as the Scorpions. This unit was our own FBI, established with the assistance of international partners to fight organised crime. It was feared by criminals and held in the highest esteem at home and abroad. Zuma ordered it to be disbanded and replaced it with the Hawks, a poor imitation that he brought under his firm control, using a procession of ministers serving at his pleasure.

At the same time, the police service made an unmistakable shift from one steeped in the human rights culture of post-apartheid South Africa to an incompetent and corrupt agency that was to become increasingly repressive and brutal.

Before long, a new police force would re-emerge that demonstrated disdain and disregard for civil liberties. Police were urged on by political leaders who’d come to embrace a “shoot to kill‘ ethos, in direct conflict with a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that enshrined the right to life. Meanwhile elements in the ANC leadership had begun to stray from its founding principles, and began baying for the reintroduction of the death penalty to deal with violent crime.

To match the militarisation of the police force, the focus of our prison system regressed from a correctional to a penal regime. This move would undoubtedly have pleased Nationalist Party mandarins like Kobie Coetsee, who presided over the horror of our jails through the 1980s. Today our jails are hatching grounds for gangsterism and violent crime.

It’s hard to argue that these changes didn’t usher in a new era of contempt for human rights. How else could a miner’s strike turn into a massacre, when dozens were killed by police bullets at Marikana in 2012. There are eerie echoes with Bhisho, just over 20 years earlier, when apartheid proxies mowed down 28 protesters near my home in the Eastern Cape.

The following year we watched in horror as community leader Andreas Tatane was murdered by police in full glare of the public. His crime? Taking part in a civic protest action, an inalienable right under our Constitution.

I could go on. The fact is that allegations of police brutality are commonplace. The apartheid regime had a name for it – kragdadigheid – which roughly translated means “unyielding power through force”. Then, as now, it was designed to cow and to terrify.

There were other elements of the state security apparatus to co-opt. The intelligence services were emerging as a professional outfit in the early post-apartheid years, but their blatant politicisation has put paid to that. Instead, they’re an increasingly unworthy partner in the collaborative international efforts of the intelligence community.

The National Prosecuting Authority – what you here in the UK would know as the Attorney General’s Office – was another prime target in this broad assault on the criminal justice system.

After all, its doggedly independent leader, Advocate Vusi Pikoli, had the temerity to honour the Constitution and charge Mr Zuma for fraud and racketeering, despite widespread calls for political expediency.

Pikoli’s eventual dismissal opened up the path for the spate of partisan political appointments that followed. Top-class prosecutors responded by exiting the NPA in droves, leaving it a shadow of its former self. Today, South Africa’s prosecution service lacks credibility, public trust and confidence.

Judiciary and Chapter Nine institutions undermined

An independent judiciary was the next target. Zuma turned to an arcane piece of apartheid law – in violation of the Constitution – as he sought to extend the term of the Chief Justice.

The highly respected Justice Sandile Ngcobo, barely two years in the role, seemed ready to accept this unconstitutional favour. But – as the old saying goes – a favour done is a favour owed, so we saw a clear threat to the independence of the judiciary.

Thankfully, Ngcobo stepped down, rather than be put through the wringer of urgent legal action that was being marshalled against the extension.

Attacks against the Judiciary have been unrelenting as the forces of darkness have repeatedly tried to subordinate it to the executive. They have consistently failed, thanks to the unwavering resistance by the Judiciary and wider society.

The authors of our Constitution had the incredible foresight to provide for independent institutions with the sole remit of safeguarding our democracy. Not only do we divide power between the executive, the Judiciary and the legislature, but Chapter 9 of the Constitution gives us the tools to ensure protection of civil liberties and media freedoms, along with the transparency and accountability of our government. Zuma and his cronies have moved on them, too, as part of the gambit to shut down democratic space.

The organisations in question here include the Public Protector, the Human Rights Commission, the Auditor General and the Independent Electoral Commission, among others.

The somewhat cynical narrative concocted by these early enablers of what was to become known as the State Capture project was that political power had effectively been outsourced to these Chapter 9 institutions – and it needed to be taken back.

It’s easy to see why they needed to neutralise these institutions, which had become a painful thorn in the side of a rogue leadership, and an impediment to their grab for more power. They exposed, to different degrees, the rot in our system of governance. The propagandists in our ranks accused them of feeding an anti-majoritarian and anti-ANC narrative, and that could not be tolerated.

Party hacks, with blind loyalty to the ANC, were appointed to key positions in these bodies in an attempt to dull their organisational faculties. Predictably, reports detailing the crucial investigations undertaken by these institutions – often implicating politically connected actors – started to gather dust.

But thankfully for us, some of those who were appointed turned out to be fiercely independent. We need look no further than the outstanding work of the former public Protector Ms Thuli Madonsela, and more recently the Auditor General, Mr Thembekile Makwetu, who is doing invaluable work in exposing the extent of theft and mismanagement by the state and its organs.

Parliament muzzled

Then we come to the plot to muzzle Parliament, whose oversight role is the lifeblood of our democracy. It’s important to acknowledge at the outset the structural flaw that comes with our party-list, proportional representation electoral system.

The ANC has effectively abused this system to its own ends, consistently endorsing blatantly unethical conduct at odds with the Constitution, and its own policies.

Simultaneously the same electoral system has also ensured a range of robust and savvy opposition parties who have learnt to use the space afforded to them in Parliament, to devastating effect. They have been as unorthodox as they are ruthless in laying bare the moral bankruptcy of the Zuma agenda, and the decay of the ANC.

The combined resistance of the media, civil society and the political opposition has prevented the total success of the Zuma ANC project to dismantle the protections and the political framework proffered by the Constitution. But it has not succeeded in halting the creation of a security state, where there is growing concern that privacy is being invaded, conversations tapped and safety threatened for those actively trying to undermine the toxic status quo.

It’s a culture reminiscent of the apartheid era – one that Bram Fischer would have recognised, and fought against, tooth and nail.

State Capture

A President assured of the protection afforded him by co-opted institutions embarked on a looting spree that runs parallel to the activities intended to undermine state institutions.

Clearly, like termites determinedly gnawing at the base of a tree, this project has destabilised the country, its economy and our very sovereignty. Our search for sustainable answers to reverse racially skewed ownership patterns and income inequality has been discredited as these policies have been repeatedly exploited to pursue corrupt ends.

With his erstwhile financier Schabir Schaik jailed in 2007, Zuma had to build a new patronage network to feed his voracious appetite for money and finer things in life, for himself, his family and cronies.

We South Africans are no Pollyannas. We have experienced all manner of thievery, evil and corruption. And yet, we are collectively open-mouthed at the scale of theft and chiselling that is being revealed as the relationship between Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family is laid bare each day in our media. State Capture is no longer an obscure abstract social science concept, it has been brought to life in terrifying detail.

For the uninitiated, State Capture is a phenomenon where an unelected group usurps executive power of a nation, directing policy, misdirecting resources and sometimes dictating the conduct of state organs. In the South African context, at least one family and possibly other business interests have wielded this power over President Zuma, his family and his inner circle of loyalists, in exchange for monetary gain and sway over the very government of our country.

It has been chronicled by local and international media. I do not intend to dwell too much on this. Prospective Cabinet ministers have been evaluated and then deployed in their new roles by the Gupta family. Not being the most discreet bunch, these shoe salesmen-turned-captors of our state appear to have gossiped about their decisions, even before allowing their captured President the courtesy of making them public in his biannual Cabinet reshuffle.

In the same vein, when incumbent ministers or officials don’t deliver to Gupta expectations, the family does the firing. The announcement from the Presidency that follows is a mere formality.

The Guptas realise the importance of ensuring that pliable people are placed in key portfolios and posts in state companies, to ensure that the spigots are opened ever wider, diverting the flood of state resources away from the many, and into the coffers of the few.

A typical example, which is very topical in our news media right now, is our State-owned Corporations, where major decisions – principally around procurement – are ultimately decided between captured ministers, directors and senior executives who are connected to the Gupta family.

Consequently, untold billions of dollars, intended for critically needed infrastructure development, education and job creation, are being misdirected and siphoned off by local players and sophisticated international networks. The same template is being applied across a swathe of key ministries and parastatals.

The evidence is splashed daily over the front pages of our newspapers and websites, and is in the pages of the former Public Protector’s State of Capture report. Whistle-blowers are leaking evidence that – unsurprisingly – goes to the prosecuting authorities, where it gathers dust.

You get the picture.

Social investment for the poor stolen

This criminal network has not limited itself to heavy industry. They’ve also seen the opportunity presented by the programmes intended to alleviate the vast challenge of absolute poverty, where the government spends more than $12-billion annually on social grants. Close to 60% of government spending is in some way linked to this “social wage”.

About 17-million of my compatriots rely on these social grants as their sole means of survival. It is our national shame that there is no better opportunity, for so many people, in a country as wealthy as ours.

But even this grant system has been used as a source of feasting by greedy politicians and their handlers. It is a clear, disgusting assault on government’s constitutional mandate to uphold citizens’ rights to human dignity.

Right now, as I speak, hearings are under way in Johannesburg to uncover the truth behind the Life Esidimeni travesty, the clearest reminder yet that greedy politicians have turned their backs on the people. Over a number of months, the Gauteng provincial government pulled mental patients from professionally run institutions and placed them in unregistered, fly-by-night facilities. Politicians and government officials allegedly took kickbacks along the way. By the time the jig was up for all the rent-seekers along the way, more than 140 mentally ill people died sickening and humiliating deaths because of greed and corruption.

The rot runs deep.

South Africa’s sovereignty auctioned

These thieves have gone about their work, safe in the knowledge that the critical institutions that should hold public representatives to account had been hollowed out. With the president of the ANC in their pocket, their effective control of both the ruling party and government was sealed. It turns out that they were not wrong despite the denials from the ANC.

But they’re no longer sleeping easy. South Africans – including loyal ANC voters – have realised with great resentment and anger that power has been handed to a criminal syndicate. The nation’s sovereignty has been auctioned to a modest bidder.

ANC’s intractable crisis

The ANC has seen its previously unassailable majority significantly eroded. But it is not the only one paying a very high price for this moral bankruptcy. So too are its alliance partners in the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, who must take some responsibility for what we have become.

The ANC’s elective conference in December will be a watershed for our country.

This is so whether the figurative suicide bombers inside the ANC disrupt the conference, or try to secure its postponement. The very fact that there is uncertainty over whether this critical political set-piece will even be held is revealing of the depth of the structural crisis that the ruling alliance finds itself in.

And yet our leadership keeps its head firmly buried in the sand with regard to the scale of the problems our country, and indeed the ANC, are facing.

Not even the Office of the Secretary General, whose primary duty it is to ensure the integrity of its administration, can irrefutably confirm the true state of ANC branch membership.

The fact is, ANC membership lists are in tatters. The contestation of credentials of participants at every conference of significance has become commonplace. The fact that ghost members run ghost branches is perhaps apposite for what increasingly looks like a Zombie political party. Delegates are known to pay their way – or be paid – to attend decision-making events.

Our courts – which remain a bastion of probity and impartiality – are increasingly dragged into the fracas to resolve internal party disputes. On other occasions, ANC members resort to violent physical confrontations. Most recently, delegates at the Eastern Cape provincial congress hurled furniture across a hall at each other, providing yet another fitting metaphor for a political party that is systematically destroying itself.

There’s a very strong perception among South Africans that the ANC has become little more than a vehicle for thieves and looters, with only their self-interests at heart. They have truly captured the organisation and left many of its tried and tested cadres – once proud revolutionaries – as nothing but a hand-wringing lobby of whingers on the margins.

These thieves are nothing if not single-minded. They believe that holding a position in the ANC is worthwhile only because of the proximity it provides to government resources, and to private business linked to the state.

They try to extort money in the ANC’s name from businesses, desperate to secure contracts from government. In this regard, the ANC name is used and abused without let or hindrance because the party has little or no control over these rogues.

This is not the ANC I know. It is certainly not the ANC Bram Fischer knew. And more of us are starting to ask ourselves, more and more often, whether we will ever again see the ANC in which we grew up, to which we devoted our lives, and for which we sacrificed so much.

So, is the ANC capable of correcting itself? Can it retrace its steps? Can it rediscover itself?

Painfully, I doubt it. I honestly do. In times of such intractable crises, the ANC would ordinarily convene a consultative conference where the leadership affords itself counsel from its loyal cadres, supporters and strategic friends, in an unthreatening environment. Zuma’s leadership has emphatically rejected calls from its own heroes and veterans for such an assembly, choosing instead to ridicule their attempt to return the movement to its historically progressive and democratic values.

They have chosen to harass and hound those who try to return it to the right path. They employ their own goon squads in the form of unrecognisable ANC Youth and Women’s Leagues, and the so-called MK Military Veterans Association, an increasingly thuggish group of brown-shirt vigilantes.

Many see the December elective conference as the final throw of the dice for the ANC. Many presume that also holds true for the progressive, democratic vision that inspired so many of us.

A word of caution. We should not be surprised of the possibility that this may very well be a gathering of powerful pawns of interests external to the ANC itself. Interests that may very well be agnostic to the preservation of the ANC or even more important, the survival of South Africa’s democratic project.

For these forces, a successful consultative conference would not serve their agenda. In the same vein, calls for the ANC leadership to fall on its sword, following the dismal performance in the 2016 local government elections, were summarily rejected.

Nonetheless, December will be a crucial moment for our South African democracy. Many of our true compatriots believe that an emphatic rejection of Zuma and his clique, and the elevation to office of a candidate that embraces good governance and probity, could spark the beginning of a political turnaround, which in turn could trigger an economic resurgence.

Equally, however, there is the risk that Zuma’s faction could consolidate power. They are not going down without a fight and this week’s impulsive Cabinet reshuffle is a clear indication of that, if any was needed.

Some have started pushing a “third way” that supposedly opens a new spirit of compromise and dialogue between the disparate ANC factions.

Judging from the nominations currently doing the rounds, and the NEC slates of the respective candidates, what will be coming out of December is less of a revolution, and more of an accommodation, bound to reproduce varying shades of the same leadership that has plunged the organisation into its worst crisis in its history.

By rejecting previous calls for the resignation of the NEC and the convening of a consultative conference, the ANC has instead chosen the path of a revolution from the top – a fight to the finish among factions, or a false truce, built on an unprincipled “unity pact” – that will perpetuate the life of the various divisive factions.

Either way, the December conference will shape the outcome of the next elections in 2019, and chart the destiny of South Africa for years to come. However, I’m sceptical about it being a moment of introspection that will ultimately lead to the ANC’s rehabilitation.

It is worth remembering that when the ANC had to choose between the will of the people to have Zuma removed from being the President of our country in a motion of no confidence in Parliament on 8 August, it chose him.

It failed its own Bram Fischer moment.

In this regard, is it unreasonable to ask a question: Can State Capture be defeated without sacrificing the ANC itself? Is holding onto the ANC a greater prize than our sovereignty and the hard-won right to self-determination?

Is this OUR Bram Fischer moment?

Already the Communist Party has decided to go it alone at the next election in 2019. Cosatu has issued increasingly full-throated calls for Zuma to step down. The ANC itself is a house divided. Shouldn’t we accept that these differences are irreconcilable?

I humbly submit that the revolutionary Alliance is irretrievably broken. Long live the Alliance!

Civil Society: A powerful countervailing force

One of the hidden treasures of South Africa’s constitutional order is its emphasis on transparency and accountability. The other is the diffusion of power to demand and extract those.

We are a nation driven by values that are codified in our Constitution. As a result, no government can rely on majority support to invoke a political prerogative and act outside the framework of the Constitution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the basis for governance.

On 2 November we will be celebrating the first anniversary of the Save South Africa campaign, one of the most formidable forces against State Capture. This campaign was a culmination of various efforts by independent civil society formations to hold everyone to the vision of our nation that the Constitution represents.

In an unprecedented collective effort, on 7 April 2017 well over a 100,000 citizens from different parts of the country took to the streets in protest against State Capture.

This more muscular civil society response to a delinquent state – and often the private sector, too – started to emerge long before the Zuma years.

With Mandela’s encouragement and support, the Treatment Action Campaign took to the streets and the courts and with its peers forced an obstinate ANC government to make medical treatment available to those with HIV/Aids.

A court challenge by a recently established Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution reversed President Zuma’s move to extend the term of office of the Chief Justice we referred to earlier.

Were it not for the court action by a private individual, Hugh Glenister, Zuma would have not only been able to destroy the Scorpions, but also replaced them with a much weaker Hawks unit. Civil society ensured that the current version Hawks has more powers than originally contemplated, forcing the President to change his approach and co-opt its leadership with those who would do his bidding.

Freedom Under Law has successfully challenged these inappropriate appointments in the Hawks – as they did those in the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions – forcing Zuma to fire his appointees and some senior executives.

A government too preoccupied with corruption to pay any mind to the education of the country’s poor was forced by Section 27, another brave NGO, to deliver textbooks to learners. Together with another organisation, Equal Education, a separate court action forced the ANC government to regulate norms and standards for a decent quality education.

Seventeen-million grant recipients have the Black Sash to thank for the successful disbursement of their meagre social security grants earlier this as it was threatened by a corrupt regime in the Department of Social Development, working in concert with private interests.

It was the combined outcry of civil society formations, including the churches, trade unions, communities and public interest legal groups, against the Marikana Massacre, that forced the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry and the ultimate termination of the term of our Commissioner of Police.

An illegitimate national road upgrading programme, to be funded by a user-charge programme, has been stopped in its tracks through a combination of mass civic mobilisation and legal action by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

The list – and the many more that I didn’t mention here including Corruption Watch, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Right2Know campaign, Ndifuna Ukwazi among others – simply goes on. And on. And on. I pay tribute to these fine and patriotic South Africans.

In all these efforts, our vibrant constitutionalists in civil society have been aided by an independent media that has fiercely and fearlessly ensured that the public is informed. Most of the scandals surrounding the Zuma administration were exposed by investigative journalists, sometimes risking their own safety.

As I deliver this lecture today, many of the investigative journalists I am referring to are observing what we call “Black Wednesday” back home – the day in 1977 when a number of newspapers were banned and some of our most courageous journalists were arrested and banned. I’m sure there will be no difficulty drawing parallels between the evil that journalists reported on during apartheid and the growing menace that we see in South Africa today.

These journalists are a national treasure and also a potent weapon in the arsenal we are forced to employ to defend our constitutional democracy. They toil alongside civil society, our independent judiciary and many of our Chapter Nine institutions, in holding our leaders to account. To counteract them, Zuma has desperately and destructively clung onto the country’s public broadcaster the SABC in attempt to turn it into his propaganda tool.

Is South Africa’s constitutional democracy sustainable?

In large measure, as a direct result of the State Capture project, civil society has truly been awakened – to defend our democracy, to protest against excesses, and to remind our leaders that we are a nation that has experience with people’s power, and we are prepared to use it.

We are making maximum use of the space provided by the Constitution, and forcing accountability from people who prefer to hide in the shadows.

What we are seeing is People’s Power in action. And it’s working.

We intend to build on this momentum. We are determined to strengthen this countervailing force of people’s power into a formidable political centre that those in power will ignore at their own peril.

Yes, the ANC’s Elective Conference in December is important. But it is not our Waterloo. We will be there, stronger than ever before, whatever the outcome. Whoever emerges victorious must know that we are demanding that those in leadership positions must govern with integrity and respect. We are demanding that a corrupt President must be removed, not just from leading the ANC, but even more importantly the country – and so, with immediate effect.

We are demanding the immediate removal of corrupt cabinet ministers and a comprehensive clean-out of corrupt government departments, state-owned companies and businesses. We are repeating, again and again, that there must be accountability for wrongdoing, and people must serve time in jail for breaking the law.

We have made our minimum demands clear, as the Save South Africa campaign:

We demand an immediate judicial commission of enquiry into State Capture, as recommended by the Public Protector, and appropriate action taken against all those found to be involved in State Capture and other corrupt activities. We demand the restoration of credibility in the criminal justice system, and all institutions which are crucial in the fight against corruption. These include the Hawks, the national police service, the NPA and the intelligence services.

We demand public affirmation by all political parties of the independence of the Judiciary and the integrity of Chapter Nine institutions, as well as a commitment to ensure these bodies are properly resourced.

We demand the appointment of credible leaders in key economic institutions that are linked to the fight against corruption. These include National Treasury, SARS, the Chief Procurement Office, the Public Investment Corporation, the Financial Intelligence Centre and other economic ministries.

We demand full investigations into corruption and misgovernance in state-owned companies and parastatals, followed by the removal of boards, CEOs and management found to be corrupt, and their replacement with reputable and experienced leaders.

Finally, we insist that Zuma and the Guptas must not be allowed to leave South Africa. Their passports must be revoked until investigations around them are finalised.

Once we have succeeded in turfing the crooks out of office, we will embark on a massive campaign to rebuild government, rebuild and revitalise the public service.

We will also have to put a leadership code in place to ring-fence all political and business leaders, to ensure we never go down this road again.

We will have to fast-track the move towards full transparency in party political funding, to break the crooked symbiosis between political parties and business.

Our electoral system will need a major overhaul, to ensure we do not endure these problems again. Our system of proportional representation may have helped us navigate through the early days of democracy, but it is completely inadequate for the South Africa of today.

Our constitutional democracy is sustainable because those of us who firmly believe in its efficacy will not allow it to be trampled upon by anyone. Our resolve in this regard is well documented.

In conclusion, comrades and friends: The ANC’s Bram Fischer moment calls upon its true and honest cadres to take a hard look around them at that December elective conference. And when they do so, they must accept that there may be many among them who are perpetuating this toxic status quo. They must also accept that there can never be a price big enough to pay to isolate and exorcise them out of the ranks of this great movement.

That is why we must all resist calls for unity at all costs, as it might come at a very high price.

The ANC’s unity has always been based on values and principles, not personalities.

If we remember that it is more the country than the ANC we are concerned about, the minimum demands alluded to above provide a basis to retrace our journey to a constitutional democracy. An ANC leadership that emerges from its conference embracing this agenda will find ready allies in civil society who will not only be armchair critics, but prepared to deploy their skills.

In the event that the forces of State Capture cement their takeover of the ANC in December, which is a realistic possibility, genuine cadres will have their personal Bram Fischer moment.

Just like Bram Fischer, they must honour the truth, follow their conscience and join the many in society who have been relentlessly waging war against these dark elements.

A failure to do so will legitimate these forces and make them accomplices to the abominable crime of selling our sovereignty out. This may be a moment for the further realignment of the country’s politics and the foundation of a genuine post-apartheid alliance.

Either way, the balance of forces in our polity today is heavily against the forces of State Capture, but for the affirmation of the constitutional order. As another fine son of our motherland, Steve Biko, once put it:

It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.”

And so Bram Fischer died for an idea of a truly liberated South Africa. None of us has a right to betray the sacrifices that he and many others made so we can be free.

It is nothing less than our historical mission. And that is why we must do everything in our power, all of us, to ensure South Africa’s constitutional democracy is sustained. DM

Sipho Pityana is a businessman and convenor of the Save South Africa campaign.

Photo: Sipho M Pityana, Chairman, AngloGold Ashanti, South Africa speaking during the session ‘Investing in Peace’ at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 18, 2017. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Jakob Polacsek


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.