Maverick Citizen


Rise Mzansi – amid political turmoil a new movement is being born

Rise Mzansi – amid political turmoil a new movement is being born
Rise Mzansi has a bold ambition: to reshape South African politics within a decade. (Photo: Twitter)

Without fanfare or making exaggerated promises it can’t guarantee, Rise Mzansi, a new political movement, is taking shape after months of conversations between activists led by the Rivonia Circle.

Rise Mzansi has a bold ambition: to reshape South African politics within a decade, by combining local mobilisation aimed at lifting communities up, with winning electoral power through the ballot box in 2024 and beyond. 

At the moment, Rise Mzansi is as much a vision born of necessity, and a declaration taken by activists on how to achieve it, as it is a tangible organisation. However, it comes after a year in which the Rivonia Circle says it has taken the temperature of South Africa’s democracy and, after careful listening, identified what needs to be done to rescue it.

Part of that solution, it says, is for an independent ethical civil society movement to be prepared to contest for power at the ballot box.

Voter disaffection is not voter apathy

Pointing to the deepening trend of not voting (“​​Turnout in the 2019 general election dropped to 66% from 73% in 2014; turnout in the 2021 local government election dropped to 46% from 55% in 2016”), the Rivonia Circle claims it is not just the ANC that is failing to resonate with people in South Africa, but all political parties. 

“Voters remain politically interested: they are just not being engaged in the manner and over the issues they prefer. Existing political parties are not actively listening to voters: their actions and positioning miss where voters are at.”

Songezo Zibi (Image supplied)

At a press conference held last month to publicise the results of a quantitative survey on voter attitudes, Songezo Zibi, the chairperson of the Rivonia Circle, explained “where our insights come from”. It’s clear that the Rivonia Circle has been busy. According to Zibi: “Since early 2022, the Rivonia Circle has interacted with thousands of South African voters.” He mentioned:

  • Twenty-six focus groups held in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Mthatha and Ulundi;
  • More than 35 Democracy Builder (DB) workshops held with community activists in seven provinces;
  • Six launches of Zibi’s book, Manifesto: A New Vision for South Africa, which drew hundreds of interested people;
  • A youth-centred “Activist Exchange” of 500 activists at nine different venues in Johannesburg in August; and
  • Community town hall meetings.

Then, in October and November 2022, the Rivonia Circle organised two national “Mobilising People’s Power Workshops” that drew in hundreds of activists. The workshops focused on activating South Africans to participate in politics. The first was addressed by Nsé Ufot, the CEO of the New Georgia Project, a successful campaign that has changed electoral politics in Georgia in the US particularly by registering hundreds of thousands of previously disaffected black voters. The victory by Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Party candidate in the senate run-off on 6 December, is testimony to that. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Our vote has no value, say despairing South African activists” 

‘South Africa must rise!’

It was the last of these two workshops held on 26 November under the banner “South Africa Must Rise” that consummated a decision to burst the political bubble. 

“No one can say we got behind a closed door and had a discussion and they don’t know what was said. Every moment today was on the internet,” Zibi told the assembly (watch it here). This workshop was addressed by an impressive and diverse mix of young activists including Irfaan Mangera from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF), who told delegates how every day he gets calls from young people wanting to be active in the Kathrada youth clubs “to take this baton forward”. 

Read in Daily Maverick

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“They are not apathetic or disconnected from society… despite the noise and naysayers who are invested in this terrible and brutal political culture we continue to build.” 

Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project in the US, says she always knew she would be in the political and civil society space because she dealt with injustice and poverty as an immigrant in America. (Photo: Supplied)

Mangera (watch this young man in future) said his “generational mission” was “about enabling people’s power once more so that when we chant ‘Amandla!’, the response is not just a chant, the response has meaning, and people practically feel empowered to take this democracy forward.”

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On the crest of this wave the meeting resolved to explicitly start a movement whose volunteers pledge to “be loyal to the Constitution in all we do” and to “work together to build an inclusive movement, driven by the people, on the foundation of new alternative politics to contest for political power in Election 2024”. 

Irfaan Mangera from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation addresses young people from various organisation across south Africa gathered for a Youth day Parade for justice and change at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 16 June 2022. (Photo: Denvor De Wee)

On Monday at a Rise Mzansi briefing session, attended by the first cohort of volunteers, young activists spoke with excitement and trepidation of the challenges ahead. In the words of one:

“The politician’s worst nightmare is now coming true: Civil Society is rising to contest the political space. Not only do they have to worry about opposition parties anymore, now they’re gonna have sleepless nights about going against Civil Society as well! They actually have to contend with THE PEOPLE now! What did they expect? Did they really expect to be left alone like kids in a candy store to plunder and destroy it as they please????” 

This sentiment reflects the manner in which the recent political crisis generated by the Phala Phala debacle has only added to the activists’ sense of urgency and mission. 

Watch: SABC interview with Songezo Zibi on the current political crisis

Read Tessa Dooms: “Messianic ‘big man’ politics not in the spirit of democracy, SA cannot rise or fall on the comings or goings of an individual” 

Phala Phala, which dominated headlines to the detriment of stories about World Aids day 2022 or children eating cow dung in the Eastern Cape, comes across literally as a case of politicians fiddling with themselves while Mzansi burns. 

In Zibi’s words, “the ANC has no time to govern because it’s too busy with internal political matters, whether it’s the leadership contest or one or other corruption scandal. It’s important for South Africans to realise that as long as that leadership remains in place the problems that hurt South Africans on a daily basis are not going to be resolved.” DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Songezo for President! Go for it, man. We need thinking, uncorrupted, caring politicians with strategies that make sense.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      Or is the reality just another attempt by a different group to get a slice of the pie paid for by taxpayers? Forgive my cynicism but honestly,after all that we taxpayers have had to endure and all the fraud and corruption that has become second nature in South African politics… one has to wonder!
      All South Africans want a better life for themselves ,their children and grandchildren – it’s how they get there that differs. And somebody has to pay for it.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    An idea whose time has come. The rump of South Africans believe in the Mandela dream – lets seize the day!!

  • Johan Buys says:

    How many parties does a country need? The fragmentation is exactly what the ANC wants. The electoral reform we need is that any party registering must nominate 30 days ahead of an election their proxy. Meaning, if party A gets less than 10% it cedes its votes and PR votes to party X. If X plus A are below 10% then A’s proxy gets its own votes plus A and X party votes.

  • Richard Baker says:

    Great to see DM giving exposure to the Rivonia Circle, Songezi Zibi and Rise Mzansi!
    They are the nations only hope to create a broad church of ethical and thinking people not wedded to worn out ideologies.
    Step aside ANC-you’ve had your opportunity and time-and have failed the country and it’s people!

  • Ed Mousley Mousley says:

    Amazing and wonderful to see. It is time for the young people of SA to take democracy forward, but as an older person, I would hope that they do not write the older generation off in the quest for a just society. I believe my generation (baby boomers) has a lot to offer and want to see our children and grandchildren living in a democratic country where classification by race is a thing of the past and all can share equally in the bounty of this beautiful country and live with each other in peace.

  • Paul Zille says:

    Yet another small party distraction whose impact will only be to dilute effective opposition. No organisation, no governance experience, no vision beyond the tired old hankering for Mandela Magic. We know what is needed and what works in practice – and that is not another personality-driven, wide-eyed political party. Don’t be duped. It will end up like all the rest. And you will have wasted your vote.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      My thoughts exactly!

      • virginia crawford says:

        Why be so negative? The DA has failed to reach anything approaching a majority, so we need something new. I wish them well and will vote for them.

    • ROY CLARKE says:

      Who is the WE that you are suggesting? If it is the DA, they have had their time and failed to emerge with credible policies that appeal to more than the 20 % or so that vote for them. Their leadership by Helen is far beyond its prime and by Steenhuizen is just that of a nonentity. It has become a branch office of the American right

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    There’s a lot of impetus for new ideas and movements as SA implodes under ANC misrule. I fear however it takes at least a decade or more for an organization to build the skills and administrative capabilities to run a sizable government, be it a metro, provincial, or national. I just don’t see the new parties/movements being able to take that step up by 2024, and the only hope remains a strong coalition with largely similar policies and objectives, led by the DA who is currently the only party that has a proven track record in governing.

  • Rona van Niekerk says:

    How can I help???

  • Dee Bee says:

    It all sounds pretty good and inspiring, but I do worry that the plethora of new parties will simply dilute an effective opposition to the useless, corrupt and spent ANC. We’ve seen over and again across the continent, until egos are put aside and meaningful coalitions emerge to sweep aside the established order. This is what we need in SA. It’s been done in the UK as well, where tacit (and sometimes overt) agreements between Labour and Lib Dems to not split the anti-Tory vote have worked (although given the quality of leadership in both those parties in recent years, it hasn’t impacted much).

    Having a coalition of parties under one umbrella – maybe Zibi’s? – to topple the ANC, rapidly charge, prosecute and imprison a whole swathe of corrupt politicians and their backers to create a firebreak against the mass corruption and plunder of SA, and finally giving our country a chance to thrive, would be wonderful. But I look at the egos in most of the opposition ranks and don’t think that’ll happen any time soon.

  • Greg de Bruyn says:

    If only! Promising would-be new political movements seems to come and go with hardly a ripple of effect on the ANC juggernaut. Failing to COPE….. GOOD-bye…. Gone and largely forgotten. Not because they were poorly conceived, lacked common sense or appeal, but more because the voters are, in reality, nothing like the Rivonia Circle’s perception. They are myopic, change-wary and easily controlled by traditional, cultural and religious dogma. It’s worth noting that all the Bravo! posts to this article come from people with suspiciously White-sounding names.
    In spite of the sleight-of -hand manipulation of the electoral amendment bill, I think our only slim hope of breaking free from the ANC shackles lies in aligning a new wave of constituency-grounded independents, in the way Mmusi Miamane envisages. If they and the RC could join forces, there may be hope. Imagine a parliament with, say 30% non-aligned independents who will always vote their conscience. If only!

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Brilliant-can’t wait! It is time the honest and decent citizens of this country, by far the huge majority, rise up and claim the country back from the thieving hyenas and bloodsucking parasites of the ANC, EFF, the Zuma- ites and the REThieves/RETards. SA does NOT belong to these corrupt criminal and vile predators – it belongs to the people of this country. I will be closely watching this movement and sincerely hope that it can deliver! Correction – the ANC can’t deliver due to the internal political matters BUT more importantly, due to its DNA ie incompetence, hypocrisy, thieving and arrogant nature. It is well past its sell by date and was never fit to govern. A truly useless mob that has brought this country to its knees and a wasteland.

  • Lawrence Sisitka says:

    If they can avoid the obvious trap of becoming yet another political party, thus splitting the opposition vote as many have said, but rather become a vehicle for a wide range of independents. And if they can seriously conceive of a radically different understanding of democratic representation, then yes, this could be the seed of a desperately needed new direction for SA politics – ultimately maybe one without political parties or a head of state (a dismal and failed concept almost everywhere), but one comprising a truly democratic consensus. I feel an Opinionista article coning on :).

    • Giovanni Milandri says:

      I’d agree – if they can tap into the organising energy at the local level (and attract doers, not talkers), and get shrewd management of a small slice of grass-roots resources (crowdfunding? maybe speak to OUTA?), then the small can really disrupt the big (ANC, DA). Traditional ‘big-man’ or grievance politics is likely to have a hard ceiling (e.g. COPE, EFF) because it is has too many leaders, not enough followers. One size does not fit all, and the devil is in the details. The DA served its purpose, but also needs some opposition as it seems to have become stale.

  • Barbara Mommen says:

    Kudos to RM! Perfect timing.

    But lest we forget, the work to be done is for every South African. Every. Single. South African. We cannot look to parties and movements to fix what has been broken for so long. SAA and Eskom are the case studies. We have to take up the mantel at every level we are able.

    • Louis George Reynolds says:

      Not FOR every single South African, but BY all South Africans. This has to be a broad movement of active citizens coming together around shared values such as social & economic justice, climate justice, peace, and human rights (as enshrined in our Bill of Rights). Real change comes from below, and through struggle.

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