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‘We don’t have all the answers’ — Multi-Party Charter turns to civil society to ‘help save SA’

‘We don’t have all the answers’ — Multi-Party Charter turns to civil society to ‘help save SA’
The Independent SA National Civic Organisation's Zukile Luyenge, United Independent Movement vice-president Fatima Abdool, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa, DA leader John Steenhuisen, the ACDP's Wayne Maxim Thring, ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont and Spectrum Party leader Christopher Claassen at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, 28 November 2023. (Photo: Facebook / @Our_DA)

Cognisant that fixing governance in South Africa is no small feat, the eight parties in the Multi-Party Charter of South Africa hosted a gathering of various civil society organisations to get their take on how South Africa’s political landscape needs to change.

Several civil society organisations were guests of honour at a Multi-Party Charter of South Africa’s gathering on Tuesday, where they told leaders of the eight opposition parties how they believed South Africa could be saved.

The meeting, held at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, came after several civil society organisations came under fire on social media, including being accused of being funded by the CIA.

The Multi-Party Charter is made up of the DA, IFP, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Independent South African National Civic Organisation, Freedom Front Plus, ActionSA, United Independent Movement and the Spectrum National Party.

Chairperson of the session and DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube said the formation’s first civil society gathering aimed to learn from and exchange ideas with civil society organisations.

As the different leaders took the podium to speak about the role civil society can play in governance, a common thread emerged: To effectively redress the state of the nation, political parties and politicians cannot act alone. Civil and community-based organisations have to come to the table as well.

ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont, who believes coalition governance is the future of South African politics, said all sectors of the nation need the parties to put their differences aside and to talk about change in South Africa.

“This charter needs to be more receptive to civil society than our government has proven to be. We need to listen. We need to recognise that the heart of our listening is the idea that we don’t have all of the answers. We need to listen to those people who are in specific industries and understand both the challenges that are facing South Africans and how they need to be addressed.”

Beaumont added that the collaborative and consultative process needs to go beyond the elections. “This cannot be another talk show. It cannot be another cosmetic exercise for the cameras. There is so much work to do, and ActionSA wants to see this charter continuously commit to the conversation.”  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Multi-Party Charter for South Africa agrees on key power-sharing principles

Wayne Maxim Thring, speaking on behalf of ACDP leader Kenneth Mosheo, said South Africa is falling into a failed state and the nation cannot endure another 30 years of being a failed state.

Characterising civil society as the coalface of South Africa, Thring said its role has become highly crucial because it has unfettered access to the struggles of society. 

“You have seen the deterioration of service delivery, the rise of crime, poverty, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, and the effects that these have had on those close to you. We can remain silent, nonchalant, no more. So the ACDP, together with the leaders of the Multi-Party Charter, calls on you to join hands with us as we encourage those within your sphere of influence to save South Africa.”

Civil society organisations at the meeting included Defend our Democracy, Outa, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, AfriForum and Solidarity. 

Beware power struggles

Solly Moeng from the United South Africa Movement, which campaigns for a vibrant, truly inclusive and mixed economy by promoting informed, participatory democracy, congratulated the Multi-Party Charter for taking the steps to actively engage civil society, adding that while they are small steps, they can lead to bigger things.

“There is a growing number of South Africans of all backgrounds who are opting out of the political system. If we don’t all get together and set our egos [ aside], whether you’re a political party or a civil society organisation and work together and make sure there is change in South Africa, then we will never get there,” Moeng said.

Egos, a ‘maturity deficit’ and too many men — it’s all about herding political cats at the Multi-Party Charter

Leading up to the elections, Moeng advised the parties in the Multi-Party Charter not to be swept up in power struggles, and to try to ensure that a specific leader from a specific party takes the helm if the grouping wins the election.

“It shouldn’t be about who gets to be president or who gets to cut the ribbon. It should be about how we make sure that good policies are implemented going forward and ensure that South Africa never ever finds itself in the position it has been in for the past 30 years. The current system that we have in place, all the institutions that we thought would stand between us and evil, have proven to be vulnerable to abuse and turned around to be used against us over and over again. It’s time to change that.” DM

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