Defend Truth


Dear President Zuma


Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Cosatu, a former minister in the Nelson Mandela government and is a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Our country keenly awaits your direction and decisive leadership. As a South African citizen and an activist of our mass movement, led by the ANC, we all fought tirelessly for the democracy you now lead.

We had the highest hopes that we would become the model of reconstruction and development putting the interests of all our people ahead and above the interests of individuals, organisations or even political parties.

We would build an open society unafraid of public debate and criticism. We would hold ourselves accountable to the contract with our people in 1994 to deliver a better life for all.

Today we all yearn for that vision. As you yourself often repeated: “We must take the ANC back to the moral vision and values on which we were founded.”

Those values are what galvanised me and millions of South Africans to take up the call to free our people from the crime of apartheid and for which many (including our closest comrades) had to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

It is what mobilised millions of ordinary citizens globally to take a stand against racism and marginalisation of our people.

Today we stand on the edge of a similar precipice. But now our struggle is for freedom from poverty, social inequality and joblessness, for the freedom from want and malnutrition.

We stand alongside you in taking decisive action to fix the education system that you have said fails our children, especially the poor in our townships and rural areas. Let no-one stand in your way in demanding that our teachers be in the classrooms teaching, that principals manage their schools efficiently, that civil servants are held accountable for the delivery of textbooks, libraries, laboratories and the basic infrastructure of electricity, water and sanitation necessary for us to promote a culture of learning.

Let us hold our parents responsible for actively contributing to making our schools work and ensuring that our children are encouraged to study and succeed.

And finally let us promote students’ organisations that build a culture of learning and discipline.

We need to act against the rising tide of political arrogance and corruption that wracks our country and eats at our social fabric. The abuse of state resources is theft from the poor. It is a cancer that corrupts state officials, undermines our democracy and weakens the faith and trust of our people in their public institutions.

We need a zero-tolerance approach to this abuse of power and to tackle corruption wherever it raises its head – in public or private sectors and even in civil society.

Mr. President, a robust civil society is an ally in your leadership to deepen democracy and accountability. It is critical of government weaknesses and supportive of government successes and attempts to do the right thing – just as I am as a South African citizen.

We embraced this as a critical part of our struggle in the past. Let us embrace it as a critical part of our future. Every South African, irrespective of political affiliation, religion, gender or race, wants our country to succeed. We may argue about what are the right choices to make, but that’s what makes us a vibrant democracy.

We have conquered many of our demons, but many remain. We need your statesmanship and leadership more than ever. Too many leaders seek to entrench the divisions and tensions we have in our society, to use language that does not unify our nation and give us the strength to tackle the many difficult challenges we face.

Let us harness this energy that we so successfully mobilised in the past to make the difficult choices we need to make today to set our country back on the path of reconstruction and development.?
I appeal that you act on the revolutionary commitments you extracted from your ministers and public officials in their performance agreements they signed with you. Let us debate openly what has been delivered, where we have failed and what we need to do.

Take us all into your confidence. Ask your leadership to exercise the highest level of ethical governance with the greatest level of humility and integrity.

That is my simple wish as a citizen who believes you have the commitment to do the right thing for our people, especially the marginalised and vulnerable in our society.

Kind regards,

Jay Naidoo



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