Opinionista Ryland Fisher 8 April 2013

ANC’s Western Cape volunteer campaign doomed by poverty, enrichment and self-entitlement

Marius Fransman wants to ignite a new fire in the ANC's Western Cape heart by re-invigorating volunteerism. But the very same volunteerism lost its gloss over the decades, like when the bigwigs in the South African Football Association and the 2010 Local Organising Committee paid themselves millions in bonuses after the Soccer World Cup. And in this day and age the ANC will need bigger causes than non-sexism and non-racism to get South Africans off their backsides.

On Wednesday evening, the ANC’s Western Cape provincial chairperson Marius Fransman will be launching to the media his attempt to recruit 5,000 volunteers who could potentially help him win the province back from the Democratic Alliance.

Sadly, in my very humble opinion, it is an attempt that is doomed to fail.

The “Chris Hani Detachment 5,000 Volunteers Campaign” has come about after Fransman decided to give life to the ANC’s declaration of the next 10 years as “the decade of the cadre”.

“This call is to rekindle the values, culture and traditions of our movement that has ensured its survival for 101 years. This includes the spirit of selfless sacrifice, revolutionary discipline and volunteerism,” the invitation from Fransman’s ANC office said.

The event will be held at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone from 17:30.

Obviously, it will be interesting to hear at the event on Wednesday night precisely how Fransman intends to recruit the 5,000 volunteers whose mandate will be “to become the vanguard cadres to help us build a province that strives to be non-racial and non-sexist and continue to build and defend the gains of our national democratic revolution (NDR)”.

Post-Apartheid South Africa does not really have a spirit of voluntarism, and it is understandable. In a country with such huge unemployment numbers, it is difficult to expect people to work for free when they are desperate to put food on their family’s tables.

I suppose there are middle-class people who could be tapped into, but even they would need a good enough reason to give up their time for free. The last real huge act of voluntarism in South Africa was during the Soccer World Cup in 2010 when thousands of people throughout the country signed up to help with various activities. But at the time there was a real sense of optimism and belief that the World Cup would be good for most South Africans. And who would not have wanted to be part of a Soccer World Cup?

Many of those volunteers must have felt quite bitter after the World Cup when they heard about the millions that the bigwigs in the South African Football Association and the 2010 Local Organising Committee had paid to themselves as bonuses.

I am not denying anybody bonuses, but surely it would have rankled with the people who gave their time for free.

Will Fransman really be able to convince people that they must give up their free time to help the ANC regain control of the Western Cape?

We are no longer involved in the struggle and it is difficult to use terms like the “national democratic revolution” to excite people into action.

Many of us who were involved in the struggle thought nothing about sacrificing our time and, in some cases even lives, because we realised that what we were doing was for the greater good of society.

But that was a different time, when the ANC was seen as a liberation movement and it was not a government struggling to deal with the many demands of running a country as complicated as South Africa.

How will Fransman be able to convince potential volunteers that they must sacrifice their time to help the ANC when many in our society have adopted a culture of self-enrichment and self-entitlement?

Nowadays it is difficult to get anybody to even speak to you if you cannot give them some assurance that they will benefit in some way. What benefits will accrue to the 5,000 volunteers who are expected to deliver the Western Cape back to the ANC?

It is not enough to just promise them the luxury of living in a province that will strive to be non-racial and non-sexist.

South Africa has also developed a pervasive culture of corruption, something that has been acknowledged by government ministers such as Trevor Manuel and Lindiwe Sisulu recently.

How will you convince volunteers to work next to companies who could potentially get huge contracts linked to the elections campaign, often with suspicion of impropriety, rightly or wrongly? How will you convince volunteers to give up their time when you have highly-paid public servants failing to deliver basic services to the majority of our people?

I sincerely hope that Fransman finds his 5,000 volunteers, not because I want him to win the Western Cape back from the DA, which could be interesting, but because it would be great if we are able to revive some of the spirit of the final years of Apartheid, particularly in the 1980s, when thousands of people throughout the country, often under the banner of the United Democratic Front, worked together in opposition to an illegitimate regime.

More than the cause against which we were united, it also provided us with a never-to-be-repeated experience of being part of a bigger movement of people. Relationships were developed in the trenches, many of which are still strong today.

South Africans need to find a bigger cause that will get thousands of citizens off their backsides and taking to the streets in a positive way.

It could help with building better communities and could help with developing a spirit of people doing things for themselves and not always depending on government.

I just don’t know whether reclaiming the Western Cape for the ANC is that cause. DM

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