John F Kennedy said: “It is not what your country can do for you; it is what you can do for your country”. Martin Luther King said: “I had a dream.” And Donald Trump said: “You’re fired!”
My name is Evita Bezuidenhout and I say: it is not what South Africa can do for us; it is what we can do for South Africa. Yes, I had a dream. There is one thing I want to say to quite a few people in government: You’re fired!
To some of you I am a familiar white face, icon to some, aikona to others, having been part of your lives in South Africa since 1978. I was then just the wife of a National Party MP. My husband, Dr JJ de V Bezuidenhout, was in the Cabinet of Hendrik Verwoerd. He had two portfolios: Minister of Black Housing and Minister of Water Affairs. To save money for the taxpayer, he combined his two portfolios by building a black township in a dam.
In 1981 I became the South African Ambassador in the Independent Black Homeland Republic of Bapetikosweti. In 1994 President Nelson Mandela dissolved all the black Bantustans into one homeland called South Africa. I am now a member of the African National Congress and as such you will appreciate that I may not make any comment or declaration here on behalf of the party. As you know, we members of the ANC are not allowed opinions about anything. Of course, it goes without saying that there is freedom of speech in Luthuli House; it is just after speech that freedom goes.
Recently I have had my share of hashtags. The most repeated accusation is that I voted for apartheid. Yes, as a member of the National Party, I did. Maybe I am the only white South African to admit it. But understand that if I hadn’t voted for apartheid when I did vote for apartheid, I would have been locked up in prison as a communist and a terrorist and I would have been the new Minister of Higher Education today.
I am not a minister, or a director-general, or a policy-maker. I am just another cadre in this former liberation movement, now the government of South Africa. As soon as I joined the party, I realised what I had to do to contribute to our future in this democracy of the people, for the people, by the people who seem to have forgotten the people. I am in the Luthuli House kitchen cooking for reconciliation. So I put the Cabinet on a very strict diet. It is not a state secret: most of them are too fat! And an overweight government under-thinks. You just have to look at a fat politician to think of the millions of thin voters in our country who are getting poorer and thinner. All Julius Malema has to do to prepare for the 2019 General Election is promise them everything and anything and they will vote him into power democratically as our next President – and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “Weimar Republic” and then Google “Adolf Hitler 1929”. And I might add humbly: my diet has been a great success. Members of Cabinet now can fit into economy class seats on SAA.
So why am I in the ANC? Some have said that seeing Evita Bezuidenhout in the ANC is like seeing Angela Merkel as a Greek bank manager. I am there because I was challenged by my three black grandchildren. Well, I don’t regard them as black or white: they are Barack Obama Beige. They said: “Gogo? What are you going to do to protect democracy so that one day when we need to vote freely and fairly, democracy will still be there in full working condition?” So that is my challenge and commitment to the future of all our young people.
Someone has to be in the heart of power to keep an eye on the fragile ball of democracy. It is as easy to blame State Capture for the successes of corruption as it is to blame apartheid for the failures of government. Luthuli House needs to fix this mess. It is the headquarters of the African National Congress and probably the only and most active power station that the party has bothered to build in the last 24 years. The lights in our democratic establishments are dimming rapidly. Carelessly, Parliament is no longer the centre of people’s power. It has become either a DA parking garage, or a playpen for the Teletubbies of the EFF. That will have to change urgently if we are to avoid another armed struggle.
On 27 April 1994 millions of South Africans queued up together to vote for the very first time, and many of them voted many times. The change from a one-party state to our multiparty democracy was a peaceful and joyous reality. Being in my kitchen has proved once again that it is one place where service delivery is essential. One slip-up and your customers find somewhere else to spend their time and money. Service delivery is the oxygen of freedom. Lack of service delivery creates a vacuum that is easily filled with corruption.
Corruption. During the apartheid regime corruption didn’t exist. It was called policy. We had Ruperts and Oppenheimers, and we had Luyts, not Guptas. We didn’t have social media, hashtags or tweets. We had a tightly controlled media and a police-run national broadcaster. We didn’t have critical headlines and breaking news because we wrote those headlines and broke that news and nearly got away with it. Today in the civilised world, democratically elected governments are finding democratically accepted ways to destroy democracy. Corruption has once again become policy, from the White House to 10 Downing Street, from the Kremlin to Beijing, from Saxonwold to Nkandla.
Comrades in Luthuli House enjoy the joke at my expense: “Comrade Evita Bezuidenout was once in Parliament and Minister Dlamini was in the kitchen. Now it’s vice versa.” Yes, fake news but funny. Sadly there are few jokes to lighten up the murky reality of politics as usual. We are all focusing on the congress expected in December where a new leader of the ANC will emerge to be the future President of South Africa.
The list is a who’s who of what was, what is and what shouldn’t be. Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma, Baleka Mbete, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mathews Phosa, Zweli Mkhize, Jeff Radebe – the list grows daily. It has become our version of Idols. Of The X Factor. Of The Voice. If only The Apprentice! Candidates and factions are canvassing among voters and local branches, making loud promises to attract more approval. May the best comrade win? Yes, but must South Africa lose?
I am not the ex-wife of a sitting President. I am not the daughter of two Struggle icons. I am not the embattled co-author of a constitution. I am not a minister in the Presidency who enjoys collecting photographs of female friends. I am not anything other than me: a gogo, a citizen, a designer-democrat. Some can add other names. I am also not a white South African. I am a South African who is not black.
And so as President Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Donald Trump and others pinned their colours to the masts of power, allow me humbly to announce herewith most categorically and I can repeat that with conviction in four of the 11 official languages: I am making myself available as a candidate for the Presidency of the African National Congress. There are two powerful women already in the race. They need help. There are a cluster of powerful men already choosing their Presidential Boeings from the brochure. They need to be brought down to earth.
But there is a difference, not just in colour but in context: I don’t want to be the President of South Africa, or President of the ANC, not always in that order. I don’t have to be those things. I am a citizen of a democracy and that gives me more power and pride than any blue light brigade. All the above-mentioned candidates are telling the comrades and cadres in the party what they want to hear in order to get their votes. I don’t mind if you don’t vote for me. But I’m going to tell you the things you don’t want to hear. Someone must expose the truth. Let us unleash a new armed struggle against state capture, corruption and fakeness with the Constitution as our weapon of choice!
If the candidate elected in December is not the right person, male or female, who will ruthlessly cut away the cancer of corruption, imprison the gangsters disguised as leaders and clean the sandbox of power which the fat cats have been soiling with their Saxonwold diarrhoea, we will lose our country. That simple.
That is the first truth from me which you don’t want to hear. There will be more to come. So till then, in this year of Oliver Tambo, allow him the last words: “The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children, does not deserve its future.” DM
This is a slightly edited version of a speech to be delivered by Evita Bezuidenhout on Tuesday in Durban to announce her candidacy for President of the ANC in December.
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