Opinionista David Gant 21 July 2021

The time is ripe for a new Codesa to map out a future South Africa under a Government of National Unity

The nation has had a wake-up call. It needs to be heard by all — politicians, business, community leaders and civil society and particularly by the haves vis-à-vis the have-nots — and a massive reconstruction of our political and socioeconomic foundations is desperately and urgently required.

David Gant

David Gant was co-founder and co-chairperson of Denis Worrall’s Independent Party in the late 1980s; Fedex Chair of the Democratic Party; member of the President’s Council; and member of the DP caucus. He was a delegate to the Codesas of the 1990s.

The events over the past few years, specifically the past weeks, have dramatically revealed the unacceptable levels of mismanagement of our country’s political, economic, social, legal and racial environment.

Rampant poverty, disease, unemployment, crime and corruption, service delivery, educational and healthcare shortcomings, a weak prosecutorial authority and the recent collapse of law and order in some areas of the country, have exposed our incapable, failing state and the unsustainability of the status quo.

The basic tenets of our Constitution — freedom of the individual, the rule of law and the provision of human dignity to all citizens — are not being adequately upheld.

The nation has had a wake-up call. It needs to be heard by all — politicians, business, community leaders and civil society and particularly by the haves vis-à-vis the have-nots — and a massive reconstruction of our political and socioeconomic foundations is desperately and urgently required.

Ideally, this reconstruction should be imagined and implemented by the government of the day headed by its leader and the country’s commander-in-chief and broadly encouraged by the majority of citizens. Notwithstanding the considerable intelligence, experience and evident humanity and empathy of President Cyril Ramaphosa, it is clear that he does not have a strong enough Cabinet and internal political party support to help him make the necessary radical resolute decisions himself and implement timeous, effective solutions. 

It is also possible that he is concerned that the ever-present skeletons of ANC politicians may emerge from his own cupboard, torpedo his credibility and weaken his resolve to make decisions that are unpopular for some or other internal ANC faction or provide opposition parties with new ammunition to attack him.

Reshuffling his Cabinet, as requested by the DA, would be akin to shifting the chairs on the Titanic, and in any event the hand of cards he has available to him does not contain any winners. The ANC’s solutions are confined to applying Band-Aids here and there to cover the damage, but they fail to repair the fundamental ailments.

Nevertheless, it would seem that Ramaphosa has the potential to become presidential if he can shake off the shadow of Marikana, be better advised as to the mood of the nation and draw support, strength and succour from a broad base of ordinary citizens in our country.

Again, such a political and socioeconomic reconstruction might well have been founded by a competitive political party environment in which the government of the day is defeated at the polls by a well-supported opposition establishment that persuades the electorate of its ability to govern in a manner that substantially improves their wellbeing and that of their children. 

We have no such capable opposition establishments. They are generally eloquent but lack broad-based appeal and sometimes resemble puppies yapping at the heels of their masters. While well-intended, the constant laying of civil and criminal charges against the government and its representatives by the DA and ActionSA is an exercise in futility and is time and resource consuming.

In any event, even if there were such a new, powerful political party with the capability of victory at the polls, the country could not wait for it to emerge over the next five years or so. Our problems are immediate and require immediate solutions.

South Africa’s road under the current dispensation culminates in a dead end and we need to pursue another avenue.

Under different but equally disturbing circumstances, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) of the 1990s supplied a much-needed new lifeline for our country, and our nation fed on that lifeline for a number of years with renewed hope and promise. However, that lifeline has been destroyed by the ANC-led government and it is now time for a new breath of fresh air.

Perhaps, in the mould of the not perfect but effective Codesas of the 90s, this lifeline could be created by the establishment, procedures, processes and decisions of an all-inclusive South African Convention for Political, Economic, Social and Constitutional Advancement (Sacpesca).

Civil society, not political parties, through organisations such as the Defend our Democracy campaign and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, should lead, convene, control and manage such a Sacpesca attended by representatives of all salient broad-based sectors of our society, including our political parties, and with the objective of addressing the considerable weaknesses within our society and deciding on sustainable, practical and urgent solutions.

There are hundreds of organisations that are appropriate representatives of the South African societal make-up, including NGOs, social movements, parties, foundations, campaigns, unions and associations that could rightfully claim to have a voice at such a convention. A limited number of representatives of each would participate in tabling, debating and providing solutions for their specific areas of interest, expertise and involvement. Ordinary citizens could submit their own proposals via the many communication channels available.

This convention would inter alia address electoral reform, stimulating economic growth, health and educational transformation, improving service delivery, strengthening law enforcement and state security, creating more public-private partnerships and effecting privatisation of SOEs, encouraging foreign investment and meaningful inclusive economic participation and racial redress. The views and proposals of civil society, rather than that of competing self-interested political parties on these matters, would dominate such a convention. 

It would become self-evident at the convention that the proffered majority-supported solutions, which by prior agreement should be binding on all parties including government, are incapable of being implemented by the current weak, fractured governing party alone and that only a Government of National Unity led by a selection of our country’s best politicians, business and civil society leaders would be able to provide the desperately needed new lifeline for our country.

Should such a government emerge from Sacpesca, the extraordinary potential of our country could well be realised.

Our nation is tired of the circus that is our Parliament and it is apparent that it is highly unlikely that any viable, realistic and sustainable solutions will emerge from that divided body. The parties are too immersed in promoting their own self-interest agendas and not that of the nation at large.

Sacpesca could possibly provide the citizen-based formula for Ramaphosa and a dramatically reformed ANC to reverse their failing trajectory. But having regard to the general inherent lack of capability, competence and moral values within that organisation, it seems that unless Ramaphosa can pull together the stalwarts and real reformists of the ANC, a better option would be to hand the responsibility of implementing Sacpesca solutions to the aforementioned Government of National Unity — albeit led by Ramaphosa.

Many commentators promote the notion that it is time for civil society organisations representing the majority of peace-loving, law-abiding and hope-filled citizens to speak with a united, all-inclusive voice and take control of the future direction of our political, social and economic dynamics. 

However, very few offer proposals as to how this can be achieved. Sacpesca could be the forum for that all-inclusive voice and the catalytic engine for real change and progress in our country. DM

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All Comments 8

  • Definitely a solution. Leave behind liberation movements and racially based political parties. Wake up DA you have blown it.

  • Absolutely – so why aren’t all these groups already doing this, getting it going? There is no time to waste. Please will they do so!

  • Thank you. Thank you. We were hoping to see this. What can we do to help? There must be thousands who now recognize this and we need to turn this realization into a popular movement of hope. We need to get captains of industry, civil society and government in one room to come up with some serious economic restructuring strategies. If the inequalities in South Africa are not reduced to reasonable norms the next eruption will possibly produce a dictator. The current situation is not sustainable under any party. “THE TIME IS NOW” . Maybe calling it a Convention for Democratic Prosperity in South Africa (CODEPSA ) is less of a mouthful than Sacpecsa. Let us know what we can do to help. What is Clem Sunter doing these days?

  • I agree fully. It is way past time for civil society to take a hand in determining the future of our people. WE need to learn not only from our own recent history, but also from what is going on the world today.

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