I listened to President Cyril Ramaphosa on the final day of the Zondo Commission hearings and am deeply disturbed. I was riveted to my cellphone screen and radio, eager to see and hear what the president would say. He had agreed, after all, to assist the Zondo Commission in its mandate to uncover corruption in his party and consented to be personally scrutinised, especially with regard to the commission’s broader concerns of State Capture.
I feel let down. The president failed to help the commission or shed any real light on acts of corruption within the party. He failed to identify or mete out appropriate punishment to any criminal networks in the ANC, in government, within parastatals, or the private sector.
Instead, with the smile of an assassin, he seemed to imply that no matter that the ANC — or he for that matter — may be corrupt, the commission had completed its task, it was time to leave matters and move past our failed new dawn. I lie down in bed and reflect on ex-president Jacob Zuma’s “nine wasted years” when Ramaphosa was still a frontbencher in Parliament. I think of the past three-and-a-half years when Ramaphosa was at the helm and drift off still wondering what the differences between these two men really are? Zuma uses Stalingrad tactics to delay and avoid dealing with the truth; Ramaphosa goes to the Zondo Commission well prepared, confident, charming and speaks eloquently — but does not speak the truth.
In the land of dreams, I hover high above and from my aerial view I see Earth’s place in the universe. The past, the present and the future are one. Nothing is permanent. Everything as we know it is in a constant state of motion and will inevitably come and go. All man’s effort is of little consequence to the grand scheme of infinite universes. Mankind will come and go. Our universe will go one day too, but in this present, it gives life and opportunities. Our purpose is to appreciate the unimaginable gift of life, albeit for a short while.
Black plumes of smoke bellow from the southernmost tip of Africa and I zoom in and observe presidents who are the products of their political parties. I see the ANC losing its moral integrity and know it will never regain those golden years and place that it once occupied in the hearts and minds of the South African people, Africa, or the international community. The ANC loses its legitimacy to govern and threatens to destroy the very basis of the people’s democratic way of life. The people in their wisdom withdraw their support for a declining ANC until it too dies a natural death and gives rise to new life.
In my dream, I am soaked with perspiration. I run down the road frantically looking for the polling station desperate to reach it before it closes. I gasp for breath through my mask as I burst into the community hall with my ID in hand. There is an eerie silence, no people in queues, only the sound of my footsteps as I proceed on the wooden floor, under the eye of a friendly policeman, toward the lady at the desk to be verified.
I go to the cubicle irritated and frustrated because I cannot understand why people are not coming out to vote in the 2024 national elections. I feel the winds of change, the anticipation, and the nervous excitement. I place the voting sheet on the table, where in my mind I have already erased the ANC from the paper. I look at all the parties on the ballot sheet and make my mark. I wake up triumphant: The ANC loses its majority in Parliament. Coalitions between the ANC and Democratic Alliance cause more harm than good. Independents bring new vigour and erode traditional constituencies of the ANC. As coalitions form and jostle for their stake, the pie gets smaller for the ANC. Factional battles intensify, as do political assassinations, unexplained deaths and character assassinations while dirty tricks are deployed in the final efforts to hold on to the remnants of power.
Toxicity flows over into state departments and no positive changes are achieved to address service delivery, national debt, unemployment, poverty, education, housing, or medical care. It is a dark period when we question the reasons for our existence, capitalism, democracy, the Constitution, Parliament, the electoral system and the ability of the registered political parties and independent candidates to fundamentally improve the lives of our people. South Africans lose hope, respect and confidence in all institutions of state, in presidents who are products of corrupt political parties, in the parliamentary cohort of reformist political parties, and in our global economic system that is driving our people, the planet and life itself into extinction.
I am weightless and blinded by the light. Tears flow from my eyes as the struggles of humanity, the human trials and tribulations of bygone times are revealed to me, along with giant leaders of people from our early history. I am filled with the presence of Doman, a Gorachouqua Khoisan leader who led his people in the first Khoikhoi-Dutch war in 1659, and Gonnema, a Khoikhoi chieftain who led his people against the Dutch East India Company in the early 1670s.
I see Maqoma, who was one of Africa’s greatest resistance leaders and a Xhosa military commander who was instrumental in the sixth and eighth Xhosa Wars and imprisoned twice on Robben Island where he died of old age in 1873, and Pangerau Chakra Deningrat, the prince of Madura, an island off Java, who was a political and religious leader who fought against the VOC in the East Indies and was banished to Robben Island until his death.
I see Sebetwane, who between 1790 and 1851 led his people from their ancestral lands in Biddulphsberg in the Free State to establish the Makololo nation in what is now south-western Zambia, and Moshoeshoe, one of the most successful leaders in southern Africa who combined military aggression and diplomacy to secure a permanent place for the Sotho kingdom in present-day Lesotho.
I see Mahatma Gandhi who formed the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, led non-violent protests against oppressive white rule and who would later lead India to independence and instigate the world movement against colonialism.
I see Bambatha kaMancinza who led the rebellion in 1906 against British colonial rule in the colony of Natal which claimed 4,000 lives. Seven thousand people were imprisoned and 4,000 flogged.
I am filled with the presence of John Langalibalele Dube, the founding president of the South African Native National Congress in 1912, which became the ANC in 1923 and the first liberation movement in Africa. I am imbued with the spirit of Lilian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph who led a 20,000 strong women’s march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria against the apartheid pass laws on 9 August 1956.
I bear witness to OR Tambo who was president of the ANC from 1967 to 1991 and one of the greatest liberation statesmen in Africa and the world, to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the founding father of the Pan Africanist Congress that was established on 6 April 1959 after breaking away from the ANC, organised the 21 March 1960 campaign against the pass laws in Sharpeville and Langa and was later “detained” on Robben Island, alone and separate from all other political prisoners.
I see Hector Pieterson who was one of the young children who died in the Soweto uprising on 16 June 1976 when between 3,000 and 10,000 students were mobilised by the South African Students Movement’s Action Committee and the Black Consciousness Movement against the government’s plan to teach secondary school children in Afrikaans.
There too stand Oscar Mafakafaka Mpetha, Archie Gumede and Albertina Sisulu who were the three elected co-presidents of the United Democratic Front in 1983, a broad federation of diverse organisations that protested against the Tricameral Parliament and challenged the foundations of the apartheid system.
As are Mandla Simon Mxinwa, Zandisile Zenith Mjobo, Zola Alfred Swelani, Godfrey Jabulani Miya, Christopher Piet, Themba Mlifi and Zabonke John Konile (the Gugulethu Seven), Anton Fransch, Colin Williams, Robbie Waterwitch and Ashley Kriel who perished for answering the call to make South Africa ungovernable in the 1980s and whose deaths have never been explained.
I feel the presence of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first president of the first democratic government who focused on dismantling institutionalised racism and fostered racial reconciliation.
And I also see the 34 nameless mineworkers who died in the Marikana massacre on 16 August 2012. I see the National Union of Mineworkers on the one hand and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and the mineworkers who dared to lay siege to a barren koppie on the other. Lethal force was used against the mineworkers who demanded an improvement in their living conditions and a living wage from the multinational platinum mine owners at Lonmin of which Ramaphosa was a non-executive director.
It is too much to bear. I am ashamed because I have not honoured the traditions of our innumerable torchbearers who have illuminated such a bright path for us all. I cannot face my children, my family or my community.
I lay naked in the dirt holding tightly onto a stone tablet. A sprawling township lies before my eyes as I stand up to read, “Manifesto of the Political Party”. The preamble says, “In service of all our people and the planet we stand. Strike us down if we break this covenant with you”. It reads, “The party’s manifesto will be independently audited on an annual basis and the party will report annually on the progress of the below listed 10 ‘promises’ that we make to you the people of South Africa:”
The tablet has 10 Priority Promises inscribed in it:
- Love, happiness, honesty, respect and trust will be the cornerstones of the party’s policies;
- Democracy will not be confined to a once in a five-year exercise. The party will democratise our places of work, institutions of learning, the media and the communities in which we live;
- We will address the vulgar disparity that exists between the wealthy few and majority poor. The unhealthy accumulation of profit will not be sanctioned if it is to benefit only an elite few. Instead, wealth will be distributed equally, in the interest of the people and in preservation of the planet;
- Structural changes to racism, sexism, tribalism, poverty, unemployment, hunger, the land question, violence against women and children, gender-based violence, addiction, homelessness, hunger and xenophobia will be addressed head on as national priorities within the context of socioeconomic reform;
- Education and healthcare will be prioritised if we are to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the global public health crises of our time. The party will lay the foundation for new public education and healthcare systems, the building blocks of a new, healthy democratic and inclusive society;
- Small- and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the new democratic economy. The party will open up the economy to the people and rein in the stifling impact of monopoly capitalists and the mega chain stores;
- The media shall reflect the broad views of society and will not largely represent the views of a wealthy few. The party will promote the development of independent local, regional and national media enterprises that give greater expression to our diverse views, ideological beliefs and cultures;
- Our economy will be geared to broad-based growth. We will lay the foundation for the new democratic economy and political order;
- SA has a culture of corruption that is embedded and works against the national interest. The party will promote a strongly independent judicial system and will establish a permanent well-resourced office that deals with high-level corruption, fraud, money laundering and economic crimes against the state and its people by criminals in the public and private sector. Law enforcement agencies will be well resourced and capacitated; and
- The party shall not cherry pick South Africa’s heroes. We will honour our deep and diverse generations of leaders and the party will draw strength from our diverse legacy. It will appoint leaders who are truly committed to serving the interests of our people, put the country first, who are fit for purpose, maintain high professional standards, adhere to the noble principles, values and ethics of the Constitution and are transparent and accountable.
I wake up thirsty, but I feel good, refreshed and cleansed. I do not jump out of bed but lie in to greet the splendour of the morning sun. I cannot tell the future, but I can remember where I come from. I can dream and I can imagine that we will do better. DM