Much as I have long been sceptical of the depth of commitment to constitutional democracy by many of the leaders of the ANC, I never expected that former president Thabo Mbeki would go as far as suggesting, as he told ANC members in the Free State, that keeping the ANC in power is necessary to prevent the country becoming “ungovernable”.
How can people who have taken an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of our country, and to promote the hard-won freedom, be using scare tactics to keep the ANC in power despite the destruction it has wrought on our state institutions?
Fear has always been a political tool in our politics from colonial conquest, the apartheid era and over the past 27 years of corruption and State Capture. How tragic that citizens whose human rights and socioeconomic rights have been violated by successive corrupt ANC governments, should be made to fear exercising their right to elect alternative competent, accountable public representatives?
Post-liberation governance in Africa has been a challenge across the continent. The root cause has been the underestimation by liberation movements of the task of dismantling colonial, exploitative, divisive and undemocratic institutional systems of power and governance they inherited from the departing regimes. Colonial governance by its nature is corrupt and thrives on state capture.
Postcolonial governance should be about uprooting the corrupt colonial culture and replacing it with a people-centred governance model focused on restoring the dignity and rights of all citizens. Unfortunately, most liberation parties seem to have shown little interest in dismantling the systems of power and privilege they inherited. Many simply slipped into the shoes of the departing colonials.
One accepts that negotiated settlements are often heavily loaded to favour those losing political power to ensure that their economic interests are protected. Our own negotiated settlement is no exception. But the failure of successive post-apartheid governments to transform our socioeconomic system to promote equality and equity cannot only be blamed on the negotiated settlement.
There simply has not been the political will to create a just society.
There is overwhelming evidence that the ANC conflated party and state from the very beginning to entrench itself “as the leader of society”. The 1996 arms deal was the first salvo that state resources were to be used to benefit the ANC and its loyalists. Many commissions, including the Zondo State Capture Commission, have laid bare just how deep the rot is across most, if not all, state institutions. The people’s commonwealth has been plundered by those purporting to be our liberators, self-styled “the leaders of society”.
The ANC needs to learn from other African liberation movements who accepted electoral defeat, and used the time as opposition parties to learn the humility required for effective, transparent and competent democratic governance.
Take the case of Cape Verde. The African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde governed in a one-party state format from 1975 to 1990 when they were defeated in elections by the Movement for Democracy. Former president Pedro Pires describes how as one of the leaders of the defeated liberation party, they spent 1990 to 2011 learning how to be public servants who listened to citizens with respect. They also learnt to shed their arrogance “as liberators” and paid attention to the importance of professionalism, competence and accountability in public service.
After 10 years in opposition, the party returned to power led by President Pedro Pires. Cape Verde thrived under the transformed government, from a poor island state to become a middle-income country. This performance earned Pires the coveted Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in October 2011 after he left office.
South African citizens must not be intimidated by self-serving ANC leaders from exercising their hard-won right to vote for credible leaders. One would have expected them to show remorse for the untold suffering they have brought upon all of us, especially the poorest citizens who have yet to taste freedom from want and the dignity of being treated with respect.
Millions of young people have had their futures stolen from them by those entrusted with ensuring that they received high-quality education and healthcare and are provided with a social welfare net to meet their basic needs.
South Africa is not a poor country, but it is a country that has been undermined by the ANC’s failures to transform our neoliberal, white male-dominated economy into a wellbeing-for-all-economy that ensures social justice and healthy ecosystems. The private sector bears a huge responsibility for its role in State Capture and the exploitation of the majority of people, who are poor and vulnerable to the rampant consumerism promoted shamelessly by many companies.
Transformation of our socioeconomic system is long overdue. We need to promote the emergence of a more equal, caring and healthy society. Inequality not only hurts the poorest, but all citizens of highly unequal societies suffer from violence, insecurity and anxieties. Ours remains the most unequal society in the world, we should not be surprised by the carnage around us.
We urgently need to hit the reset button and return to a society imbued with the values of Ubuntu. We need to live every day with the knowledge that we are all interconnected and interdependent as part of the web of life. Wellbeing for some is wellbeing for none. We have the opportunity to recommit ourselves to the values of Ubuntu, and to work together to transform our society into a thriving constitutional democracy. Our country has enough resources to meet the needs of every citizen. We owe it to young people to restore hope and the joy of striving to live their full potential so they can shape futures they can be proud of. DM/MC