The dominant ruling party has forfeited its right and authority to use the good name of the ANC. It is heartbreaking to see how, over the past 28 years, the party has abused its power and how far it has fallen.
This astounding fall from grace was not caused by an isolated act of criminality, not by individuals, nor by one sitting president, but by a series of systematic attacks, executed by the top leadership of the party against all organs of state over these past 28 years.
Their actions have wreaked more damage upon our economy, our society and the environment than any previous war in our country. The scale of the looting and the levels of pain and suffering that the majority of ordinary South Africans continue to endure is staggering.
The ANC and its alliance partners have not only alienated themselves from the masses of our people and lost the moral authority, trust and respect of ordinary South Africans, but has brought shame and dishonour to past generations, our forefathers, past esteemed leaders, and centuries of gallant freedom fighters.
We summon the elders to see and listen, discuss and then enforce a sanction. We call on the elders to rip the stripes from the uniforms of all those who have brought the good name of the organisation into disrepute, and henceforth prohibit them from wearing the insignia or colours of the ANC.
During the uninhibited, eight-day looting spree of July 2021, the ruling party completely abdicated its responsibility and failed to take meaningful action against the perpetrators.
In the 1980s, Allan Boesak threw himself over the near-lifeless body of a uniformed policeman who was being stoned at a funeral in Salt River. This courageous act caused the frenzied crowd to stop stoning and to disperse and allow the funeral to proceed calmly.
Political leaders who wield such moral authority no longer exist in the ruling party. Instead, in July 2021, from day one, in the absence of political leaders, it was the leaders of the people who were on the streets, defending communities from the mayhem and destruction. These community leaders continue to mount service delivery protests and champion the cause of the poorest of the poor. These leaders operate outside of the institutionalised framework of party politics, and rise, in ever-increasing numbers, within civil society formations and organisations.
Ordinary citizens are challenging the waning authority of the state and the ruling party, as they recognise that those who are supposed to be there to serve our interests are the ones who pose the greatest threat to our Constitution and our democracy.
Contrary to all the well-meaning calls for unity that are made at national conferences and rallies of the party, the ANC remains weaker than it has ever been, divided, dysfunctional and internally toxic.
It is most unfortunate that past presidents perpetuate the narrative that the ANC is so big and powerful that it will remain in power “until Jesus Christ’s second coming”. They fail to acknowledge what history has taught us – that justice will triumph over injustice and that societies will organise and develop progressive movements to bring down powerful illegitimate governments.
The question is not how long the ruling party will be in power, but how long it will take South Africans to replace the ANC government with a viable alternative.
If the ruling party had any remnant of self-respect or concern for the damage caused to the name and image of the ANC, then the President, his Cabinet, the top six, the National Executive Committee and the National Working Group would vacate their posts with immediate effect, in acknowledgment of the heinous crimes committed on their watch. Such an act may restore some credibility to a political party that has become synonymous with treason, terrorism and criminality.
But, realistically, this is never going to happen because the noble values and principles of the ANC and the interests of our people have never been priorities for this ruling party. Power and access to the public purse are all that consumes it, and it will employ every dark fibre in its being to perpetuate its selfish interests and those of the wealthy elite.
If there is any hope that people may have that the ruling party would ever defend the interests of the people against the wealthy, then consider how the biggest investors, the World Bank and Cyril Ramaphosa responded to the wildcat strike that threatened operations at Lonmin platinum mine on 16 August 2012, when specialised forces of the South African Police Service were pressured to slaughter 34 of the most noble of South African workers in the first recorded massacre of our new democracy.
It is inconceivable that seasoned politicians of the ruling party have forgotten from whence they came, who put them in power and how powerful the might of the South African people is. South Africa experienced a small political tsunami that hit the coast of KwaZulu-Natal on 9 July 2021, which reverberated into parts of Gauteng, causing at least 342 unfortunate deaths and about R50-billion in damage to infrastructure, places of work, livelihoods and the economy that will be felt for years to come.
To deprive a country’s citizens of their birthright and democratic future, as the ruling party has done, must and will give rise to a revolutionary movement that may lie dormant and grumble like a volcano for some time, but when it erupts it will destroy every injustice in its path. Fancy rhetoric, designer jackets and flags won’t stop the avalanche of change.
I can remember when I was in secondary school in 1980 and got involved in student organisations, consumer boycotts and marches. The South African Police and its Special Branch would monitor student meetings and leaders who they later proceeded to detain and arrest.
By 1985, a State of Emergency banned progressive people’s organisations and resulted in thousands of leaders from all walks of life and stations in society being arrested, imprisoned, ambushed, assassinated and killed. The South African Defence Force imposed curfews and the press was gagged.
Five years later, in 1990, I was part of a Robben Island prison delegation that was transported to Victor Verster Prison to meet Nelson Mandela to be updated on the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the return of exiles and the negotiated process to transfer power from the hands of the white minority.
I learnt then that the subjective conditions of a country can change very quickly. Then, as now, South Africa could easily move from a decade of relative calm to a decade of violent uprising.
A new movement for meaningful change is taking root in our homes, streets, communities, places of learning, worship and work, on social media and in the press. The new movement may appear illusive, localised and spontaneous, unconnected, dissimilar in intention and even conflicting and contradictory, but deep within that complex mix lies the viable alternative to the dominant ruling party and the magic of our rainbow nation.
If there is anything that can be learnt from the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983 and the birth of our rainbow nation in 1994, then it is South Africans’ unflinching commitment to build broad-based mass democratic organs of peoples’ power, to tear down barriers of division and to stand united to achieve an equitable and just society for us all.
Ordinary South Africans from all walks of life worked together to shield our most marginalised citizens from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are out on the streets every day to protest and demonstrate to improve service delivery failures. Ordinary South Africans have rallied broad sections of society to oppose Shell’s seismic surveys and challenge the rape of our marine environment.
For this new movement and potentially new political party, victory may appear elusive and impossible at times, but history places these demands on ordinary South Africans who can no longer wait on the ruling party to change today, but are actively building their own, new tomorrow.
South Africans, be fully aware of how dearly we all continue to pay for voting in a headless and heartless government. Understand the historical imperative, to vote in a new, good and strong government sooner rather than later. Only a new movement that is based on achieving the minimum aspirations of the Freedom Charter, that earns the trust and respect of the majority of South Africans, can avert this perfect storm. We must build a new movement and put forward a new political party to secure peace and stability, growth, development, freedom and prosperity for all our people and neighbours on our continent.
It is painful for a young democracy to learn such bitter lessons of betrayal. It is one thing to be oppressed by an apartheid government that hated the masses of its indigenous people, but it is even more painful when the majority of South Africans vote a regime into power that deprives them of their birthright, dignity and future.
We have no choice. We cannot limp through this decade with the current ruling party, a political establishment and state that has turned its back on its people. We have no choice but to focus on building a new political party that captures the hearts and minds of all South Africans.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but some things are certain. Civil society will correct and redirect this present destructive course by voting the dominant ruling party out of power. The party will respond with violence against its own citizens, but there will be a national call to action to unify the broadest and most wide-ranging sections of society to conceive of a new vision and to build a political party that is fit for purpose and capable to address the specific challenges of our time. DM