After 29 years of democracy, we can no longer ignore the haunting cries of our ancestors or our fallen heroes. Instead, we must obey their calls to fight for justice. Let us use this National Day of Freedom on 27 April to ignite the flame of freedom to restore meaning, hope and dignity to the lives of all South Africans, so that our ancestors and all fallen heroes may truly rest in peace.
South African society is sharply divided into the haves and have-nots. The privileged few have the vote but also the added power to buy politicians, even entire political parties, and are understandably heavily invested in maintaining the status quo. The remainder of the population have nothing to gain from the chaos of coalition politics, are cruelly relegated to the fringes of society and can only depend on the power of their collective strength to compel meaningful change from below.
The Zondo Commission provided us with a defined but invaluable insight into the profound depth and scale of the challenges that confront ordinary South Africans in our endeavour to be truly free.
We were invited into the dark and sordid underworld of grand-scale, high-level corruption, acts that clandestinely drive government policy. We witnessed how politicians, public and private sector criminals benefitted from the looting of state resources, the wanton sale of our nation’s mineral resources and state-owned entities.
Presidents, Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, our local multinational corporations, private sector companies, international accounting and auditing firms, our big local banks, international banks, and foreign governments facilitated and benefitted from the looting and destruction of our nation. We have learnt with horror that our nation has been sold for 30 pieces of silver.
It has also become clear that we are not dealing with isolated individuals, a single political party, or a single government, but with a global system of powerful profiteers that unashamedly commit treasonous acts against our entire population. They manipulate the justice system and operate outside of the law.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Here you go: The final State Capture report recommendations – at last
The unholy alliance between the ANC’s tripartite alliance and the business elite has plunged millions of ordinary South Africans into conditions of unprecedented pain and suffering. They remain trapped in a vicious system, transformed and adapted over the ages, kept in a steady state of precariousness, dependence and at the minimal level of human existence. This was the plan under slavery, colonialism and apartheid and persists today, even as we celebrate Freedom Day.
We expect that our government would act with integrity and always work in the public’s best interest. But in our present democracy, it is scandalous privatisation, commercialisation, the securing of huge international loans, fiscal austerity and aggressive interest rate increases that have become the new, powerful instruments of colonial industrialisation that further burden already impoverished people.
The socioeconomic and political system in South Africa fails because the South African government remains committed to the legacy of its predecessor governments, has no moral compass, and values the obscene accumulation of personal wealth above human life itself.
The disintegration of society is not coincidental and is effectively used to divide the masses of our people. Politicians breed contempt, weaponise hatred, sow divisions, encourage war talk and doomsday prophecies and are highly invested in polarising society because it is a winning electioneering strategy.
Society is not only polarised at the level of government, but we are sharply antagonistic and intolerant of each other at all levels of society. This is not only reflected in the cruel attacks on women and children, the LGBTIQ+ community, foreigners, political opponents, and people of all shades, but in the chaos of coalition politics that protects narrow party-political interests above all else.
Ordinary South Africans have no faith in the political establishment and have retreated into their little laagers to provide for their own peace of mind, security and economic well-being. We must understand that all of humanity is heavily implicated in every calamity, atrocity and hardship, and failure to act will inevitably manifest what is coming our way.
Ordinary South Africans do not have to contend with deep-seated corruption and bad governance. Nor should they have to contend with one of the most predatory and corrupt business elites in the world, according to Transparency International and PwC’s global economic crime and fraud surveys.
I cannot predict, if, when or how a revolution may start but we surely have the ingredients for shocking regime change, when the political establishment and our powerful business elite gang up against society at large.
Too many South Africans are hurting, have no trust or confidence in government, Parliament, the state, the judiciary and democracy, and are angry beyond the point of no return. South Africans are no longer spectators or victims but have picked up the spear to become the masters of their own destinies. The pace of political awareness, political activism and active protests has dramatically increased over the past decade because something has shifted in the psyche of ordinary South Africans.
The South African government and the business elite, the 0.1% that owns 85% of household wealth, or more than the combined household wealth of 32 million of the poorest citizens, have drawn the battle lines in the sand for us. We are well advised to get back into the trenches quickly, organise as though our lives and those of our children depend on it, and steel ourselves for the protracted struggle that lies ahead.
South Africans are fortunate because we have a long tradition of compelling change from outside of immoral government establishments — 70% of registered voters did not feel confident in the 2021 local government elections and refrained from voting for any political party while 90% of young people between the ages of 18 and 21 did not bother to register. This is as much an expression of no confidence in the cohort of political parties and Parliament as it is a total rejection of maintaining the status quo.
Over the past 29 years, the policies of the ruling ANC-led government have resulted in gross inequality and mass economic exclusion while it used its majority to block the provision of secure jobs, decent wages, proper education, transportation, healthcare, electricity and housing needs.
This has led to an alarming increase in popular resistance and protest actions. According to the South African Police Service’s quarterly crime statistics, the police were physically present at 2,455 public protests from July to September 2022, an average of 27 protests per day.
Ordinary South Africans are not holding their breath for the ANC to find its conscience or for the outcome of any family meeting, legal process or the 2024 national government elections. Ordinary South Africans are not apolitical, apathetic or oblivious to the acute multi-faceted crisis that confronts them but have made their own logical and practical decisions to rely on the safety and comfort of their own collective strength to speak truth to our tone-deaf government.
The Struggle continues
The resistance movement of the 1980s taught us that there is no personal profit or monetary gain for contributing to the freedom of our people. We build strong, democratic, grassroots organisations everywhere to foster nation building and our only reward is to realise the hopes and aspirations of our diverse communities.
We learnt to put the interests of ordinary citizens at the centre of our daily actions, pronouncements, and prayers. The terrain of struggle is as wide open today as it was at the very beginning of the 1980s and provides many opportunities for creative and artistic expression, innovative forms of agitation, inter-denominational prayer meetings, non-partisan demonstrations, cross-sectoral strikes, and joint community protests to compel change from below.
A leaf out of environmental activists’ books
I am encouraged by the courageous activists who protested against Shell’s conducting seismic surveys along our coastline. Activists came from the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and even from Johannesburg which has no coastline. The movement received significant support from society at large, was successful in raising public awareness, frustrated the efforts of a giant multinational corporation and remains the go-to point for all South Africans if any attempt is conceived or made to threaten our marine environment.
What is significant about this movement is that it was not led or hijacked by any political party. It was comforting to stand together with young and old South Africans, barefoot on the beach sand, lapping up the splendour of our majestic coastline while wielding posters that opposed the rape of the oceans.
It was heartwarming because the sharp and often venomous antagonisms of ideology, political affiliations, spiritual beliefs, race, gender, language or class had no meaning at these demonstrations because of the singular calling to embrace and protect the environment.
There is no silver bullet to forge national unity, especially when polarisation and sharp divisions have manifested themselves so deeply in society. But these brave activists that emerged from obscurity along our entire coastline remind us of our common plight and common future and show us that ordinary South Africans can unite and work together effectively, outside of the political establishment, to improve the lives of all South Africans.
Ordinary South Africans must forge a common destiny and speak in one voice to have maximum impact in defending our nation from any further decline. Our immediate priorities should surely be:
- Remove the ANC from power with immediate effect and by whatever available legal means because the ANC’s 55th national elective conference of 16 December 2022 has declared war against everything that the ANC and all fallen heroes have stood for. Isolate the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners and any opposition party that goes into a coalition agreement with the ANC;
- Agitate for a brand new electoral system that makes politicians much more directly accountable to the people and allows citizens to have greater access to their public representatives. Broad public participation and public decision-making are the positive force that binds us all and allows for meaningful influence over government policy, performance and actions;
- Agitate for the immediate creation of the highest level of independent, anti-corruption public institution that will be permanent and secure, well-resourced with the most senior prosecutors and protected from political interference. This entity should provide protection to whistleblowers, and be fit for purpose, capable of dealing head-on with the scourge of grand-scale high-level corruption and international crimes that have emanated from the top echelons of the public and private sector;
- Agitate for an immediate moratorium on the sale, privatisation, or commercialisation of any strategic, state-owned entity, until new strategies are agreed upon based on broad public consensus. We must insist on a much better system of checks and balances before any such acts to sell, privatise or commercialise state assets are embarked upon. It is necessary to consider post-apartheid legislation and policy so that we may reverse any irregular issuing of mining rights or the sale, privatisation or commercialisation of any state asset or entity; and
- Agitate for an immediate moratorium on the securing of any future international loans until a process is established to provide for much greater public scrutiny, public accountability, and transparency before any such loan agreements are entered into.
Ordinary South Africans are not naïve to believe that the South African government can change course of its own volition. It is embroiled far too deeply in protecting its wealthy donors and powerful benefactors. It continues to abuse state power and engage in subversive state repression to discredit and subvert any forms of legitimate social protest.
This government continues to undermine our national sovereignty with criminal impunity, and protects this cruel and oppressive system that keeps the masses of the population suspended in a steady state of subjugation and calls it “democracy”.
Vladimir Lenin described this moment when he said, “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
It is not entirely accurate that nothing happens in a decade or that decades happen in weeks, but there is merit in the sentiment that when the pace of popular resistance increases dramatically; voter apathy and deep mistrust increase alarmingly; and the state remains stubbornly invested in protecting the interests of a small wealthy elite above all others in society; that this is the moment when governments are rocked from their complacency by nationwide, popular demonstrations and shocked by people-driven movements of resistance that force them out of power. DM