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The 2024 elections will be a watershed moment for all of us to reclaim SA from unaccountable and corrupt politicians

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Songezo Zibi is the national leader of Rise Mzansi.

In April, Rise Mzansi set out an ambitious mission to significantly reset South Africa and redirect its course to achieve real, material freedom. This is why since our genesis in November last year, we have said '2024 is our 1994', meaning next year’s election is as defining as the country’s first fully democratic election.

In the past, South Africa has had several defining political moments that reshaped the course of the country and affected the lives of every South African. Of course, the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 was one such defining moment, setting South Africa on a path of colonial dispossession and pillage for more than 250 years hence. 

In the 20th century, there were three political seismic events. 

The first was the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 in which the two Boer-controlled “republics” of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, combined with British colonies called Natal and the Cape. It was during this period that the infamous Land Act of 1913 came into existence, stripping black South Africans of their right to own land in all but 13% of the country.  

The second happened in 1948 when the National Party won the whites-only elections and pursued a policy of grand apartheid. This period unleashed untold political repression, turning South Africa into a police state that committed brutal torture and extrajudicial killings. On a grand scale, any semblance of cohesion in black communities was systematically destroyed to create a poor servant class with neither rights nor property. 

Correctly, in 1974 the United Nations General Assembly resolved that apartheid was a crime against humanity. This epoch ended in 1994 with the current democratic order. 

The third political seismic event occurred in 1993 when an agreement was reached on a unitary state, and the first free non-racial elections, which took place in April 1994. This not only delivered peace but the country’s first democratically elected government, with Nelson Mandela as its president.  

This process resulted in the adoption of the current Constitution in 1996.   

Following intensive structured listening across the country and a very careful assessment of our structural conditions, Rise Mzansi believes that our politics, politicians and governing structures are no longer able to respond adequately to the needs and cries of South Africans today. They are also unable to prepare South Africa for the profound changes taking place in the world that pose many risks to the wellbeing and survival of South Africans.  

These include the climate crisis and artificial intelligence. In other words, we are unable to deal with either old or new problems, which have now turned into a crisis that worsens by the day. 

Having delivered the peace in 1994, our political system has given us an unaccountable party list electoral system, and venal, corrupt politicians who do not think the people matter as anything other than voting fodder. It has entrenched in positions of national responsibility people, young and old, who believe that looking backwards is the best way of shaping the future. They hold South Africa back and impoverish its people. 

There are those who believe that for profound change to happen, we merely need to remove the ANC from power, as anything other than the ANC will be good enough. This is an extremely hopeful view in the case of everyday citizens and demonstrates a concerning lack of imagination in the case of political parties. 

Reshaping a country in crisis

South Africa deserves a break from the current political establishment that has so far not proposed a single structural change to reshape a country and society in crisis for the better.  

Here are some of the shifts Rise Mzansi believes are necessary. 

First, Rise Mzansi has set out a framework for political reforms that will restore democratic power to the people. These reforms include the electoral system to give voters meaningful powers over elected politicians, instead of party officials as it is now. It is untenable that most citizens have no clue who supposedly represents them either in provincial legislatures or Parliament, yet ours is supposed to be a system of self-government as democracies are supposed to be. 

These political reforms also include providing a more representative Parliament with more powers to oversee the executive branch, and new legal changes to make government transparency compulsory. No democracy can be sustained when citizens cannot hold elected officials accountable and they are not even allowed to access information that explains decisions taken by their government in their name. 

Second, we need new thinking in Parliament and in the government. The current approach to some of our most serious problems is often narrow and outmoded.  

For example, politicians and policymakers tend to see little relationship between spatial injustice on the one hand, and education outcomes on the other. Many working parents spend so much time commuting to and from work they never get to actually parent their children.  

Instead, the current thinking appears to be that children will eventually be able to read with comprehension even though they get limited mental stimulation, live under constant threat of hunger and have no one at home to help them with homework or their studies in general. The concept of state-sponsored child care for such parents is even more foreign, so it seems the expectation is that great developmental outcomes will happen by osmosis. 

The disconnection between politics and the struggles of families, especially single-parent homes, is astounding, to say the least. And so we have a politics that pretends these challenges within families and communities are not a political problem that commands attention. 

This outmoded thinking says that only a minister such as Angie Motshekga can resolve all of these by waving the policy magic wand, yet it takes much more than that to produce great, sustainable outcomes. There is little or no integrated, systemic thinking — and so 48% of all children who start school never finish. Together with those who only have matric, they make up 89% of the unemployed. 

In the first quarter of 2023 there were 4.9 million people between the ages of 15 and 34 who were neither in education, training or employment. It is a human tragedy that needs bureaucratic competence and a clear theory of social change and development at a political level.  

Justice and freedom

Third, being elected to political office does not amount to leadership, yet there is an entrenched belief that these are the same. Leadership is a factor of vision, the ability to see and coordinate our entire system of government and the credibility to drive a self-propelling moral idea. To Rise Mzansi, the values of justice and freedom should anchor our political and social moral grounding. No society or nation is built on an ethical vacuum such as we are doing now, and unsurprisingly failing.  

The appeal of every transcendental leader has been because of their ability to minister, to unite people behind a clear moral idea. Yet, we are stuck with politicians who believe fervently in sowing divisions and engaging in crass political theatrics under the guise of serving the people when all they want is media attention so they are top of mind at election time. This is purely for political power, not any idea to fundamentally transform our society so it lives up to the aims and value of our Constitution. 

Finally, non-racialism remains the most powerful socially transformative idea to come out of our shores. It is now an orphan as parties either pay lip service to it or rail against it for political convenience.  

Rise Mzansi has defined a new non-racialism with measurable economic justice outcomes within one generation. The government has engaged in empty platitudes for decades, setting narrow “economic transformation” objectives instead of measures that deliver sustainable human progress especially for previously and currently oppressed South Africans. 

The year 1994 was a transformative turning point that delivered a new political system, political institutions and an opportunity to move on from a past of violence and oppression. Next year, 2024, affords South Africans another opportunity to turn away from lip service democracy, party backroom dealings, corruption, collapsed institutions, loss of hope and national disunity. 

Next year’s elections are the only realisable chance to pull South Africa back from the brink, redefine our national purpose and build new structures to deliver on it. This is why 2024 is indeed our “1994”. DM

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  • Miles Japhet says:

    Accurate assessment but no policy solutions evident. Would be interested in what the specifics are.

  • . . says:

    There is so much wrong with this vision it is difficult to know where to start, but perhaps the best rebuttal is – the current system is dysfunction because of voters unwilling to hold the ruling party to account – replacing it with a direct election model will not change this, and it will further entrench the current of the masses.

    He writes like all our political parties are the same, yet there is a huge range of policy positions available, perhaps we should try some alternatives before be throw the baby out of the bath water

    And finally a big dose of populism – from the “sin of colonisation ” to apartheid spatial planning, however there is no coherence in the solutions nor detail on how they will be implemented and the tradeoffs required.

    Lots of hot air, that seems inspiring on the surface but offers nothing of substance. To be honest Malema males more sense and compelling reading.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      @Songezo just a question: Did you possibly pen this article on your colonial computer sipping your colonial Coca Cola or colonial bourbon, while sitting in your colonial house in your colonial slippers, before watching your colonial TV or phoning a friend on your colonial phone and getting into your colonial bed?

      There is no rush to answer, just think it through while you have some time available driving your colonial car.

      • Joseph Gaylard says:

        @Ricky Rocker – your remarks do a great disservice to the party you seem to be desperate for all of us to vote for, and explain well why it is so hard for some of us to consider voting for that party given, among other things, the attitudes that seemingly lie just below the surface. Are some people in this country now simultaneously both so sensitive AND so tone deaf to the experiences of others AND so completely in denial of the facts of our history that the mere mention of the word “colonialism” produces this kind of puerile response?

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          @joseph – firstly, please be clear that I am not affiliated with the DA in any shape or form.

          If I come across as being desperate for people to vote DA it is because I am well aware – as everyone else should be – that it is the only sensible option, and I would like to see a future for this country and for all the people in it. Wouldn’t you?

          Why do I push the DA option? Well, the vast majority of the commenters on these forums offer no solutions and no alternatives, just endless moaning – from the comfort of their lovely warm lounge in most cases I’m sure. So I am trying to put forward a tangible solution – vote for the DA. It is accessible and easy for all in this country and there is demonstrable evidence it can bring real change.

          And pertaining to this article: does this mean that I am not going to call out a perspective that promotes racism, is blindly myopic and is destructive for our country’s healing as a whole because it offends your sensibilities? Hell no.

          It is time for people to take a step back, breathe, and recognise honestly that yes there was bad but that equally we all benefit massively from the things colonialism brought with it. What would South Africa be today without it I wonder?

          So, enough of the divisive topics already; enough of the colonialism, black, white racist sideshow that is our endless focus.

          Here is the not-secret that is guaranteed to make South Africa what we all want it to be:

          Embrace differences and work together as one people.

          • Joseph Gaylard says:

            When you ridicule and belittle someone’s position without actually substantively engaging with it – as you do in your response to Zibi’s piece – this does not equate to “embracing differences” and “working together as one people”. Acknowledging the facts of history – and in this case the irreducible horrors contained inside these facts at the level of the actual experiences of milli0ns of people – is a prerequisite normally for being able to meaningfully and positively alter its course.
            And your contention that Zibi is somehow promoting racism in his article and needs to be “called out” is frankly so absurd it does not warrant a response, and make one wonder if you actually read the piece, which includes the following notable sentence: “Finally, non-racialism remains the most powerful socially transformative idea to come out of our shores. It is now an orphan as parties either pay lip service to it or rail against it for political convenience.”

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          I also have to say that what I truly want to see is equality for all.

          And with this goal front of mind I recognise that:

          The starting point is to get everyone educated at a quality level.
          Which requires a working economy.
          Which requires corruption to be stopped – hard.
          Which requires empowering the legal system.
          Which requires a functioning judiciary and police force.

          And that once the above are achieved everyone will be able to look back at all that terrible history and revel at how far we’ve come.

          So let’s make our own damn story and stop wallowing in the history of predecessors like today’s citizens are to blame. It is patently ridiculous and patently destructive, and we will never achieve equality until we start focusing on what is actually important.

          And I will say again that the best way to start the journey is to vote for a party that doesn’t have any heroes in it. A party that is boring and bureaucratic and focused on accountability and service delivery. A party that has the size and framework to actually run our country properly.

          At the risk of being accused of “being desperate”, I will leave you to choose which South African party would fit that bill best.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        @Songezo – I do take @joseph’s criticism so would like to say that my comment is born from being so incredibly of tired of watching our country beat its head again and again against the intractable wall of the past and watching people living today uselessly hating each other because of the actions of people no longer even alive – and unscrupulous politicians adding fuel to the fire at every possible opportunity for their own gain. And even more destructively the needless guilt and anger we are passing on to our children because of a history they have no part in or understanding of.

        My crudely made point is simply that there is a need for honest introspection and a narrative change that will allow all our people to stop being paralyzed by the past and look to the future. And that you as a responsible politician are in a position to achieve such change and should be striving to do so.

        What I would say to you personally is that from where I sit there are already too many parties in South Africa and creating a new one – even a perfect one – is unlikely help South Africa in the time frames needed, and may well be to everyone’s detriment. So why is it that you don’t join the DA, maybe even work to give it a rebrand more palatable to a greater cross section of our country. Surely it is more effective to build on a single loud voice than add a new one into the small party wilderness.

        Regardless, assuming you are honest and ready to serve the people I wish you all the best.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Agreed. But say much more, Songezo, and louder. We’re impatient to know where you’re headed.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Excellent article….to avoid yet another catastrophic decade of two in our history we need to become completely non racial by eradicating BEE policies and avoid “ re colonialism” by resigning our BRICS membership.

  • Christo Rix says:

    There seems to be nice sentiment. But it does feel like more big words and grand ideas, but very little actionable items. For instance, in order to achieve a society where the parents are more able to stimulate the children (which is a great idea), what is the first thing you change to achieve this? And what do you need to be able to do this one thing? I can appreciate all the details not yet resolved, and a lot of work still left to be able to get to the goal, but an idea of the path to take would be good to see. It is one thing to identify the problem, another to actually solve it.

  • Magda Campher says:

    I have a question for Mr Zibi. What is Rise SA’s policy on Russia and particularly the affiliation with Russia?

  • R S says:

    I wish you all the best in winning away voters from the ANC.

  • Paul Zille says:

    Enough of the ‘transcendental’ fluff, Songezo. It’s time you clarified where you stand on the everyday messy stuff of governance, reform, delivery. Start with your plans for BEE, the Developmental State, bankrupt SOEs, privatisation, devolution etc. etc. etc. Until you get real, you are sounding like just another one-man snake-oil BShitter.

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    Having read your book, I still contend that your ideals are naive at best with little in the way of real solutions for the real on the ground, get your hands dirty solutions. Further, why on earth do we have all these splintered opposition parties, each one thinking they have a better – and in your case – academic solution? For us to fight the corruption and incompetence of the current government is to have a united opposition with experience in the trenches so to speak. Re-building our country is not for the faint hearted or for those who think they can sit in corner offices and make academic pronouncements on the solutions – uh uh – it’s going to take way way more than that. My apologies but I don’t think Rise Mzanzi offers anything like a practical solution or even a map to practical solutions. Get behind a party that has experience and is already in the trenches Sir instead of dividing the opposition even further.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    YAPTSTVP = Yet Another Party To Split The Vote Pointlessly.

    If, like me, you are desperate for a country that works, please vote DA.

    The DA is not perfect, no, but they are a WHOLE LOT better than anything we have currently and they have the structures to properly run this country and improve all our lives significantly.

    And the more votes they get, the more likely it is that they will win and things can start to improve.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Songezo, I agree with your sentiments & analysis. What concerns me (& which i think is the biggest challenge Rise Mzansi faces) is your ‘voice’ being mixed up with & lost in all of the other political clutter!
    In this regard anyone who believes they have a constituency (or more than 100 Twitter followers) considers it a basis to start a political party! To put it bluntly I don’t think Rise Mzansi has the potential to be anything more than a small minority Party – which is sad, cos I think what you have to offer is far better than 2% / 3% popular support!
    Many of the peeps who have posted here wanna know about specific policy issues (Russia / Ukraine, BEE etc) but for me that’s far less important than a Party who speaks of pursuing values. The problem most people have with the current Governing Party is that they seemingly have none. The other great thing about building a political party & message around values is that values are more universal & bind people (far more so than policy positions do)

  • Sam van Coller says:

    The rapid decline in South Africa makes us all want instant solutions. Given our history and who was brought together in 1910 and again in 1994, South Africa is a huge experiment in liberal democracy. Instant solutions are not possible. Understanding the nature of the beast is an important start. Not one of the current opposition parties in Parliament has displayed the depth of understanding necessary to lead us on the road that climbs the steep mountain to success. Songezo’s focus on the need to deepen democracy, uplift our education out of its morass with creative strategies, leadership with vision and values and non-racialism seems a good start to me. Unfortunately not one of the opposition parties, including Rise Mzansi, can get anywhere near 50 per cent in 2024 on their own. The leaders of DA, IFP, Action SA, Freedom Front Plus and Rise Mzansi need to start talking together to see how their various strengths can combine in one effective opposition. I believe Songezo Zibi, who does not seem to have any political baggage or ego problems, could lead such a party to success. If they were to come together and project a vision for a united nation based on widely accepted values and our entrenched human rights, the money to enable them to run an ambitious and aggressive campaign would come in.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    This death by a thousand cuts is getting exasperating. Farmers are being murdered, (two this weekend in western cape alone), state coffers pillaged, SOEs collapsing, reneging on international accords, broken road and rail networks, grants being abused, aggressive taxation in the pipeline – and here we sit reading yet another inconclusive article calling for a new day and a new way, hoping against reality, immersed in intellectual masturbation, but with no idea on how to achieve it all.

    Heck, let’s all vote ANC and let them reduce us to Zimbabwe overnight so we don’t have to go through the angst of dreaming it could all work out only to find that the vast majority of this voting population really actually have no idea of how good it could be, but are pissed off enough for some to abstain and return the ANC with a reduced majority, which will mean debilitating coalition nightmares going forward and an even slower descent into hell. Let’s just get it over with and embrace this bus crash that is Mzanzi.

  • Johan Buys says:

    all the parties are saying that the ANC has failed us.

    the lasting image I have is of Zuma laughing his head off at the 10 parties squabbling and yapping instead of uniting under ABANC (anything but anc) program.

  • David Brunt says:

    Read zibi book “manifesto”.manifold challenges but for me biggest take out his call for polititians to be answerable to constituents -not blind support for party!A big win if this could permeate to CNA !

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