Guest Column

Do we talk or renew SA?

2017-04-23 06:17
The Freedom Charter, signed in Kliptown in 1955, has given birth to free debate and labour rights. Picture: Robben Island Mayibuye archives

The Freedom Charter, signed in Kliptown in 1955, has given birth to free debate and labour rights. Picture: Robben Island Mayibuye archives

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The country needs to create its future in a similar vein to the Freedom Charter, says Barney Pityana, while Supra Mahumapelo feels that SA requires a renewal, reconciling and healing process.

Barney Pityana

Nation Dialogues is an emerging international mechanism for the resolution of conflict, the promotion of peace and democracy, and the establishment of democracy and good governance around the world.

This is an important initiative because it is the means by which the parties in conflict can face one another and, in a structured dialogue, arrive at viable solutions.

It also means that international mechanisms such as UN Security Council resolutions, which could lead to sanctions or the deployment of peacekeeping forces, could be avoided, thereby achieving peace at minimal expense.

National Dialogues are not all about conflicts that are on the same level, and they do not all envisage the same ends.

Andries Odendaal of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town provides us with the most apt description of National Dialogues: they are conversations “where dialogue takes place at various levels of society in an effort to engage citizens in building sufficient national consensus on critical challenges”.

A great deal of conflict arises because of a need for one’s dignity and humanity to be respected, or for a group to be recognised.

Why dialogues?

Ethicist Kenan Malik, in a paper entitled The Quest for a Moral Compass, says dialogues “bring reason to bear upon social relations to define a rational answer to a moral question [that] requires social engagement and collective action”.

This allows citizens to be free and able to manage their own freedom.

It means that people are released from the straitjacket of uniform thinking, as well as predetermined outcomes.

Meeting in conversations across all societal divides can be unifying – people could develop a desire to craft their own solutions to social problems; discover among themselves hitherto unknown skills; get to know and understand their neighbours; and find the means to transform their social conditions.

This affords a reality to what a people’s parliament should truly be.

Dialogues, like so much in life, may succeed or fail.

The critical success factor is that the participants take ownership of the ideas and processes, as well as the outcomes thereof, and that they participate voluntarily.

They will therefore own the dialogue because they are heard, and they will recognise their voices in the solutions brought about in the process.

Dialogues succeed because they are inclusive and everyone is equal – there are no outsiders and no one has more power than another.

They also succeed or fail due, in part, to the skill of the facilitators, who could be experts or community figures who command respect and reverence.

They should be trusted to be fair and must bring an insight that helps to break a deadlock.

Funding is essential

A critical success factor, of course, is funding.

An initiative of this nature must neither depend on government, nor on external donor funding for sustainability.

However, this is an ambitious and capital-intensive project. All should dig deep into their pockets to make them work.

A group of foundations has established an initiative that comes out of a recognition that South Africans are always engaged in conversations; and that these conversations are reflective of the mood in which our people find themselves at a particular time.

Presently, they believe that, for them, the democratic system is not working to the benefit of ordinary people.

South Africans are searching for ways to change their lives for the better and be assured of a system of governance that hears the needs of the people.

In other words, one senses that the mood is one where citizens wish to take responsibility for their own future.

Yes, we do fear that, unguarded, South Africa may be too close to the tipping point of disillusionment.

What may be lacking, though, is that the conversations, unguided, may be taking place without structure and coherence.

The events over the past few weeks, not for the first time, were a wake-up call for South Africa.

Every step that government takes is a confirmation of how distant our leaders are from the people they seek to serve, and every statement made demonstrates that they are not to be trusted.

At the end of the day, however, the issue is not about President Jacob Zuma or even the ANC, complicit as they may be in the mess our country finds itself in.

It is rather that we have entrusted a flawed character such as Zuma with so much. We should turn the focus on ourselves as citizens and electors in a constitutional democracy, and as bearers of rights.

We should learn to take responsibility and look for ways to get out of the quagmire.

By doing so, we will learn the lesson that, once bitten, twice shy.

In a historic move, the foundations that bear the names and advance the legacy of several luminaries in the construction of the new South Africa have come together to form the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative, which has resolved to facilitate an initiative of citizen engagement among themselves in the hope that this may reignite a passion once enjoyed by the people of South Africa to “reimagine our country, recapture the vision of the founders of our constitutional and democratic state, and rekindle a passion for building a South Africa of our dreams”.

The initiative will facilitate a programme to coordinate, document and research conversations and dialogues across the country.

It will invite all citizens to participate in the dialogues and, if they so wish, to shape a new future for our country.

The hope is that this process will result in the adoption by a people’s Parliament of a manifesto for a new South Africa, something last achieved, perhaps, in the Freedom Charter in 1955.

Pityana is programme adviser to the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.

The inaugural dialogue will be held at Wits University on May 5 and will be addressed by, among others, FW de Klerk, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Supra Mahumapelo

The protracted struggle to create a nonracial society in South Africa is going to be opposed, shunned, criticised, ridiculed, hijacked and derailed by the beneficiaries of apartheid colonialism, and by a few black people who have been co-opted into this complex, stubborn and sophisticated system.

Those who lead the genuine struggle against all manifestations of this system – particularly the ANC – will be the targets of all sorts of ridicule.

Their objective and subjective mistakes will be sensationalised, magnified and clothed in blankets of ethics and integrity by the majority of the few beneficiaries of the economically bloodthirsty cohorts.

Beneficiaries of the apartheid system succeed in co-opting the African and blacks in particular because they are hiding behind a strong democracy and defending constitutionalism.

This fertile environment wouldn’t have been possible if South Africa was not a constitutional democracy with the freedoms that everyone enjoys, but sadly in this case, these freedoms are being used to achieve nefarious political objectives

A case in point is the current political situation, in which a democratically elected organisation – the ANC – is being opportunistically displaced from political power through a regime-change agenda disguised as a demand for President Jacob Zuma to resign.

This is nothing but a political laboratory exercise by apartheid colonialist co-opters to initiate a coup.

Confronting the injustices of our past

While the past reconciliation process should be embraced for the little it has achieved for our country, it is clear that the country needs to go through a more intense process of reconciliation, healing and renewal.

This must become the new normal for South Africa, and must be embedded within the implementation of the National Development Plan.

We have to live with the reality that this process in itself is not going to be painless.

The pain that we have to endure as a nation must be the glue that holds us together.

The pain has to be felt collectively.

Some organisations, such as the DA and the anxious section of the society it represents, believe that, among other things, we must just focus on the future and forget about our past.

They want this without looking at the injustices of the past, which include land dispossession, ownership and control; institutionalised apartheid colonialism and its manifestations; and ownership and control of financial institutions.

Political challenges

The anti-ANC and current regime-change strategy is premised on fear and hatred in the short term.

The majority of the white minority fears a radical socioeconomic transformation.

A few black people fear the possible erosion of minute personal economic benefits.

In the short term, these small sections of our society – both black and white – are united in their dislike and hatred for Zuma, and they are disguised as South Africans whose moral ethics and integrity can be found in their quest to defend the Constitution against corruption (to be blunt, Zuma et al’s corruption).

All of us need to help South Africa extricate itself from a possible slippery slope of self-destruction as a consequence of political suicidalists who profess to be collective epitomes of our moral and ethical barometer.

The ANC’s policies affect the lives of all because it is the governing party.

Instead of seeking to displace the ANC from power, all sections of our society should engage with the ANC on the content of policy as part of influencing its evolution and implementation imperatives.

South Africans can then, during the elections every five years, judge the ANC on its implementation of policy.

The hatred for Zuma

As Nelson Mandela said, “no one was born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or background or religion.

People learn to hate and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Let those who hate and dislike Zuma approach him and talk to him about their personal problems.

This must include the hatred a few people have of those surrounding the president (for example, the Guptas).

Our leaders must be told face to face – and with the right to reply – if indeed they are messing up the country, and settle the matter either way.

Rule of law

Those proven through credible processes of law to be guilty of wrongdoing should face the consequences, without those who seek to incriminate them destabilising the country.

Making unsubstantiated allegations, particularly around corruption, must be made a serious criminal offence because these allegations poison the general political atmosphere and affect many people negatively.

These people are then compelled by these unfair circumstances to seek refuge on other platforms, which may further muddy the waters.

This is why South Africans, through their different democratic platforms, should bring forward ideas on reconciling, healing and renewing our country without believing that the forceful removal of the president is a solution to all the challenges we face.

We know that no court of law has found the president unsuitable to hold office.

The country requires an intensive dialogue across society, which must culminate in a concrete reconciling, healing and renewal charter, which can be assessed on issues of racism, land and economy for a nonracial South Africa.

Mahumapelo is provincial chairperson of the ANC in Bokone Bophirima province (North West)

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Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  supra mahumapelo  |  barney pityana
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