I will be King

2010-05-08 13:39

In a country where half of our population is

young and female, a tragedy is quietly brewing. And if the bubbling protests in

various townships are ­anything to go by, we can safely say that we have reached

boiling point.

Today, as part of my candidature for the Cope

presidency, I express my belief that it is not time to write off what could

possibly be the only alternative for a better future in South Africa.

When we go to the polls again, we need to

realise that we have had more of the same for 20 years. If we vote for the

ruling party again, we will get the same results.

Those who correctly saw the birth of Cope as the dawn of an

alternative vehicle to change the lot of our people have reason to be

disappointed, especially after some of the missteps that characterised our

founding year.

But is it time to give up?

The daily vacuum of leadership across our country is a painful

reminder that South ­Africa needs a political vehicle with the ­credibility of

having fought for freedom yet with the ability to use brilliant policies of

­reconstruction and development to change the lives of its citizens for the


The Congress of the People, as a vehicle, has to be healthy if it

is to achieve the dream of a better future for all South Africans.

It must

assemble at its upcoming congress an impressive arsenal of clear and crisp

policies to defeat poverty, and a plan to realise these policies.

It must produce a leadership collective that can rise to this


Such a collective, rather than simply its president, must be diverse

yet capable, young and dynamic – a team that can inspire the confidence of South


The congress is, in many ways, an opportunity to draw a line in the

sand. It is a chance to restore hope for many South Africans who have given up

on the South African dream after it turned into a 20-year nightmare.

Just ask a

mother whose child has to die because a hospital runs out of drugs.

The nation needs to be able to answer how we got to the point where

our hospitals, as reported by this newspaper, are in a state of virtual

collapse, with doctors leaving patients for dead.

The upcoming Cope congress has to ­produce an organisation that can

recapture the momentous occasion of the November convention and the electrifying

launch in Bloemfontein.

We have to revisit our ­promise to be different and to

turn the lofty ideals of the constitution into concrete bread and butter for

millions of our people.

We have to recapture the imagination of those who backed a new

agenda of hope and gave Cope the chance to be the third-biggest party in

Parliament and the official opposition in five legislatures.

In my home village in Limpopo, and I am

certain in many villages across our country, conditions have remained the same

over the past 16 years of our freedom. Our rural citizens want to see their

dreams become a reality in the near future.

This hope of our people persists

despite the fact that 58% of the South African population lives in abject


These realities must become part of the public discourse and,

hopefully, start to grab more public attention.

For many years, we have endured stories about rural provinces just

like Limpopo where students have no facilities to get a good education to build

their futures.

This suggests that education is not at the heart of public


All of this is linked to what one can term “the circle of poverty”,

where one evil gives birth to another, and where the downtrodden are perpetual


This is a story that does not read too well, and many families who

are direct victims of the collapse of service, something people in other

democracies take for granted, would read it as a doomsday prophecy.

Apart from some communities rising up to change their own

situations, it is only through the progressive employment of state power that

the lot of the many people described above can be changed.

We need a new formula

for turning our freedom into true economic liberation.

We have to change what many believe is our permanent state of


The challenges of poverty and unemployment ravaging our youth and

women, as well as our rural communities, should be a priority.

In building a credible alternative we give ourselves, as citizens,

the ability to produce a result different from 40% unemployment.

It may not immediately be clear what that alternative will do

differently, but what is ­increasingly clear is that something new must be


The men and women who will gather at the end of this month to

determine the future of this political vehicle will have the whole world

watching them turn over a new leaf in the book of South African history.

South Africans need a modern party that can keep the dream of

change alive.

I believe that people of courage must step up to make that dream a

reality and not give up in the face of tough times.

These challenges are the

birth pangs of something that is clearly meant to last.

»Shilowa is

Cope’s deputy president. He will officially announce his candidature for the

presidency of Cope in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape today. Cope will conduct its

electoral congress at the end of this month


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