Max du Preez

South Africa's glimmers of hope

2015-05-12 08:19

Max Du Preez

South Africans are not going to sit back and watch passively as all hope we have of a better future disappears into the sand.

Two events the last few days gave me a glimmer of hope after months of depressing developments: the Solidarity Movement’s “crisis conference” and the Democratic Alliance’s elective conference.

I have no association with either grouping. But both sent out a strong message that civil society is digging in its heels and is becoming involved.

This is exactly the medicine we need: new civil activism. South Africa is on a slippery slope and citizens should make it their business that the slide is stopped.

New energy

No, it’s not strange that I mention two movements that are light years apart in one breath. They serve completely different constituencies and have very different political cultures, but in essence we’re talking about a new energy and commitment among citizens who want to halt the decline.

It’s early days, but as I see things today, I think the DA with its new face and approach has an excellent chance to play a much stronger role in our political affairs with its new dynamism and credibility.

It could very well be the party that will introduce real coalition politics and even a realignment of parties to our political scene.

I got the impression on the weekend that there was a fascination and scarcely hidden sense of excitement among many black South Africans about Mmusi Maimane’s election as leader of the Official Opposition, even among people who wouldn’t be seen dead in a blue T-shirt.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, you have to agree that Sunday was an important day in our political development.

There is still some hope

Maimane is perhaps not a real political heavyweight yet, but he has good political instincts, he has charisma, he is a good orator and appears to be a decent and talented human being.

His election and the things he said during his acceptance speech are a much needed antidote to the wave of racial mobilisation we have experienced recently.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is still some hope that we can stop, turn around and again embark on the difficult road of real non-racialism.

The DA’s strongest argument, especially when it comes to next year’s local government election, is that it can prove that it can be trusted to govern, at least on provincial and local level.

Few people actually believe the propaganda that the Western Cape and Cape Town are being governed as enclaves of apartheid.

This was the point where the DA congress and the Solidarity conference touch: both sent messages that South Africans deserve better government on all levels.

Getting things done

The keynote speech made by Flip Buys, leader of Solidarity, last week was an interesting intervention that could shift a few things, despite his emphasis on ethnicity and his flirtation with Afrikaner self-determination.

Solidarity and AfriForum have a record of getting things done and of getting involved on local communities, even though their main focus is on Afrikaners.

Solidarity’s position, says Buys, is that “the future is too important to leave to government”. The weakening of the state sector demands a greater role by the community sector, he says.

I agree with this sentiment. Stability is South Africa’s greatest asset. If the state sector keeps on faltering and nobody steps in, that stability comes under threat. The poor and the minority groups will feel the pain first and worst.

I hope Buys and his colleagues realise that their mantra of Afrikaner “self-help” will boomerang if they define it too narrowly. If only Afrikaners or whites benefit, but black anger and frustration continues to boil over, it would help them very little.

Sure, they can claim it’s all the ANC’s fault, but we will all suffer of we don’t fix the whole system.
I hope Buys will see that the slow pace of land reform, for instance, is not only unfair to black South Africans, it is actually becoming a threat to white commercial farmers and their enterprises.

Time for action

Government has spend many billions on land reform with very little to show for it. Land Affairs minister Gugile Nkwinti’s confusing and confused new proposals for farm size ceilings last week showed that little is about to change.

It would be to the benefit of the whole country if people like Buys and organised commercial agriculture stepped in with an ambitious project to speed up real land reform and the empowerment of black farmers.

And would it be too much to ask for the likes of Solidarity, in essence a white trade union, to extend a hand of friendship and possible cooperation to structures such as Cosatu and Numsa?

The time for whining and playing victim is over. The time for action and pro-active engagement has come.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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