Former presidents unite to deal with crisis facing SA

2017-05-02 20:33
President Jacob Zuma. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

President Jacob Zuma. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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Johannesburg - In an unprecedented move, three former presidents and a former deputy president will come together for the country to discuss the "deep and pervasive national general crisis" facing SA.

The foundations of former presidents FW De Klerk, Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Desmond and Leah Tutu, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Chief Albert Luthuli and Helen Suzman will kick off the national dialogues on Friday.

De Klerk, Mbeki, Motlanthe and Mlambo-Ngcuka will address the national dialogue to "provide a safe non-partisan platform to South Africans of all races to confront the crisis in political governance, the toxic political environment and state of the economy".

The foundations said the dialogues will discuss the threats to South Africa's young democracy.

National Foundations Dialogue Initiative chairperson Nomhle Canca said these threats include:

  • The prevailing mood of despair and foreboding in society;
  • The diminishing of confidence and erosion of trust, poverty;
  • Unemployment;
  • A divided nation;
  • A stagnant economy and growing disparity between the affluent and the poor;
  • Rampant crime which outstrips the capabilities of the criminal justice system; and
  • The unabated attacks and erosion of State-owned entities.


She said the since the Convention for Democratic South Africa - Codesa - which resulted in a negotiated settlement to end apartheid - it was now time for the country to "asses the road traversed so far".

According to Canca, challenges included failures, opportunities missed and to answer the question: "What needs to be done?"

"The national dialogue will take the form of an imbizo in traditional society where the people come together to talk about matters of concern or Town hall engagements, in the American context," Canca said.

'Rule from the grave'

CEO of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation Max Boqwana said the national dialogue is not an attempt by former presidents to "govern from the grave".

He said the Mbeki Foundation joined forces with others, as they were particularly concerned that the stature of the country was diminishing across the continent.

"It's the disappointment on the continent that is based on the fact that in pursuance of this ideal of Africa's Renaissance, South Africa was expected to provide leadership, but with a South Africa that is in a general crisis... it is not in a position to play that role and it has become difficult for us to speak with authority with the rest of continent when similar things are happening at home," Boqwana said.

He said one of the topics that will be debated is the review of the powers of the president.

This comes in the face of the "failures of the executive and parliament", in reference to the Constitutional Court ruling that President Jacob Zuma failed to uphold the Constitution when he refused to pay back the money spent on his private home in Nkandla.

‘Give the power back’

"You have a situation today: An executive that has failed dismally to do its job in terms of the Constitution; you have Parliament that has failed to do its own oversight responsibility to deal with that; you have a court that has pronounced on this fellow, but nothing happens, now the rest of South Africa is hamstrung and don't know what to do," Boqwana said.

He said that Section 89 of the Constitution, which deals with the removal of the president, must be reviewed to give "people back power".

The FW De Klerk Foundation said while the present mobilisation of the South Africans has had the single goal of removing President Zuma, they believed the dialogue would be about more than that.

"It should envisage what should happen in a post-Zuma era to get the country back on its constitutional and non-racial path," said executive director Theuns Eloff.


Read more on:    kgalema motlanthe  |  fw de klerk  |  thabo mbeki

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