The people have spoken. Former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba on Wednesday announced that he will launch his new party in August this year and it would be ready to contest next year’s local government election.
Mashaba said his decision was based on the findings of the People’s Dialogues conducted over three months, South Africans were ready for a party that would do politics differently. Fed-up with crime, corruption and unemployment, the citizens provided solutions to these and other challenges the country was facing, Mashaba said.
“After experiencing the enormous impatience of the people, I made the commitment that I would launch a new political party. I made this commitment because it became abundantly clear that South Africans want a political alternative that can unseat the ANC and bring about change. I made this commitment because there is a common understanding of what needs to be done to fix our country.
“Today I can announce that I will be launching a new political party in August this year,” Mashaba said, adding that despite the uncertainty which is set to remain for months, he was willing to say “without any doubt that we will launch this political party to contest the local government elections next year”.
The dialogues, from December to February, were a socio-political experiment that Mashaba undertook when he quit the DA abruptly in October last year. His interactions with South Africans were based on concerns over the direction the country was going and the citizens suggested possible solutions to the country’s socioeconomic challenges.
After three months of the social engagements, on Wednesday Mashaba tabled the findings which had been delayed by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Summarising the findings, he said the dialogues had reached an audience of 33 million people on social media alone as well as more than 2.4 million in gatherings where the citizens put forward “solutions they believe are necessary to fix our country”.
In total “there were more than 125 000 substantive submissions, translating into 3.5 million words of text, or 10 000 A4 pages”, he said.
Chief among the top issues raised, Mashaba said, were South Africans’ love for their country and “their hatred for our political establishment which has failed to have their best interests at heart”.
“Unsurprisingly, the most strongly felt issue, put forward by 90% of respondents, was corruption,” he said, adding that respondents offered “solutions to address corruption in our country”.
According to Mashaba, the dialogues revealed that South Africans wanted “dedicated corruption courts specialised in their understanding of the tender processes, supply chain policies and legislation governing public management of finances”.
These courts would stop the corruption rot in the country. “South Africans want high profile corruption cases to be prosecuted to demonstrate to the world, and the corrupt within South Africa, that we are serious about dealing with corruption.
“South Africans also want fundamental reforms of the tender processes. From what I saw as the mayor of Johannesburg, the corrupt have professionalised their ability to sidestep safeguards in our tender processes,” he said.
Another burning issue raised by the citizens was “the re-establishment of the Scorpions”.
“We need a genuinely independent, prosecutorial-style investigative body that mercilessly hunts down the corrupt. When the Scorpions were shut down in 2009, they had a successful prosecution rate of more than 90%. Today we have endless commissions of inquiry – words without actions.”
Mashaba said citizens were also seriously concerned about unemployment, crime and the ailing economy.
“This issue [unemployment] has gained greater prominence in the last week as we have learnt of the loss of between three and seven million jobs in South Africa in the coming months,” he said.
In true controversial fashion he added: “Also on the subject of jobs and the economy, South Africans want their government to put an end to the employment of illegal immigrants.”
On crime he said: “South Africans were unanimous in their disapproval of the criminal justice system, most commonly described as dysfunctional. Most of the solutions put forward to fix our criminal justice system relate to fixing the SA Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority and expanding visible policing, specialised policing and detective services.”
He said based on all the issues raised through these dialogues, he had decided in February to form his own political party “devoid of the shortcomings that have continued to limit existing parties”.
“In every issue raised in the dialogues, South Africans recognised that politicians are failing to perform the will of the people. We vote for political parties, which choose their candidates for us and when we are let down we have no person to hold accountable at the next election. This has to change.
He said his party would be different from existing parties as its public representatives would be selected by the citizens.
“We will change the political system. While we will advocate for changes to our electoral system, we will act to live by our principles. Our party will have a candidate selection process run through community primaries. Aspirant candidates will be put forward by the party to you the people of this country.
“Elections will be held before the main elections, where you will tell us who your candidates should be. Next year you will choose our candidates for councillors and mayors, and in 2024 you will choose your candidates for provincial parliaments, the National Assembly, premiers and presidential candidates,” said Mashaba.
His party would also promote a free market economy.
“We will not compromise on this, we will not water this down. We will be the political party for South Africans who aspire to make something of themselves and their families through hard work. South Africans have made it clear that this is what they want, but they also want a just economy,” said Mashaba.
He said social justice for all would be a priority for his new party in its quest to building a more inclusive South Africa.
“Our inequality has to be addressed, and cannot continue for generations. We need to address the legacy of our past, but not through the ‘window-dressing measures’ employed by our government,” said Mashaba.