Former president Thabo Mbeki has warned that South Africa will experience its own “Arab Spring” if the unemployment, poverty, and crime are not addressed urgently.
He said the people would erupt in anger because daily they were hearing of ANC leaders being corrupt and nothing was being done to address these issues. He warned that this created fertile ground for an Arab Spring similar to the one that erupted in Tunisia in 2010.
Mbeki lambasted the ANC, its alliance partners and their leaderships for lacking a programme of action and vision to address unemployment, poverty, inequality and lawlessness which were on the rise.
Speaking at the memorial service of ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte in Johannesburg on Thursday, Mbeki said the governing party had no national plan to address unemployment, poverty and inequality.
This despite President Cyril Ramaphosa saying in his state of the nation address in February that within 100 days, there “must be an agreed comprehensive social compact to address these matters.”
“In terms of our commitment to serve our people we have to address those issues. But the fact of the matter comrades as I’m standing here, is that we do not have an agreed national plan to address these challenges. We don’t have it. There is no national plan to address these challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality,” said Mbeki.
“I’m talking particularly about the comrades in the ANC and maybe even broadly, in the alliance.”
He said he got more worried when the newly elected general secretary of the SA Communist Party, Solly Mapaila, made a statement that the leadership was failing to discharge its responsibility to lead.
“He said the country is on autopilot. He went on to say that one of his fears is that when that leadership wakes up to its responsibilities, it will be at the moment when the plane is about to crash,” Mbeki said.
He said the people may disagree with Mapaila but the fact that he made it means that something was wrong.
“We can’t dismiss that as just a statement. The country can’t have so many people unemployed, so many people poor, people faced with this lawlessness, faced with the leadership in which ANC people one after another are have called corrupt. One day this is going to explode,” said Mbeki.
He added that the party needed to reposition itself, so that the process of the renewal of the country, of service to the people, would truly mean a better life for the people.
Mbeki said to honour the legacy of Duarte, the ANC must address issues of local government.
“We have seen all of these reports from the Auditor-General that always come out and point the finger at the councils, particularly those which are led by the ANC. That is the level of government which is directly in contact with the people every day, what message are we communicating to these masses?”
He said the crisis in local government was illustrated by what was happening in Mangaung in the Free State which was paralysed until national government had to intervene.
“And who are these people who are paralysing our municipalities? It’s ANC people. They’re fighting among themselves. That has nothing to do with serving the people of South Africa, it’s got to do with something else,” he said.
Mbeki also lamented the rising lawlessness in the country which he said was visible, but nothing was done to address it.
“Every day you see all of these terrible crimes being committed. Yesterday, people with guns just marched into a supermarket in Benoni in broad daylight. What are we doing about that?”
He described Duarte as a revolutionary who would have understood a number of things.
Mbeki said another lesson she would have learned and did as a revolutionary was to respect the truth.
“So today, we would pay this tribute to this revolutionary, who among other things as revolutionary is identified by those two factors, service to the people and respect to the truth,” said Mbeki.
He said the ANC, at its last national conference in December in 2017, took an important decision that it must renew itself.
“And it said, for its own survival, that if the ANC did not renew itself, it will perish.
This is four and a half years later,” he said.
Mbeki said as the ANC is preparing to hold its policy conference in a week’s time, it should address these issues.
“It’s a challenging task, it’s a challenging job because even in the 49th ANC national conference, which was in December 1994, the party declared to renew itself,” he said.
He also criticised people who join the organisation to use it as a step ladder to positions of state power to accumulate wealth for themselves.
That statement, that message has been made in conferences of the ANC since then.