Tomorrow, South Africans will go to the polls to vote for a government of their choice. This will be the sixth time since the historic elections of 1994 which formally ended the system of apartheid rule.
We, the authors of this article, will be voting for the African National Congress (ANC). Admittedly, all of us have been members and activists of the ANC since our youth. This does not however mean that our decision to vote for the ANC was arrived at through the medium of blind loyalty.
Our starting point is that the right to vote came at the very highest premium in terms of human suffering and the cost to life itself. It is a right we cannot take for granted; in fact, it is one of the crucial indicators of the humanisation of the majority of South Africans. The fact that we have had successive elections since 1994 is testimony to the ANC's commitment to the democratic process.
ANC members and non-members alike know that in recent years, the ANC had lost its way and become its own worst enemy. However, we believe that the ANC's 54th national conference held in December 2017, which elected a new leadership with president Cyril Ramaphosa at the helm, gave the ANC and South Africa the possibility to close the sorry chapter of the previous years.
The conference was by no means a perfect gathering. Its outcomes reflected the struggle between many tendencies that are deeply rooted in our society and the world over – the most prominent being the idea that access to political power is a shortcut to wealth for incumbent political leaders versus another which holds that in a representative constitutional democracy such as ours, leaders exercise power on behalf of the people.
And so began the slow but contested process of renewal within the ANC and our government. That this process was initiated from within the ANC itself is of particular significance, for it suggests that the movement's abiding tradition of loyalty to the people and the country runs deep and will not easily yield to the dictates of predatory rent-seekers.
The ANC election manifesto captures this when it makes the important and honest acknowledgement that: "… we have learned the harsh impact of corruption on society and the economy. We have witnessed the loss of integrity in some of the institutions of state, business and political and other organisations. We have learned hard lessons about the vigilance needed to stop lawlessness, greed and selfishness from taking root."
Reassuringly, the manifesto further commits the ANC "to work with our people to address this cancer in our society".
Unprecedented redistributive expenditure
Despite its acknowledged problems and challenges, the ANC has since 1994 done a great deal to redress the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. It has effected unprecedented – in the history of South Africa and many other countries – redistributive expenditure such as social grants, free and subsidised housing and passed an avalanche of progressive labour and other legislation, and has managed to keep a historically divided nation together.
These measures required commitment, resolve and a measure of legitimacy without which the ANC would not have been able to carry the political cost it has naturally had to endure in sections of its constituency and differently disposed loci of power in our diverse society. We are convinced that no political party besides the ANC possesses this strength which is an important guarantor for the stability and cohesion of our country.
The speed with which we must resolve the enduring triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment requires all sectors of our country to work together in the national interest which, properly understood, serves each sectoral interest. The overall stability we have enjoyed in the last 25 years demonstrates that a renewed ANC is capable of re-asserting the kind of leadership that can help to surmount our challenges, but the party evidently cannot deliver on national goals acting alone.
Better investment in the economy
So, a matter that receives scant attention in public discourse is that since 1994, there has not been sufficient investment in the economy. Government, business and labour have failed to unite around a growth and development agenda. Higher levels of investment are required to generate inclusive growth and employment opportunities, particularly for our youth.
The long-term stability and cohesion of the country require sound economic policies and the kind of cooperation which will enable us to respond strategically to our country's myriad socio-economic challenges. The failure to build a developmental consensus amongst our social partners has fuelled a growing tendency for populist sound and fury. We shudder to think of what will become of South Africa if this failure were to persist in the next five years and destructive, populist forces were to begin to dominate our politics.
A new era of hope
The ANC manifesto commits itself to a new era of hope and renewal; a New Dawn. We are convinced that if we all rise to the solemn responsibility that history has placed at our feet, we stand a chance to bequeath to future generations a proud and enduring gift of a South Africa which truly belongs to all who live in it.
In the weeks, months and years ahead, members of the ANC and South African citizens as a whole, should stand ready, and unapologetically, to bang the tables in every nook and cranny of our society whenever things go wrong.
South Africans must draw strength and inspiration from the rich global history of struggle which inspired successive generations of freedom fighters over the centuries, including the struggle against slavery from which we learnt from one of its leaders, Frederick Douglass, who said on August 3, 1857:
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Our people's grinding poverty must continue to gnaw at our consciences and spur us forward, forcing us to keep faith with the correct and noble goal of the total emancipation of the people.
We therefore urge you to join us in voting for the ANC tomorrow.