Do we talk or re­new SA?

The coun­try needs to cre­ate its fu­ture in a sim­i­lar vein to the Free­dom Char­ter, says Bar­ney Pityana, while Supra Mahumapelo feels that SA requires a re­newal, rec­on­cil­ing and heal­ing process

CityPress - - Voices -


Na­tion Di­a­logues is an emerging in­ter­na­tional mech­a­nism for the res­o­lu­tion of conflict, the pro­mo­tion of peace and democ­racy, and the es­tab­lish­ment of democ­racy and good gov­er­nance around the world.

This is an im­por­tant ini­tia­tive be­cause it is the means by which the par­ties in conflict can face one an­other and, in a struc­tured di­a­logue, ar­rive at vi­able so­lu­tions. It also means that in­ter­na­tional mech­a­nisms such as UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions, which could lead to sanc­tions or the de­ploy­ment of peace­keep­ing forces, could be avoided, thereby achiev­ing peace at min­i­mal ex­pense.

Na­tional Di­a­logues are not all about con­flicts that are on the same level, and they do not all en­vis­age the same ends.

An­dries Oden­daal of the In­sti­tute for Justice and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Cape Town provides us with the most apt de­scrip­tion of Na­tional Di­a­logues: they are con­ver­sa­tions “where di­a­logue takes place at var­i­ous lev­els of so­ci­ety in an ef­fort to en­gage cit­i­zens in build­ing suf­fi­cient na­tional con­sen­sus on crit­i­cal chal­lenges”.

A great deal of conflict arises be­cause of a need for one’s dig­nity and hu­man­ity to be re­spected, or for a group to be recog­nised. Why di­a­logues?

Ethi­cist Ke­nan Ma­lik, in a pa­per en­ti­tled The Quest for a Moral Com­pass, says di­a­logues “bring rea­son to bear upon so­cial re­la­tions to de­fine a ra­tio­nal an­swer to a moral ques­tion [that] requires so­cial en­gage­ment and col­lec­tive ac­tion”.

This al­lows cit­i­zens to be free and able to man­age their own free­dom. It means that peo­ple are re­leased from the strait­jacket of uni­form think­ing, as well as pre­de­ter­mined out­comes.

Meet­ing in con­ver­sa­tions across all so­ci­etal di­vides can be unifying – peo­ple could develop a de­sire to craft their own so­lu­tions to so­cial prob­lems; dis­cover among them­selves hith­erto un­known skills; get to know and un­der­stand their neigh­bours; and find the means to trans­form their so­cial con­di­tions. This affords a re­al­ity to what a peo­ple’s par­lia­ment should truly be.

Di­a­logues, like so much in life, may suc­ceed or fail. The crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tor is that the par­tic­i­pants take own­er­ship of the ideas and pro­cesses, as well as the out­comes thereof, and that they par­tic­i­pate vol­un­tar­ily. They will there­fore own the di­a­logue be­cause they are heard, and they will recog­nise their voices in the so­lu­tions brought about in the process.

Di­a­logues suc­ceed be­cause they are in­clu­sive and ev­ery­one is equal – there are no out­siders and no one has more power than an­other. They also suc­ceed or fail due, in part, to the skill of the fa­cil­i­ta­tors, who could be ex­perts or com­mu­nity fig­ures who com­mand re­spect and rev­er­ence. They should be trusted to be fair and must bring an in­sight that helps to break a dead­lock. Fund­ing is es­sen­tial

A crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tor, of course, is fund­ing. An ini­tia­tive of this na­ture must nei­ther de­pend on gov­ern­ment, nor on ex­ter­nal donor fund­ing for sus­tain­abil­ity. How­ever, this is an am­bi­tious and cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive project. All should dig deep into their pock­ets to make them work.

A group of foun­da­tions has es­tab­lished an ini­tia­tive that comes out of a recog­ni­tion that South Africans are al­ways en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tions; and that th­ese con­ver­sa­tions are re­flec­tive of the mood in which our peo­ple find them­selves at a par­tic­u­lar time. Presently, they be­lieve that, for them, the demo­cratic sys­tem is not work­ing to the ben­e­fit of or­di­nary peo­ple.

South Africans are search­ing for ways to change their lives for the bet­ter and be as­sured of a sys­tem of gov­er­nance that hears the needs of the peo­ple. In other words, one senses that the mood is one where cit­i­zens wish to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their own fu­ture.

Yes, we do fear that, un­guarded, South Africa may be too close to the tip­ping point of dis­il­lu­sion­ment. What may be lack­ing, though, is that the con­ver­sa­tions, un­guided, may be tak­ing place with­out struc­ture and co­her­ence.

The events over the past few weeks, not for the first time, were a wake-up call for South Africa. Every step that gov­ern­ment takes is a con­fir­ma­tion of how distant our lead­ers are from the peo­ple they seek to serve, and every state­ment made demon­strates that they are not to be trusted.

At the end of the day, how­ever, the is­sue is not about Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma or even the ANC, com­plicit as they may be in the mess our coun­try finds it­self in. It is rather that we have en­trusted a flawed char­ac­ter such as Zuma with so much. We should turn the fo­cus on our­selves as cit­i­zens and elec­tors in a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy, and as bear­ers of rights. We should learn to take re­spon­si­bil­ity and look for ways to get out of the quag­mire. By do­ing so, we will learn the les­son that, once bit­ten, twice shy.

In a his­toric move, the foun­da­tions that bear the names and ad­vance the legacy of several lu­mi­nar­ies in the con­struc­tion of the new South Africa have come to­gether to form the Na­tional Foun­da­tions Di­a­logue Ini­tia­tive, which has re­solved to fa­cil­i­tate an ini­tia­tive of cit­i­zen en­gage­ment among them­selves in the hope that this may reignite a pas­sion once en­joyed by the peo­ple of South Africa to “reimagine our coun­try, re­cap­ture the vi­sion of the founders of our con­sti­tu­tional and demo­cratic state, and rekin­dle a pas­sion for build­ing a South Africa of our dreams”.

The ini­tia­tive will fa­cil­i­tate a pro­gramme to coordinate, doc­u­ment and re­search con­ver­sa­tions and di­a­logues across the coun­try. It will in­vite all cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in the di­a­logues and, if they so wish, to shape a new fu­ture for our coun­try.

The hope is that this process will re­sult in the adop­tion by a peo­ple’s Par­lia­ment of a man­i­festo for a new South Africa, some­thing last achieved, per­haps, in the Free­dom Char­ter in 1955.

Pityana is pro­gramme ad­viser to the Thabo Mbeki Foun­da­tion. The in­au­gu­ral di­a­logue will be held at Wits Univer­sity on May 5 and will be ad­dressed by, among others, FW de Klerk, Thabo Mbeki,

Kgalema Mot­lanthe and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka


The pro­tracted strug­gle to cre­ate a non­ra­cial so­ci­ety in South Africa is go­ing to be op­posed, shunned, crit­i­cised, ridiculed, hi­jacked and de­railed by the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of apartheid colo­nial­ism, and by a few black peo­ple who have been co-opted into this com­plex, stub­born and so­phis­ti­cated sys­tem. Those who lead the gen­uine strug­gle against all man­i­fes­ta­tions of this sys­tem – par­tic­u­larly the ANC – will be the tar­gets of all sorts of ridicule.

Their ob­jec­tive and sub­jec­tive mis­takes will be sen­sa­tion­alised, mag­ni­fied and clothed in blan­kets of ethics and in­tegrity by the ma­jor­ity of the few ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the eco­nom­i­cally blood­thirsty co­horts.

Ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the apartheid sys­tem suc­ceed in co-opt­ing the African and blacks in par­tic­u­lar be­cause they are hid­ing be­hind a strong democ­racy and de­fend­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. This fer­tile en­vi­ron­ment wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble if South Africa was not a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy with the free­doms that ev­ery­one en­joys, but sadly in this case, th­ese free­doms are be­ing used to achieve ne­far­i­ous po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives

A case in point is the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, in which a demo­crat­i­cally elected or­gan­i­sa­tion – the ANC – is be­ing op­por­tunis­ti­cally dis­placed from po­lit­i­cal power through a regime-change agenda dis­guised as a de­mand for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to re­sign. This is noth­ing but a po­lit­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory ex­er­cise by apartheid colo­nial­ist co-opters to ini­ti­ate a coup.

Con­fronting the in­jus­tices of our past

While the past rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process should be em­braced for the lit­tle it has achieved for our coun­try, it is clear that the coun­try needs to go through a more in­tense process of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, heal­ing and re­newal. This must be­come the new nor­mal for South Africa, and must be em­bed­ded within the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan.

We have to live with the re­al­ity that this process in it­self is not go­ing to be pain­less. The pain that we have to en­dure as a na­tion must be the glue that holds us to­gether. The pain has to be felt col­lec­tively.

Some or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as the DA and the anx­ious sec­tion of the so­ci­ety it rep­re­sents, be­lieve that, among other things, we must just fo­cus on the fu­ture and for­get about our past.

They want this with­out look­ing at the in­jus­tices of the past, which include land dis­pos­ses­sion, own­er­ship and con­trol; in­sti­tu­tion­alised apartheid colo­nial­ism and its man­i­fes­ta­tions; and own­er­ship and con­trol of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

Po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges

The anti-ANC and cur­rent regime-change strat­egy is premised on fear and ha­tred in the short term. The ma­jor­ity of the white mi­nor­ity fears a rad­i­cal so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. A few black peo­ple fear the pos­si­ble ero­sion of minute personal eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

In the short term, th­ese small sec­tions of our so­ci­ety – both black and white – are united in their dis­like and ha­tred for Zuma, and they are dis­guised as South Africans whose moral ethics and in­tegrity can be found in their quest to de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion against cor­rup­tion (to be blunt, Zuma et al’s cor­rup­tion).

All of us need to help South Africa ex­tri­cate it­self from a pos­si­ble slip­pery slope of self-de­struc­tion as a con­se­quence of po­lit­i­cal sui­ci­dal­ists who pro­fess to be col­lec­tive epit­o­mes of our moral and eth­i­cal barom­e­ter.

The ANC’s poli­cies af­fect the lives of all be­cause it is the gov­ern­ing party. In­stead of seek­ing to dis­place the ANC from power, all sec­tions of our so­ci­ety should en­gage with the ANC on the con­tent of pol­icy as part of in­flu­enc­ing its evo­lu­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion im­per­a­tives.

South Africans can then, dur­ing the elec­tions every five years, judge the ANC on its im­ple­men­ta­tion of pol­icy.

The ha­tred for Zuma

As Nel­son Man­dela said, “no one was born hat­ing an­other per­son be­cause of the colour of his skin or background or re­li­gion. Peo­ple learn to hate and, if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more nat­u­rally to the hu­man heart than its opposite.”

Let those who hate and dis­like Zuma ap­proach him and talk to him about their personal prob­lems. This must include the ha­tred a few peo­ple have of those sur­round­ing the pres­i­dent (for ex­am­ple, the Gup­tas). Our lead­ers must be told face to face – and with the right to re­ply – if in­deed they are messing up the coun­try, and set­tle the mat­ter ei­ther way.

Rule of law

Those proven through cred­i­ble pro­cesses of law to be guilty of wrong­do­ing should face the con­se­quences, with­out those who seek to in­crim­i­nate them desta­bil­is­ing the coun­try. Mak­ing un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions, par­tic­u­larly around cor­rup­tion, must be made a se­ri­ous crim­i­nal of­fence be­cause th­ese al­le­ga­tions poi­son the gen­eral po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere and af­fect many peo­ple neg­a­tively.

Th­ese peo­ple are then com­pelled by th­ese un­fair cir­cum­stances to seek refuge on other plat­forms, which may fur­ther muddy the wa­ters.

This is why South Africans, through their dif­fer­ent demo­cratic plat­forms, should bring for­ward ideas on rec­on­cil­ing, heal­ing and re­new­ing our coun­try with­out be­liev­ing that the force­ful re­moval of the pres­i­dent is a so­lu­tion to all the chal­lenges we face. We know that no court of law has found the pres­i­dent un­suit­able to hold of­fice.

The coun­try requires an in­ten­sive di­a­logue across so­ci­ety, which must cul­mi­nate in a concrete rec­on­cil­ing, heal­ing and re­newal char­ter, which can be as­sessed on is­sues of racism, land and econ­omy for a non­ra­cial South Africa. Mahumapelo is provin­cial chair­per­son of the ANC in Bokone

Bophir­ima prov­ince (North West)


HIS­TORY The Free­dom Char­ter, signed in Klip­town in 1955, has given birth to free de­bate and labour rights

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