Ci­ti­zens should rise up against state cap­ture

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Mandla Nkomfe voices@city­press.co.za

Apeo­plet the first an­niver­sary of the United Demo­cratic Front (UDF) in 1984, Al­bertina Sisulu said that “the pa­tience of the has been ex­hausted now”. Sisulu, a vet­eran leader, also stated that the UDF had given her hope about sev­eral things, one of which was the pos­si­bil­ity of a “just South Africa for every­body”.

Thirty-three years later, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions will be gath­er­ing at Rhema Church in Johannesburg on July 18 to voice the same sen­ti­ments. This time, though, the as­pi­ra­tions for a bet­ter fu­ture, and the ex­pres­sion of anger, will not be com­mu­ni­cated to an apartheid regime, but to the state that has been cap­tured.

The Con­fer­ence for the Fu­ture of SA aims to gal­vanise civil so­ci­ety for­ma­tions from var­i­ous parts of the coun­try to build a united front against state cap­ture. The ini­tia­tive is driven by the Ahmed Kathrada Foun­da­tion and Save SA and is sup­ported by a range of other civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The gath­er­ing is ex­pected to be one of the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive of or­gan­i­sa­tions from var­i­ous sec­tors in post-apartheid South African so­ci­ety. Re­li­gious groups, ac­tivists, fo­rums, busi­nesses, labour for­ma­tions, youth groups, women’s or­gan­i­sa­tions, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the dis­abil­ity sec­tor, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, com­mu­nity fo­rums and me­dia groups are ex­pected to at­tend. The con­fer­ence aims to be as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble so that lo­cal clubs can sit along­side na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, shar­ing ideas about how to tackle a state cap­ture – the roots of which dig deep into the pock­ets of or­di­nary South Africans.

Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment have also been in­vited, but as ob­servers to hear the call for clean gov­er­nance and ef­fec­tive par­lia­men­tary over­sight of the ex­ec­u­tive and state-owned en­ti­ties. Im­por­tantly, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans will be urged to heed the call of a vast cross­sec­tion of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions to sup­port the mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma. MPs will be called on to in­sist on a se­cret bal­lot.

The date of the con­fer­ence was care­fully se­lected – it falls on Man­dela Day, when peo­ple from across the globe are en­cour­aged to ded­i­cate 67 min­utes of their time to do­ing some­thing good. This year, we are call­ing on South Africans to give more than just 67 min­utes. We are ask­ing or­di­nary peo­ple to hon­our Madiba’s legacy by pledg­ing to tackle the abuse of state power. We are also ask­ing South Africans to pool to­gether their col­lec­tive ef­forts in build­ing a state with in­tegrity and hold­ing pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ac­count through wield­ing the stick known as “peo­ple’s power”.

The con­fer­ence will brain­storm how so­ci­ety can be mo­bilised, how pub­lic ser­vants can be en­cour­aged to take a stand against state cap­ture by re­fus­ing to process any projects tainted with cor­rupt prac­tices, and how le­gal and con­sti­tu­tional work can be strength­ened to – as Sisulu once said – en­sure a just South Africa for every­body.

A num­ber of those or­gan­is­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in this con­fer­ence were anti-apartheid strug­gle ac­tivists. In se­cret houses, prison cells, or­gan­i­sa­tional meet­ings and pub­lic gath­er­ings, these ac­tivists would have en­vi­sioned a South Africa free of apartheid, racism, cor­rup­tion, crony­ism, in­equal­ity, poverty, pa­tri­archy, tribal and eth­nic divi­sions, greed and il­le­gal­ity. We en­vi­sioned a South Africa that would be a liv­ing em­bod­i­ment of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

And while some of what we had en­vi­sioned and ad­vo­cated has ma­te­ri­alised, too much hasn’t. State cap­ture, as we have seen ev­i­denced in var­i­ous re­ports that have been made pub­licly avail­able over the course of the past few months, has at­tempted to break an al­ready vul­ner­a­ble so­ci­ety. Like the scav­enger vul­ture, it has waited to feast off scarce re­sources that were in fact meant for hos­pi­tals, schools and uni­ver­si­ties, wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion and job cre­ation.

Those ben­e­fit­ing from state cap­ture seek to mas­quer­ade as em­pow­er­ing black peo­ple who have been his­tor­i­cally ex­cluded from wealth cre­ation. De­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tions mech­a­nisms are put in place to fur­ther this nar­ra­tive. But as re­ports such that of the SA Coun­cil of Churches have shown, there is noth­ing fur­ther from the truth. These are in­di­vid­u­als who are cor­rupted to the core, and who have lost all moral cred­i­bil­ity.

The Con­fer­ence for the Fu­ture of SA recog­nises that we’re watch­ing a des­per­ately flail­ing state rais­ing its arms above the wa­ter. What this con­fer­ence also recog­nises is that it can no longer be left to gov­ern­ment struc­tures to ad­dress the prob­lem. To save the state from be­ing en­gulfed in cor­rup­tion at all lev­els, the col­lec­tive will and ac­tion of all South Africans is re­quired. It is up to the peo­ple to “re­cap­ture” what right­fully be­longs to them.

When Al­bertina Sisulu said that peo­ple were ex­hausted, she meant it. Peo­ple were tired enough to be part of the tu­mul­tuous mass cam­paigns of the 1980s that paved the way to democ­racy.

To­day, we re­it­er­ate Ma Sisulu’s words – peo­ple are tired of scan­dal af­ter scan­dal around cer­tain scav­eng­ing politi­cians and their fam­i­lies, and cor­rupt busi­ness peo­ple, that has marred our democ­racy and com­pro­mised the in­tegrity of the state. We are tired enough to mo­bilise for that “just” fu­ture that we have been en­vi­sion­ing for so many years.

Nkomfe is the deputy chair­per­son of the Ahmed Kathrada Foun­da­tion

TALK TO US Do you think that or­di­nary ci­ti­zens can ‘re­cap­ture’ SA?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word CAP­TURE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

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