Time for fresh ideas Not old ide­olo­gies

Finweek English Edition - - Letters -

LAST WEEK WE UN­VEILED our elec­tion man­i­festo, our blue­print on how we plan to re­new South Africa by bring­ing pos­i­tive change – se­cu­rity, pros­per­ity and pride – and re­viv­ing hope among or­di­nary South Africans. In months, or weeks even, mil­lions of South Africans will vote for the fourth time since our first all-race elec­tions of 1994.

For the first time since the found­ing of our post-apartheid and demo­cratic repub­lic, vot­ers have a duty to elect a gov­ern­ment that will lead them through this era of un­prece­dented un­cer­tainty. The world’s largest economies – among which are our ma­jor trad­ing part­ners – have slipped into a re­ces­sion (mean­ing their economies have ex­pe­ri­enced two con­sec­u­tive quar­ters of neg­a­tive growth); the credit mar­kets are in a state of tur­moil, mak­ing it in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive for bor­row­ers – in­clud­ing our own State-owned util­i­ties – to fi­nance the all-im­por­tant in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment pro­gramme; and, worse, things are likely to get worse this year.

Even though our econ­omy has hith­erto been well man­aged – a fact that’s al­lowed us to es­cape the harsher ef­fects of the down­turn – some of its sec­tors are now fac­ing se­vere hard­ship, with their growth hav­ing con­tracted sharply in re­cent months.

Crises the world over tend to bring op­por­tu­ni­ties. That’s no dif­fer­ent for us. For it’s in times like th­ese that true lead­er­ship emerges and gets its met­tle tested. We also know from his­tory that crises have been fer­tile ground for po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunists, such as pop­ulists, to emerge rid­ing on the back of the le­git­i­mate fears of or­di­nary peo­ple.

In our man­i­festo we’re ask­ing – and of­fer­ing the op­por­tu­nity to – or­di­nary South Africans to vote for a po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship that’s morally coura­geous and upright; one that will un­flinch­ingly fight cor­rup­tion and not be sus­cep­ti­ble to cor­rup­tion; pri­ori­tise the in­ter­ests of all vot­ers and be loyal to them, not the party that sends them to Par­lia­ment; one that knows that the voter – not the party or other vested in­ter­ests – calls the shots; and un­der­stands the ethos of pub­lic ser­vice.

To achieve that, among oth­ers, all our candidates for the pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive posts will have to pub­licly de­clare their as­sets and wealth, in­clud­ing the source of their funds, to the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion be­fore the elec­tions; and de­clare their tax com­pli­ance sta­tus. Gov­ern­ment is a plat­form to serve the pub­lic, not to fleece it.

Over the past 14 years our coun­try has changed and taken strides to­wards the fu­ture in keep­ing with the world’s ad­vances. It needs, and des­per­ately de­serves, a lead­er­ship that em­braces – and not shuns – that change and is for­ward-looking and able to lead the project of mod­ernising our coun­try to be­come a 21st Cen­tury African state. The time for fresh ideas is now; this is no time for harp­ing on past ide­olo­gies.

To­day’s South Africa owes its ex­is­tence to the sac­ri­fice of great icons, such as the late OR Tambo, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Bey­ers Naudé, Yusuf Dadoo, He­len Joseph, Nel­son Man­dela and Thabo Mbeki. Those great South Africans brought hope and epit­o­mised change of a bet­ter SA. They didn’t ped­dle fear as we see in to­day’s toxic pol­i­tics; nor did they ex­ploit fears of or­di­nary South Africans.

Th­ese are our fore­fa­thers and moth­ers. We’re deeply in­debted to them and we are greatly in­spired by their sac­ri­fices.

Those who lived long to see the first fruits of our free­dom went fur­ther to an­chor our new coun­try on strong foun­da­tions of democ­racy and con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. Dur­ing their short terms in of­fice, Pres­i­dents Man­dela and Mbeki worked hard to strengthen and en­hance the re­spect for the in­sti­tu­tions that sup­port our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy, such as our Con­sti­tu­tion and Bill of Rights that guar­an­tee an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, a free and in­de­pen­dent me­dia and an in­de­pen­dent prose­cu­tion ser­vice that car­ries out its duty on be­half of the peo­ple without fear or favour and an in­de­pen­dent Re­serve Bank, with its main task be­ing to pro­tect or­di­nary South Africans from price in­sta­bil­ity.

Over the last year all those in­sti­tu­tions have suf­fered in­tem­per­ate at­tacks from pow­er­ful forces in our coun­try. COPE partly owes its ori­gins to the de­fence of our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy and its val­ues as rep­re­sented by those in­sti­tu­tions. We in­vite all who care deeply about our democ­racy to vote for us.

The only change COPE is propos­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion re­lates to the elec­toral sys­tem: we want or­di­nary South Africans to re­claim the power – which they handed to po­lit­i­cal par­ties in good faith – to hire and fire their coun­cil­lors, MPs, MPLs, MECs, min­is­ters, may­ors, pre­miers and pres­i­dent.

South Africans are rightly fright­ened at the high lev­els of crime, es­pe­cially vi­o­lent crimes and those vis­ited upon women and chil­dren. Among oth­ers, we will mo­ti­vate the po­lice force, which has to be both apo­lit­i­cal and pro­fes­sional, to do its job and bring the Scor­pi­ons back to fight the twin evils of cor­rup­tion and crime, while beef­ing up our courts with com­mu­nity courts.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, though, South Africans don’t need to trade off their free­doms and rights for safety and per­sonal se­cu­rity. The Con­sti­tu­tion has suf­fi­cient scope for an ef­fec­tive anti-crime strat­egy.

When we be­come a gov­ern­ment by earn­ing the trust of the peo­ple we’ll be ac­count­able to or­di­nary South Africans; our man­i­festo binds our rep­re­sen­ta­tives to re­port in reg­u­lar in­ter­vals to their com­mu­ni­ties.

Top on COPE’s eco­nomic agenda will be an in­dus­trial strat­egy that seeks to ad­dress the hard­ships oc­ca­sioned by the fal­ter­ing econ­omy and en­sur­ing that our econ­omy gen­er­ates qual­ity jobs. That has to be done along­side the project of mod­ernising our econ­omy and trans­form­ing both its struc­ture and com­plex­ion through, among oth­ers, the pur­pose­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of af­fir­ma­tive action and BBBEE Acts. Un­der­scor­ing our elec­toral prom­ises is the be­lief that we have to cut our gar­ment ac­cord­ing to the size of our cloth.

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