Time for fresh ideas Not old ideologies
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.