We Need a New Kind of Politics in South Africa – an Age of Action Over Words

It was Lou Haltz, the American Football Coach who said, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.”

Although far removed from our time and space, this quote could not be more apt than when applied to the South African political reality. 

Let’s face it, South African politics has become a space where very little is done proportionally to the amount of noise that emanates out of it. 

In 2009 Jacob Zuma promised to create 5 million jobs. In 2014, after unemployment rose in the prior 5 years, Jacob Zuma promised to add 6 million jobs by 2019. Rather than 11 million new jobs, 1.4 million jobs were lost. 

Then came President Ramaphosa with the promise to “eliminate unemployment” through a programme of national renewal. Corruption would be tackled, an investment drive achieved R663 billion in investments and 300 000 internships would be created through the YES initiative. Needless to say, the corrupt remain unafraid, the investment drives were actually projects already being planned, and the YES initiative achieved 25 000 internships for young people

Like corruption, political promises have become such an everyday occurrence that it would only be newsworthy if one of them were actually honoured

In the face of broken promises, our politicians have adopted a new and more deceptive technique of stating the obvious in language which makes them seem powerless to do anything. 

Consider the following:

“What concerns me and all South Africans, are those instances where funds are stolen and misused, where there is corruption and mismanagement of public funds.” Cyril Ramaphosa July 2020. 

“Eskom plays a critical role in the life of South Africa, and life of South Africans. Due to its important role in the economy, its inability to provide electricity on demand and on time is a crisis.” Cyril Ramaphosa March 2019. 

"Violence against women has become more than a national crisis." Cyril Ramaphosa July 2019. 

Other examples abound. NPA Head, Shamila Batohi, frequently laments the lack of prosecutorial capacity 18 months into the job. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni opines that state-owned entities are draining our fiscus and should be shut down. 

This problem is not an ANC problem, it is a problem of our entire political system. Were you to compare what parties stand for and their actions, you would find a gaping chasm. Were any of the other existing parties to govern, it would be no different. Perhaps this is why 18.5 million South Africans of voting age did not vote in the face of a 2019 election campaign with tons of promises being made. 

South Africans do not want more talk, they want action. I know this because when I set up The People’s Dialogue to engage people about their views on the future they want for South Africa, there was a palpable level of frustration. 

This is why the new political party that I will be launching on 29 August 2020 will be grounded in the idea of action. We will not play the political games that South Africans are tired of. We will say what we mean and mean what we say. Promises that will be made will be kept

It is time that we have a political movement in South Africa that speaks the truth. We need a new kind of politics in South Africa, one which paints a vision for our country, presents the blueprint to achieve it, and galvanises South Africans around a plan in which we can all play our respective roles. 

The reality is that were we to take over tomorrow, it will take a long time to make South Africa the country we all believe it can be. 

For our country to be put onto the right path, the civil service needs to be professionalised and this will not be well received in some quarters. Over the last 10 years, our civil service has grown from 170 000 to 1.3 million taking 51c in every rand raised in taxes. 

For our economy to grow we need to invest heavily in infrastructure. To do this, we have to deal with our national debt crisis, now standing at 81% of GDP and costing 21c in every rand of tax collected. This is going to require a radical restructuring of the national budget, deprioritising of non-essential expenditure, and prioritising expenditure on opportunity generation. 

For our country to generate opportunity, we need to tackle the stranglehold trade unions have over our country. Teachers need to be performance managed, labour laws need to be relaxed, and failing state-owned entities need to be dealt with. What will arise is protracted strike action from COSATU, but this is a necessary pain to free our country from their control. 

Our economy was on a stretcher going into ICU before Covid-19 hit us. The simple truth, with an economic contraction of 7.2% and between 3 and 7 million jobs forecast to be lost, is that there is much suffering ahead of us. Now, more than ever before, there is a palpable urgency behind the work of turning South Africa around. 

We need this new kind of politics in South Africa, the kind that is capable of doing what may be unpopular in the short-term in order to put South Africa onto the path to prosperity. 

- HERMAN MASHABA