Can you afford not
to belong to the PBF
Become a part of the Progressive Business Forum and receive benefits, promotions and special offers....
For information on how to join the PBF, send your details to the following address: email@example.com
You will be contacted by one of our friendly consultants.
Progressive Leader - Issue 6 - Focus on BRICS
Durban, 11 August 2008
Master of Ceremonies
Ladies and Gentlemen
I had come here to talk about housing. But the relentless onslaught determines I take a different route, to properly contextualise the present because it weighs so heavily on all else.
The burden of our time is that we cannot ignore the present, whose presence is all consuming in its outward manifestation of pessimism.
If you read any of our newspapers today, you could be forgiven for thinking that South Africa is about to implode. Scholars of political transitions or of government studies would attribute this to the psychosis associated with fear of change. Transitions, by their very nature make for fragile societies. Even though, I must hasten to add, this is not a transition as all else the ruling party and its policies remain intact. However, in the minds of our citizens, this has all the hallmarks of one. Compare this period and its sense of doom to that which prevailed leading up to our first national democratic elections. And also thereafter, that which followed, what were to be termed, as the miracle years of the Mandela presidency, prophets of doom were at it again. Uppermost in the minds of many was the question: what will happen when Mandela goes? For every transition, we have had to contend with this fear. Prophets of doom were at it then, feeding on insecurity.
We are now again fed the same diet. We need to counter the vicious message out there. It does not seem to matter that the ANC has pronounced itself on the policy direction. At its elective conference in December 2007, the party adopted policies that should guide the present leadership for the next five years. These policies, which none of the leadership can change, were made public for all and sundry. There is nothing secret about the policies and the deliberations that surround them. The ANC does not only preach transparency, it practices it. In doing so, it has been argued, it exposes itself to a lot of criticism. While some may have been intolerant of different perspectives, especially those emanating outside its ranks, there is a growing realisation in the movement that criticism helps in sharpening our understanding of issues. Indeed, we are enriched by alternative perspectives. And so we live with criticism.
The challenge of the present is how, despite the pessimism, we scale the next summit. Our task is almost as impossible as seemed in 1994. We made it then, because, despite the pessimism, our people believed in us. We have that certainty now. We are on track. We are going through a change of leadership – nothing more, nothing less.
Every era, every generation, every period has its challenges. And for those confronted with those challenges, the present is burdensome and onerous. The victory of human nature is that it is always drawn by hope to strive. And so it is that from time to time, we are so weighed down by the challenge that we forget that human beings are primed to get beyond the challenges.
What defines a great people, such as the nation is, is how they respond to challenges. We find ourselves at that crossfire where the global economic meltdown has thrown up a number of crises.
There is no way we could have avoided the cold wind blown in our direction by the international economic downturn, nor could we have avoided the food price crisis. These have conspired to create the backdrop of doom against which each of our problems are scrutinised and by which we are judged. This should not in any way be read as an attempt to minimise or deny that we are faced with enormous challenges.
It is true, some things we could have avoided, like the energy crisis, but here the President of the Republic apologised for our miscalculation, like the behaviour of some of our cadres in the recent past and this ill-discipline we are dealing with. And perhaps many more.
I would like to put it to you that while we could have done things better, what we have done right should not be obscured by the pessimistic cloud that hovers above our head ever so constantly. I need to first demystify some of the perceptions that cloud our view, all the better to paint a picture of the reality for our time.
First there has been the accusation that the Constitution of this country is under threat in the hands of the leadership of the ruling party. This kind of logic reminds me of the mentality and paranoia of the colonial masters at the period of independence in Africa. “Could these people be trusted? Can they handle the responsibility of government? Why, they can’t even use a knife and fork, how would they manage the intricacies of modern governance? What”, they would fret, “if these people subverted all the institutions of governance we have carefully put in place?” And they frantically set up all the checks and balances, just in case …
Similarly, no sooner was the new leadership of the ANC elected, than such concerns spread like wild fire. And everything that has happened since has fed into that. The spectre of barbarians at the gate!
May I take this opportunity to assure you, we have no intention whatsoever to undermine the Constitution or any of the institutions that underpin our democracy. In the words of the President of the ANC last week in Pietermaritzburg, “we were ready to lay down our lives for democracy, we deliberately created each of these institutions to protect and safeguard that which we fought for. Why would we now seek to subvert or undermine them?”
Why indeed? No one forced us to adopt the Constitution we have. We freely, willingly and proudly crafted it to represent all the aspirations of our people. Why, for heaven’s sake would anyone want to believe that it is in danger in the hands of people who fought for these aspirations and rights.
We have criticised the Constitutional Court in the instance where we felt it had acted improperly, because we believe it is a democratic responsibility to point this out, especially because, like all other sectors of society, we care that all institutions of our democracy abide by the principles of justice, and the bar is so much higher when it is the highest court in the land. That did not mean we do not respect it. Quite the contrary. It is precisely because of our respect for it that we voiced our concern.
At the very first NEC meeting of this new leadership, on the 7th of January 2008, we reaffirmed our commitment to the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, and the principle of equality before the law. We did indicate, however, that these principles require that the institutions of state are able to fulfil their constitutional mandate without fear or favour, as it requires them to respect the rights and dignity of all individuals charged or under investigation.
We again confirmed our commitment in our January 8th statement.
The Constitution is safe in our hands. The Constitutional Court is safe in our hands. The decision of the relocation of the Scorpions was taken by the ANC in Stellenbosch in 2002, in the interest of strengthening our institutions. The criminal justice system is safe in our hands.
We are all familiar with the challenges we face. These include housing, unacceptable crime levels, the challenge of poverty, ensuring equitable access to quality education and the need to address access to health. We re-affirmed our commitment to addressing these challenges. The January 8, 2008 statement, issued as the ANC celebrated its 96th birthday, spells out a number of issues that will be tackled by the ANC government.
“The development of integrated human settlements is a critical element in our fight against poverty and in improving the quality of life of our people. There are a number of Conference resolutions that we will need to implement, including the issue of legislation to address the proliferation of informal settlements, interventions to curb the costs of construction, and a central planning approach for directing resource allocation to human settlements.
Branches of the ANC need during the course of 2008 to identify and work to remove those obstacles that continue to limit access of our people to poverty alleviation programmes. We need to put in place local campaigns to inform communities about the resources and services that are available to them.
During the course of 2008, we must sharpen our anti-crime campaign. We need, this year, to build on the work already done to mobilise our communities more effectively to beat crime. Conference took a number of decisions that will enhance our efforts to forge safer communities. These relate to the structure and functioning of different elements of the criminal justice system, but also, importantly, to the role of mass mobilisation in the fight against crime.
We will seek to work with religious formations and traditional leadership throughout the country - from urban areas to the countryside, to intensify the struggle against crime. We also acknowledge and appreciate the ongoing contribution of the business sector in the fight against this scourge.
We must act now, and act together.”
We hold the view that education and skills are central to our future. We also believe that our progress and ability to address present challenges would not be swifter than our progress in education.
We need to ensure our success is continued, and as you know, all successes are held together by a relentless pursuit of a dream. And our dream is to create a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. And to create a society that is at peace with itself and where the people embrace the Constitution. A society where the institutions of democracy are used to protect our democracy and not abused or even perceived as such.
Allow me to use two analogies to convey a particular message I want to emphasise tonight. The first is an American story and the Soviet Sputnik.
In 1957, the Soviet Union embarked on what was considered to be a technological breakthrough by launching Sputnik into space. For the USA, at the height of the Cold War, this was a call to arms. The American scientific and technological advances were inseparable from their quest for ideological supremacy. Their response at the time was to conjure an impossible mission. They vowed to put a man on the moon. If such a venture was mooted by lesser mortals like ourselves, we would have been consigned to a mental asylum for our own sake. They dared to dream, and to dream the impossible.
The US government sought to deploy huge resources to meet this challenge. Their entire security apparatus was primed to prioritise this. New research laboratories were established. Science and mathematics education became compulsory at school. Every high school graduate was expected to have proficiency in scientific and mathematical literacy. The notion that science and mathematics is a no-go area for some, was immediately dislodged from the minds of all Americans. Ten years later, the USA was ready to put a man on the moon. Their ideological supremacy entrenched, and the rest is history.
The impossible mission was realised. This notion of crafting missions that are impossible can only occur in a society that believes in a “can do/ should do attitude”, where the stakes are so high that all has to be subordinate to the realisation of a goal.
As is evident from the above, those who dream, rise above the mundane, the obvious and reach out to something that is much above their present condition.
We continue to cherish a dream. It was a dream and belief in humanity that led to the formation of the ANC. It was the same determination of the power of a dream that led 20 000 strong women to challenge the pass laws in 1956. It was the same commitment and belief in ourselves that led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter. The same determination led us to committing ourselves to the struggle for emancipation. It was the same determination that led to the adoption of the present Constitution. Against the backdrop of the noise that masquerades as a critique of the ANC, it is easy to forget what we have given for this country. We are bemused when some create a line between the people and the Constitution and project themselves as standing up for the rights of our people. Against the same that guaranteed these rights.
The de-linking of people’s sense of justice and the Constitution is one such mischievous attempt. As suggested above, rather than spend an inordinate amount of time bemoaning its challenges, the US turned the challenge into opportunities. We are determined to do the same.
Let me explore this notion of opportunities further by reflecting on a case study given in several business schools. It is a story of a business that manufactures shoes. In trying to explore new markets, the company sent out marketers to some province of a foreign country. India is a favourite hypothetical country in this instance. The marketers found that people in that province did not wear shoes. The first marketer reported that there is no market for the company in that province. The people wore no shoes. The conclusion therefore: they had no need for shoes. He encouraged the company to explore elsewhere.
The second marketer came back very excited. She reported the existence of an unlimited market, virgin territory and even went on to suggest that the company should relocate to the said province. There was a huge market for shoes. (It had to be a woman, this clever marketer!) We are wired differently, there are those who are given to seeing doom when faced with challenges, others see opportunities.
We, in the ANC are wired to succeed and to look for opportunities to succeed. I emphasise this point because we in the ANC find that we have to consistently counter negativity and we cannot cede that public space to others. We are determined to aggressively occupy it and reassure our people that we are on track.
My challenge is whether you have the courage to dream a different reality. Whether together, we have the courage to create a different environment. We need to have the courage the deploy resources to realise our dream, in spite of, but particularly to spite our challenges.
We are confident of the future. We are a living embodiment of democracy. The kind of democracy that exists in very few organisations that run governments. We need to celebrate democracy and make it work in all those areas which should improve our people’s lives – in housing: a pivotal indicator of economic success; in education – the bedrock of development; in health – the litmus of sustainable development.
We have come a long way, we have achieved much. Your very presence here today is a measure of our achievement. We have a long way still to go, and promises to keep.
Invest in us because we are the guarantors of our country’s continued success. Believe in us, for our commitment cannot be doubted. Together we have a dream to sustain. The dream that our forefathers entrusted to us – that of sustaining freedom.
I thank you