Prince Manene Tabane, Gauteng Chairperson of Contralesa,
Kgoshi Habakkuk Sefoka,
Induna Nkosinathi Mkhize,
Princess Pat Mavimbela,
Members of Contralesa and the community of Ekurhuleni broadly present here this morning,
When I was asked to be here this morning to deliver this address, the first thought that came to my mind was that of absolute disbelief. Me, Herman Mashaba, invited to address members of Contralesa, Dikgosi, Amakhosi. Then as the thought settled, I was overcome with gratitude and great humility. It is not every day that one is invited to address such an esteemed group of leaders from across the country. People who are custodians of our heritage, our culture, and a vision for our collective future. And so, let me begin by expressing my deepest gratitude for inviting me and my team here today.
There is no doubt that we are all gathered here this morning because we are concerned about the future of our country. Daily media reports exposing the political, economic, and social state of affairs across our country is most alarming. Every day we either hear, read, or see images of suffering, thievery, thuggery, and a complete disregard for humanity. Rising statistics about women and children being abused and murdered in our communities, leave most of us feeling helpless and cold. People being robbed and often killed in broad daylight in cities across the country. In Johannesburg, where I live, crime statistics particularly in the City Centre, make me angry, and I am sure all of you feel the same. It is unfortunate that our country is one of the murder capitals of the world. Where law-abiding citizens live in fear while criminals operate with no shame. Increasing economic inequality, lack of opportunities, feelings of hopelessness, and ever-increasing levels of corruption, are all contributing to the deterioration of the rule of law in South Africa. This is damaging our nation’s international reputation and our economic potential.
The dawn of South Africa’s democracy in 1994, signalled a new hope for the people of our country. Many of us will never forget the day when Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years of political imprisonment and rose to become the first democratically elected President of our new nation. People everywhere joined in on our celebrations. It was like nothing we had imagined. Epic images of endless lines of black, coloured, and Indian South Africans, queuing to cast our vote for the very first time. Our relatively peaceful transition of power from apartheid to democracy, made us the envy of the African continent and the world.
We were on our way to building a new democratic nation alive with promise, hope, and possibility, where each one of us would be able to tap into our individual potential, and contribute toward building a new, and prosperous South Africa for all its people. However, 27 years later, we have since fallen from political and democratic grace.Today, much of what we had hoped for, and the promise of democracy, has been largely unfulfilled. The promise that most previously disadvantaged people, would have fair opportunities to effectively participate in the economy, and move from largely unskilled to skilled labour, and participate in high commerce, have been broken. A South Africa where access to quality education would become the norm instead of the exception.
Where the apartheid system of designing our communities would be reversed, and people could afford decent accommodation, and homes close to their places of work. The promise that there would be dedicated development of poor communities, and where our women and children, would feel safer and protected. Unfortunately, many South Africans now feel less optimistic about the future and even more vulnerable than they did before the end of apartheid. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that countries across the globe had to close their borders and impose national lockdowns. All this has led to devasting economic consequences for large numbers of people around the world. In South Africa, the pandemic hit our shores at the worst of times. As our economy was, and continues to perform poorly, with many people having lost their primary sources of income. As a society, we are now faced with 3 to 7 unemployed million South Africans in the wake of Covid-19. However, we can’t blame everything on the pandemic. The unemployment rate had, before COVID, reached an all-time high with almost 39,7% of people of working-age not participating in the economy. We face a reality where there will likely be more unemployed people in our country than those who are employed by end of 2021. Unemployment, and government corruption, are destroying our country. To add salt to injury, the issue of countless undocumented foreign nationals, who have descended into our country, has only served to make matters even worse for the poorest communities.
Estimates show that about 10% of all people living in South Africa, are undocumented foreign nationals. The problem is not that citizens of other countries have chosen our country as their home, but rather, that too many of them enter South Africa without following the legal immigration process. The dysfunctionality at Home Affairs also results in many foreigners being unable to acquire the correct documentation for legal residency in South Africa.
If these facts do not scare us, then nothing will. We are concerned that the lack of documentation excludes individuals from participating in the formal economy, and limits access to social support mechanisms. This I am afraid, is unsustainable and cannot be allowed to continue. The Department of Home Affairs is utterly incapable of dealing with the influx of immigrants who come into South Africa legally because the system is too complicated to manage.
There are few, to no physical barriers protecting South Africa’s borders. Also, law enforcement authorities lack the capacity necessary to patrol our borders. It is too easy to bribe officials for faked documents, and international crime syndicates operate freely across our borders. Meaning that enforcing the rule of law is next to impossible.
In our view, the South African government no longer stands up for human rights on the international stage and turns a blind eye to human rights abuses. Deteriorating civil rights in our regional neighbours worsens illegal immigration as more people seek refuge in South Africa. But this should not mean that we cannot speak on the issue for fear that we will be called names such as being xenophobic. Let me state this clearly, we are not opposed to people of the world visiting our country, but they must do so legally, and when they are here, they must respect our laws. To come here legally, it means they must be here on holiday for a stipulated maximum period or be here to offer rare skills.
People being unemployed and having to rely on the state to survive, undermines their dignity and self-worth. To live in communities where children grow up not seeing their parents going to work, or running their own businesses, is not good for our society. Having personally grown up in poverty, but later achieving personal financial success, I know first-hand, the power of financial freedom that I have gained from being a hardworking entrepreneur has. This is the dream, all of us South Africans had, when we ended apartheid. We had hoped that BBBEE would have created a better environment for black entrepreneurship, innovation, and business leadership. However, our government, and the current legislative framework have achieved the exact opposite. Instead, we have become a society of thieves and corrupt cadres who have become wealthy at the expense of the masses. Public officials expect bribes from businesspeople to gain access to government and other financial opportunities, for their own benefit.
Moreover, our draconian labour market laws suck the life out of small businesses. Not to mention high levels of crime that make for an unattractive market for investment. We had hoped for a government that would make it easier for us, the people of South Africa, to be able to start new and build successful businesses. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of public officials, and political parties, whose mentality is that society owes them, and their families, an everlasting debt for having “fought” in the struggle. Their so-called “I lived in exile” badge of honour seemingly entitles them to our hard-earned tax money, and government resources. Our political system has allowed for these individuals, who are determined on sowing divisions among us, to do as they please.
It is high time that South Africans collectively acknowledge, that we are held hostage by greedy, corrupt, and unethical politicians. We as ActionSA, believe that all this must change, and change Now! We are a party whose roots can be traced back to an extensive 9-month consultative process known as The People’s Dialogue, where we received about 2.4 million submissions from ordinary South Africans to form a new, viable political alternative for our people.
All those who participated expressed their individual views, about a collective vision for the future they want for our country. We hear them loudly, and we heard them clearly, South Africans want to rid our society of corruption, criminality, poverty, and poor education. They want to elect leaders they can trust, who will put their interests ahead of party-political interests. They want to live in a more equitable and non-racial society.
Therefore, the solutions ActionSA offers, and continue to develop, arise from conversations with South African from all backgrounds. We know the barriers to success, and we stand ready to bring about the kind of change THAT will fix our country and get our people back to work. It is my hope that all of us here, and South Africans all over the country, will take back our power as citizens, reclaim our country from the hyenas that have stolen from us, and work together to rebuild our beautiful country.