President Herman Mashaba’s Address at the Opening Ceremony of the ActionSA Policy Conference

Good Afternoon;




Goeie Middag;



Ndi Masiari


Before I proceed any further, let me add my voice to those before me in paying tribute to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, to the Buthelezi Clan, to King Misuzulu and the Royal Family, to the Inkatha Freedom Party and to the entire Zulu nation.

Ndabezitha, dedicated his life to leadership and the impact of his immense contribution can be seen and felt. ActionSA joins the chorus of voices across South Africa that give thanks for an exceptional life in service to the South African people.

Let me also take this opportunity to convey our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of the 77 victims – including children – who died at the horrific building fire at 80 Albert Street in Marshalltown, Johannesburg two weeks ago. As I’ve said before, the disaster is a result of the failure of all three spheres of government that allowed the break down in the Rule of Law by the illegal hijacking of buildings and permitted the building’s neglect.

Delegates of this inaugural ActionSA Policy Conference, it is an incredible privilege for me to stand before THE fastest-growing and THE most diverse political party in South Africa.

I am humbled by the speed at which we are building a rational and reasonable political home for all South Africans across the 9 provinces of our country.

2 weeks ago, ActionSA turned 3-years-old. On the day we launched in the midst of a global pandemic, you could have sat the members of ActionSA around this main table here behind me.

Yet, just 3 years later, I stand before you – the more than 600 delegates who have travelled from each of the 9 provinces to an ActionSA Policy Conference – who represent just a fraction of our diverse membership.

You have come to represent every one of the 52 districts and 8 metros of our country where ActionSA has taken root. We come together as South Africans who love their country, hate what has been done to it and are here, united, to find the solutions that are needed for the citizens of our country.

I am HUMBLED by your love of our country; I am MOVED by your commitment to our party, and I am INSPIRED by your belief that WE CAN FIX SOUTH AFRICA.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Delegates of this Policy Conference,

We come together at a time in which South Africans need hope. As South Africans, we do not need political parties to tell us what is wrong with our country. We all live with these challenges on a daily basis and know them all too well.

Today, we meet, not to dwell on challenges, but to deliberate on the plans and solutions required to fix South Africa and build an inclusive and prosperous nation.

It is this message of hope that you, and thousands of other ActionSA volunteers, have gone door to door in communities across our beautiful country, to share with the countless South Africans who are seeking a brighter future for our nation.

It is in that spirit that, today, I want to share with all South Africans my story and why I believe this Policy Conference sets ActionSA apart.

I was born and raised in a rural village called Ga-Ramotse in Hammanskraal in the North of Pretoria. My mother was a domestic worker in Johannesburg and my father died when I was just 2 years old. I was raised in a tin shack in a child-headed household, raised by my sisters, the eldest being 13 years my senior, and I knew the pains of hunger.

In my second year of study in 1980 at the University of the North, what is called the University of Limpopo today, the army surrounded the campus and gave the students 6 hours to leave.

I never went back.

I remember hating the control over my life, the notion that my success or failure would be determined by others. I made the decision to go into business, starting as a commission salesman in 1982, which resulted in conceiving the idea of starting my own manufacturing of haircare business. This idea gave birth to Black Like Me in 1985 in Ga-Rankuwa industrial area.

I went into business with two people who have had a profound impact on my life.

The first was Connie, my partner in business and life for over 44 years now, without whom I would not be the man I am standing before you today.

My second partner was a white Afrikaner from Boksburg by the name of Johan Kriel. He was the chemist who made our products. Johan and I overcame the enormous gap between white and black in the 1980s. It was here that I learnt of the power of work to bring people together, through a mutual desire to better their lives, even at a time when such an idea was inconceivable.

Black Like Me grew to be one of the most successful hair-care brands in Southern Africa, giving hundreds of people the dignity of work, right in the townships of Pretoria during the height of Apartheid.

Make no mistake, I know that my story is the exception. But, in a country with people as innovative and hard working as South Africans, it should not have to be.

Above everything else, I entered politics and ultimately started ActionSA because I want to build a nation where the achievement of success – however people choose to define that – is possible for ALL South Africans.

ActionSA wants to build a South Africa where our government does not stand in the way of prosperity, but is an active participant in creating it. We want our young people to develop the skills they need to follow their dreams. We want our communities to be protected from criminals. We want a South Africa where the lights stay on. We want a South Africa where government takes care of its people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, South Africans & Actioners,

There can be no doubt that we come together at a time in which South Africans are facing tremendous difficulties because of their government.

As we approach the 2024 elections, which will mark 30 years of democracy in South Africa, our society not only faces the legacy of Apartheid, but the perpetuation of that legacy by an uncaring and corrupt government.

ActionSA is also not going to waste time apportioning blame for the predicament in which we find ourselves as a country. South Africans know who has governed for the past 29 years, which has seen unemployment reach all-time highs, Stage 6 load-shedding become the norm, and our country became the most unequal nation on earth.

The focus of our Policy Conference will not be to dwell on the causes of the challenges we face. Instead, ActionSA will be forward-looking in our approach and set ourselves apart by focusing on the people of our country, and the solutions that are needed to Fix South Africa.

Over the past three years, and particularly over the past 8 months, we have engaged with a broad range of South African experts.

It is for this reason that we assemble here for the next 3 days, and I can assure South Africans that what will emerge from this policy conference is a clear and distinct alternative that will bring hope to so many who have given up.

Central to these outcomes must be a clear way forward to grow the South African economy and create jobs. At the heart of this proposal is the need for economic certainty in policy direction, an economic stimulus to move our economy forward, making it easier to hire more South Africans and an altogether new approach to small businesses.

But a growing economy cannot continue to reflect our unjust legacy, it must transform it.

ActionSA is unapologetic in our recognition of the continued correlation between race and access to opportunity and quality services in South Africa. In addressing these challenges, we cannot be colour-blind in our approach. While working towards a non-racial future, we must proactively work to address the legacy of racial exclusion.

ActionSA affirms our commitment to the empowerment of black, coloured, Indian and Asian South Africans while unequivocally aligning behind the repealing of the BBBEE Act of 2003 which has never been broad-based in nature.

Our work is to fight poverty. Not poor people.

This is a distinction that matters.

ActionSA will be the first political party to table a comprehensive alternative aimed at inclusive socio-economic empowerment over the empower of a narrow class of tenderpreneurs. Included in our proposal is the establishment of an Opportunity Fund – an unprecedented fund contributed to by South African businesses that will invest exclusively in grassroots opportunity generation in black, coloured and Indian communities that have been historically disadvantaged, as well as those that have been disadvantaged by 29 years of ruling party mismanagement and neglect.

This fund will achieve broad economic empowerment through investing in the financing of education, skills development and capital for small businesses and a variety of interventions designed to create opportunities where the BBBEE Act of 2003 has failed to reach.

Additionally, we propose a year of voluntary public service for young South Africans leaving school without the prospect of further study, a job or starting a business. This reality is true for too many young people and ActionSA must provide young people with a place to learn skills, gain experience and derive the meaning that comes with work and productivity.

My fellow delegates,

ActionSA must emerge from this policy conference with a tough-on-crime approach that changes the conversation from the rights of criminals to the rights of victims and society. We cannot tolerate a South Africa where law-abiding citizens live in fear, while criminals act with impunity. Central to addressing this is ensuring that criminality is met with harsh consequence.

Let me be crystal clear about what we mean by this, especially given my vocal stance on capital punishment in the past.

It is certainly true that I have been a believer in capital punishment as I have watched law-abiding South Africans being raped, murdered, and pillaged by violent criminals who should never have been set free. I believe many South Africans have witnessed the brutality of certain crimes in South Africa and shared my guttural reaction to these heinous acts.

When our Senate came together, last month, to consider the outcomes of our policy consultative processes that saw us engage with experts, the public and our internal structures, an argument emerged which compelled me to reconsider my own belief in capital punishment.

Chief among these concerns is the highly-flawed state of our criminal justice system, and the costs associated with navigating it. The South African government has a long way to go in terms of becoming a capable, efficient and trustworthy matrix of institutions. The question of who lives and dies should not be a matter that should be entrusted to this wholly dysfunctional government.

It is equally apparent that the implementation of capital punishment in South Africa would disproportionally prejudice poor South Africans leading to their conviction and execution, while wealthy South Africans, accused of the same offences, would have the resources to avoid such a sanction. This fact was conveyed to me by experts who demonstrated the relative disadvantage experienced by poor South Africans confronted by the ineptitude of our current criminal justice system.

This is why I believe the right approach is, rather, to change minimum sentencing so that violent criminals may never be released to harm another person. Lifetime imprisonment should mean exactly that. Moreover, criminals should earn their keep and make right with society through the provision of their labour to assist to build our nation’s infrastructure and improve the communities they have harmed.

Ladies and gentlemen,


On energy, I urge all delegates not to buy into political games about the end of rolling blackouts. Load shedding began in 2007 and has continued regularly until this very day, some 16 years later, when it became a permanent part of our lives. We cannot buy into the spin that this government should be trusted to simply end load-shedding because there is an election next year, when they have not addressed the problem in 16 years. As long as we continue to rely predominantly on captured state owned-entities like Eskom for the provision of quality services, we will continue to find ourselves in the dark.

In this respect, ActionSA’s plan before this policy conference proposes a number of interventions that will ensure that South Africa’s power remains on FOREVER.

Finally, on illegal immigration, I want to assure South Africans that ActionSA will present a strong proposal that occupies the rational, middle-ground on this important issue. On either side of ActionSA are the extremists.

On the one side, there are those who want to ignore our borders or call anyone xenophobic, for raising the issue of the failed implementation of our immigration regulations and our porous borders. On the other side, there are those who are wilfully blind to the benefits that regulated immigration can offer our country, and act like quasi-law enforcement officials by unlawfully raiding businesses and detain people.

ActionSA reaffirms our belief that South Africa was built on the back of migrants. We want the people of the world to come to South Africa, but they must do so legally and obey our laws once here.

ActionSA will not place the blame at the door of foreigners. The blame for our immigration crisis belongs at the feet of our government who have failed to police our borders, who have failed to document people entering South Africa, and who have failed to deport those who have committed crimes.

Our work is to fight failing ruling party immigration policies. Not immigrants themselves.

This distinction matters.

Equally, we must propose some hard diplomacy as it relates to countries who create political and economic disasters in their countries that then compound an immigration crisis in South Africa.

South Africa must use its relative strength in the region and abroad to hold those governments to account for the spill-over effect that manifests itself in our borders.

My Fellow South Africans,

This Conference is the culmination of an inclusive process based in evidence, research, expert opinions, consultation, and empathy for the lived experiences of South Africa into developing a policy suite. Over the next three days you will witness a political party continuing our engagements on the solutions required to address the greatest challenges our county faces.

You will see ActionSA delegates who love their country deeply and who are invested in the work to fix it.

They form part of a party that offers what no other party can offer – a growing and diverse political home that is bringing South Africans from all 9 provinces, and from all walks of life into the abandoned centre of South African politics.

But the thing about a political party is that it is as powerful as voters choose to make it.

If you are watching these proceedings from home and you are not registered to vote, we cannot help to give power to the solutions that arise from this policy conference that you, and every South African, so desperately need.

As I speak to you, there are 13 million South Africans who are eligible to vote but are not registered. In addition to this there are 14 million South Africans who are registered to vote but have lost confidence in the democratic project and just stopped voting altogether.

That is 27 million people.

To put this number in perspective, only 12 million people voted in the last election.

Many South Africans mistakenly think that by not voting they are punishing our current government. You are WRONG.

The only way that change will ever take place in South Africa is if people come out and cast their vote for a party that will deliver that change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to leave you with a thought that might begin as a whisper given our national despair, but it will grow to become a deafening roar that is heard across the townships and suburbs, the villages and CBDs, the farmlands and the informal settlements:

We CAN Fix South Africa.

We CAN Fix South Africa.

We CAN Fix South Africa.

I Thank you.