The South African Dream: ActionSA’s Vision for an Inclusive and Prosperous Future

This is the speech delivered by ActionSA President, Herman Mashaba, at the launch of the party’s South African Dream ahead of the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on Thursday this week. Mashaba was joined by ActionSA Gauteng Provincial Chairperson, Bongani Baloyi, ActionSA Tshwane Regional Chairperson, Oupa Mathibela, and members of National, Provincial and Regional Leadership in Ga-Rankuwa Industrial Park in the City of Tshwane today.


Good morning, South Africa.

Today, I stand before you outside the factory where I launched Black Like Me in 1985, to offer you a vision for hope in the face of our national despair.

Over the past three years, South Africa and the rest of the world has endured pain and suffering unlike that which we have experienced for a very long time.

The COVID pandemic ushered in an era of unprecedented economic hardship, exacerbating the impact of South Africa’s slow economic growth over the past decade, and exposing the depth of corruption of a morally bankrupt government.

The war in Ukraine further precipitated a global cost of living crisis, driving up the cost of food and fuel. This has been devasting for a country that suffers endemic unemployment, with 12 South Africans without jobs and 26 million of our people forced to rely on meagre social grants just to survive.

To make matters worse, the Eskom crisis worsens by the day, with Stage 6 load shedding now something we are expected to tolerate on a frequent basis. I cannot remember when last we had anything resembling a stable supply of electricity.

The crises in South Africa are a long time in the making by an uncaring and corrupt government that has deprived South Africans of the hope for a better life for all. But recent global events have served to hasten our decline as a nation, and brought into sharp focus the depth of our despair.

I do not want to dwell any longer on the numerous challenges we face as a nation. These challenges are all too familiar to the South Africans that live with them on a daily basis.

Today, I say enough!

Enough of the hopelessness.

Enough of the despair.

Enough of the decline.

On Thursday the President will deliver his State of the Nation Address, and repeat the same empty promises about creating jobs and ending load-shedding. But his words will be hollow and fail to inspire hope, just as the government has failed to inspire hope for the past two decades.

Enough is enough.

Today, I stand before you to share a vision for a future South African defined by prosperity, grounded in an unwavering belief that we can, and we will, emerge from the depths of our national despair.

Some of you may be familiar with my story and the history of Black Like Me. But I do not take it for granted that my fellow South Africans appreciate the significance of why we are launching ActionSA’s vision for an inclusive and prosperous South Africa outside the factory where I started my business almost 4 decades back.

I was born into poverty in Hammanskraal, not all that far from Ga-Rankuwa where we find ourselves today.

My father passed away when I was 2 years old, and my mother was a domestic worker in Johannesburg.

Like many South Africans that do not have the good fortunate of a being raised in a traditional family environment, I was raised by my sisters and my grandfather.

Life was not easy, but my grandfather taught me not to focus on the obstacles to my potential success, but rather to search for solutions. He instilled in me a sense of pride, and an appreciation of the value of hard work.

For a black man born under the Apartheid regime, success was a distant dream. But my grandfather made me determined to overcome my humble origins, and aspire to a better life.

My grandfather, like most parents I believe, desire for their children to live a better life than they did. He had a dream that I would succeed, and escape the bonds of poverty that I was born into.

Today, as I stand outside the building where I launched my business in 1985 in partnership with a white Afrikaner from Boksburg, that is the same dream I have for the people of South Africa.

Connie – my wife of 40 years – and I were able to build a successful business with our partners at a time when it was illegal for a Black man, a White and an Indian man to work together the way we did.

We were able to succeed despite the obstacles the Apartheid government put in our way. But it is undeniable that we were the exception to the rule.

The vast majority of the people who grew up around me were unable to overcome the barriers to upward mobility placed in their way by a government that did not want them to succeed.

That’s why in 1994, when we had out first democratic election, I proudly voted for Nelson Mandela’s ANC. I was excited about the prospect of building a non-racial South Africa where the challenges my partners and I had faced would be a thing of the past.

I was excited about an explosion of black entrepreneurship that would undoubtedly arise from the demolition of the Apartheid-era legislative barriers that had served to limit my opportunities, and the opportunities of those around me.

I had a dream for a future South Africa where all South Africans would not just be equal on paper, but genuine counterparts in a dynamic and vibrant economy where prosperity would be shared by all.

But my optimism was short-lived. While we initially made progress as a nation in the early years of our democracy, it became clear that the dream I had of shared prosperity was not held by the ANC government.

Instead we witnessed the implementation of legislation aimed at empowering and enriching a new class of politically connected black elite, while the black majority that had been marginalised by the Apartheid government was left to struggle on their own.

Yes, access to services may have expanded, but access to opportunity did not.

Three decades after our democratic transition, our country remains defined by Apartheid-era spatial planning, unequal access to quality education, unreliable services and dysfunctional infrastructure, and a growing gap between the rich and poor.

The Ga-Rankuwa of today is no longer the bustling area of economic opportunity that it was in 1985 when we launched our business. Today it lies dormant, reflective of a country that has failed to live up to its potential under a corrupt and incompetent government.

The reality is that the vast majority of those that were marginalised in the past, remain condemned to a life without dignity, and an opportunity for upward mobility.

As long as this remains the case, the promise of our Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on.

My fellow South Africans,

When we launched ActionSA in August 2020, I dedicated our party to you, the people of our country.

ActionSA was born out of a widescale public consultation process that saw us engage with millions of South Africans about the values they hold dear to them, and the future they want for our country.

We launched this party because it was clear that the vast majority of South Africans share our unwavering commitment to fixing our country.

South Africans are proud, capable and resilient people. We care deeply about our country and desire to see it work for all those who call it home.

We are a social and family-oriented people who value our communities. We appreciate that strong families, however they are composed, provide social stability and support.

The vast majority of South Africans value diversity and want to build an inclusive society based on mutual respect.

Most importantly, despite the challenges we face, we recognise our collective potential and believe that hope is not lost.

We are committed to achieving the dream of a prosperous, equal and fair nation where all South Africans are equal counterparts in building a shared future.

This was the dream for our future that I shared with millions of South Africans in 1994. This dream has since faded.

Today, I stand before you to revive that dream – a South African Dream – and share ActionSA’s vision for an inclusive and prosperous future for South Africa with you.

My fellow South Africans,

Imagine a future South Africa where our country is healed from its painful past. A South Africa defined by hope and prosperity. A country that inspires patriotism, that its people are proud to call their home.

Imagine a South African nation where race, gender, sexuality or any other demographic factors are no longer an indication of the barriers people are likely to face in life. A nation where all citizens live in dignity, with equal opportunities for upward mobility.

This is a South Africa that has reclaimed its position among the leading developing economies of the world, and demonstrates moral leadership on the international stage once more.

It is a country that has finally been freed from the grip of corruption, and is led by an ethical, competent and efficient government and civil service that puts the needs of residents ahead of narrow political agendas.

Imagine a caring government that believes that the best way out of poverty is through expanding access to quality education, removing historical barriers and unlocking economic opportunity.

A government that prioritises the implementation of innovative, decisive and just economic policies that enables opportunity and empowers businesses to create jobs. A government that has abandoned its obsession with equality of outcome in favour of ensuring true equality of opportunity.

This is a pro-poor government that ensures the state executes its role in protecting the marginalised and most vulnerable through the delivery of reliable basic services, quality healthcare, and sufficient social assistance to those in need.

In this South Africa, citizens can strive for a life of prosperity secure in the knowledge that their basic needs are met.

Imagine a growing economy with ample economic opportunities to provide households with the dignity that comes from earning an income. An economy that is no longer captive to the stranglehold of self-serving Labour Unions. There is no doubt that unions have a role to play, but they cannot have a veto power that protects the employed at the expense of the unemployed.

This is an economy based on the dignity of creating jobs, where households no longer have to the rely on inadequate social grants just to survive. In this economy, growth is measured not just in terms of material wealth, but in terms of the tools and resources it provides citizens for upward mobility so that they can strive toward living a prosperous life.

In this economy, entrepreneurs are flourishing because we have finally removed the constraints to doing business that make it difficult for companies to grow and create jobs. Government and the private sector are working hand in hand as partners in pursuit of collective prosperity.

As a result, this is a nation of narrowing inequality, where all South Africans are not only equal on paper, but genuine counterparts in a dynamic and vibrant economy.

Imagine a country where residents finally feel safe in their homes and trust the South African Police Service to protect them. A country where everyone is treated equally before the law, and crimes are prosecuted fairly, without fear or favour. A country where we have restored the Rule of Law, and freed our law-enforcement agencies and National Prosecuting Authority from the grip of political influence, and an independent Scorpions is once again investigating corruption without political interference.

This is a South Africa led by a government that understands that dealing with crime, violence and abuse means addressing the underlying socio-economic causes of lawlessness – not merely addressing the symptoms. A government that is dedicated to addressing the hopelessness and desperation caused by poverty and unemployment.

This South Africa is home to a society built on a foundation of strong communities that work in partnership with government to provide social stability and support the most vulnerable among us. A society based on mutual respect that prides itself in our diversity and embraces our differences.

At the centre of this South Africa is a world-class education system that provides equal access to quality education for all citizens, both urban and rural, starting with universal access to early childhood development programmes.

An education system overseen by a competent Department of Education that isn’t beholden to SADTU, that ensures we have competent administration in schools, and school inspectors that ensure that dedicated principals and teachers are providing quality education to our learners.

This education system will not only prioritize academic outcomes, but also focus on empowering young people with tangible skills required to be active participants in the economy and enable them to take control of their destinies.

In this South Africa, citizens are empowered to exercise the full extent of their Constitutional rights and freedoms.

All South Africans have access to quality services and good healthcare, and live in safe and secure communities that care for each other in the spirit of ubuntu.

This is a South Africa led by ActionSA.

My fellow South Africans,

The South African Dream I have laid out for you was born of the hopes and aspirations of a nation that has been constrained in its potential by a self-serving government that prioritises looting state resources over empowering the people it was elected to serve.

But, the potential of our nation remains. A reimagined South African Dream is within our reach.

This Dream is more than just ActionSA’s vision for a future South Africa, it is a rallying call aimed at inspiring South Africans to unite behind the project of fixing South Africa.

Since my entrance into politics in 2016, the one thing about our country that has never ceased to inspire me, is the willingness of South Africans to get to work to make our country work.

But what many of them have expressed to me is a sense of hopelessness in the face of government incapable of providing a vision of hope to unite behind.

I have engaged with young people, filled with potential, who do not see the value in their vote because the established political parties have failed to inspire them with something to vote for.

I have engaged with small business owners with grand plans to provide jobs to thousands of South Africans, but who struggle to succeed because of red-tape and load-shedding.

I have engaged retired individuals with valuable skills who stand ready to return to work and play their part in fixing our country, but feel side-lined by a government that would rather bring in Cuban doctors and engineers than tap into the knowledge we possess as a country.

And I have engaged with former civil servants who remain dedicated to serving our country with pride, but are unable to do so as part of an unethical government that is only serving itself.

As I have said before, I believe there is nothing bad about South Africa that cannot be fixed by what is good about South Africa – the good, hard-working, law-abiding, family-oriented and freedom-loving people of our beloved country.

Together, we have the power to fix South Africa.

Over the coming months, ActionSA will be embarking on a national campaign to share this Dream with the people of South Africa and unite them behind a collective effort to place our country on a path to prosperity once again.

We want to rekindle the hope that so many of us felt in 1994, and re-inspire those who have become despondent in the face of overwhelming despair.

We want to re-enlist retirees and former civil servants, and seek their assistance in putting together a plan of action to turn around our country.

We want to restore confidence in our business community, and remind them that government does not have to be the enemy of progress – it can be a valuable partner in unlocking growth.

Finally, we want to re-engage young people – the future leaders of our country – so that they can realise the power of their voice, and their vote, in shaping their future.

This campaign will take us through to our inaugural Policy Conference later this year, where will be putting forward a solutions-based alternative to the failed policies of a confused government. An alternative based on the voices of South Africans and policy experts, not just the views of politicians.

My fellow South Africans,

Our society has endured great hardship because of the corruption and incompetence of our government.

Having emerged from the depths of Apartheid with a sense of hope, under the current government we have been left to drown in despair.

But we have the power to define our collective destiny.

We have the power to chart a new course for South Africa toward collective prosperity.

We have the power to re-imagine a South African Dream for an inclusive and prosperous future.

And we have the power to give life to that dream, starting with the removal of our failed government in the elections next year.

Let’s unite behind a dream for a South Africa we can all be proud of.

Together, we can fix South Africa.

Thank you.