21 April 2014

South Africa: Open Letter to the Voters of South Africa

press release

In the mid-1970's a handful of brave students decided to fight back against a system that was designed to make them feel inferior, worthless, and without aspiration; a system that was designed to take away their future, freedom, and dignity. It was a fight to be what they knew they were, people of dignity and worth, capable of greatness.

By any account, it was fight they had no hope of winning. They took on a fight against an edifice ruthless in its execution and efficient in its purpose - the denigration of black people and the maintenance of power for white people.

That handful of students had only a picture of what they could be in their minds as they went against a military power.

After a struggle of almost twenty years, their first painful steps created our present freedoms.

I was part of that struggle, and the lesson it taught me was a simple and powerful one: never underestimate the courage and determination of a small band of individuals who fight a just fight.

Our struggle has been repeated over the years in many places, and even today the courage and determination of the few who fight a just fight has the power to change the world.

Whenever I hear people say to me that a vote for my party is a wasted vote because we are so small, I remember the struggle years, the freedoms that small group of individuals carved out for all South Africans, and I wonder where the sense of history is in the person in front of me.

I am used to fighting against what many people without a sense of history consider unwinnable fights. I am also used to seeing justice prevail, because I know no machinery can stand intact against the assault of brave and courageous souls who have had enough of being overlooked and marginalised and who decide to fight back.

I know that struggle is hard, victory can take time. Our stand in the mid-1970's saw many of us experience death, suffering, banishment, and detention. Our lives were not ours.

But a just struggle sustains you. It energises you. It picks you up in the morning, and gives you sleep at night.

When the unexpected happened and our beloved Madiba was released, our joy was unconstrained.

For many of us who were in the struggle, it was the end of an era. We had achieved freedom and for the first time, we had a bright future ahead of us.

I went on to realise personal goals, but always goals linked to the struggle - how to continue to contribute to deepening and strengthening the democracy we had fought so hard to achieve.

Sadly, as the years have passed, I have seen that bright future we fought for disintegrate and like sand slip through our fingers.

Where once we spoke of being a rainbow nation, where once we basked in the world's admiration, and saw only brightness ahead, we now speak of the darkness of Marikana, Nkandla, Mothutlung, and Bronkhorstspruit.

Our children die in pit toilets; our women live in the shadow of ukuthwala; citizens hurl faeces against government buildings; parties march on each other and hurl racial insults at each other in the name of democracy even as they make empty promise after empty promise to despairing citizens.

Politicians anaesthetise voters with food parcels, RDP houses, and some prey on the vulnerabilities and desperation of the young to win votes knowing that none of the promises they make will ever be fulfilled.

And then there is corruption - it escapes people that the amount of money that simply vanished from the national account last year, according to the Auditor-General, amounts to an Nkandla every three days!

This is not the democracy that the small band of fighters I was part of fought for in the 1970's.

We did not fight for a climate of fear, for almost non-existent economic growth, sub-standard education, failing healthcare systems, impunity among public servants, cronyism, dependent citizens, and tenderpreneurs.

And so I find myself unable to stand on the sidelines watching my country's slow destruction at the hands of a governing party that is as far from its founding principles as it can get.

I am unable to stand on the sidelines waiting for an ineffectual official opposition to present itself as a credible alternative government in the full knowledge that it cannot attract millions of black voters who see its preoccupation with preserving the privileges of the few and the interest of mainly white communities.

Yet I see their co-option of mine and Agang SA's words and policy positions: where the Democratic Alliance once spoke of creating millions of jobs, recently they speak as have done all along of creating a conducive climate for business to create jobs; where we have always spoken of hope and belief in active citizens, now other parties use the same language. Agang SA has brought effective land reform to the table, the notion of a professional public service, and free education for all.

Where were all these ideas when other parties dominated the political space? Now they copy Agang SA and in the same breath try to prove our irrelevance.

I find myself standing again with the spirit that was in that small band of fighters in the 1970's, fighting again for dignity, freedom, and democracy.

In my mind, the lessons of the struggle are alive; no matter how big and seemingly immovable the entrenched interests, I know that a just and right fight is worth fighting. And so I fight again.

As in the 1970's, I call upon all the citizens of our beloved country to fight to protect our democracy, to struggle again against the old enemies of tyranny, corruption, the refusal of accountability, and theft of resources and dignity from the people of this country, and to break through the Democratic Alliance and African National Congress status quo that has brought us to this point and threatens to take us nowhere.

Vote Agang SA because our policies to build a winning country that are built from the ground up and work. Citizens know what will make this country great - five E's: empowerment that is focused less on scorecards and more on enabling citizenship through education, employment, entrepreneurship, and effective government.

Our fight is worth fighting. It is a fight I have fought before; and it is a fight we have won before.

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