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Johannesburg - Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils was making a big mistake by calling on voters to spoil ballot papers during next month’s elections.
This was the assertion by ANC Struggle stalwart Ben Turok, during the launch of his book With My Head Above the Parapet in Durban on Tuesday. The book tells of Turok’s experience while an MP.
Among other issues, it covers the 2011 incident when the ANC MP made headlines by refusing to vote for the controversial Protection of State Information Bill.
A frail-looking Turok, who was also co-chairman of Parliament’s ethics committee, said that his friend Kasrils should have raised his concerns about the government’s failure to address the needs of the poor while in government.
Kasrils, former health deputy minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and other high-profile individuals launched their campaign in Joburg on Tuesday. They are calling for voters to either vote for opposition parties or spoil their votes instead of voting for the ANC.
“Ronnie is my friend and we discuss lots of issues about what is going on in the government. He even admits in his book Armed and Dangerous that he was guilty of ignoring the economy when it was not addressing the poor.
“I said to him, it is not enough to criticise the government now. Where was he when he was supposed to be dealing with this?” asked the co-writer of the ANC’s Freedom Charter.
He described the “no-vote” campaign as a desperate move, driven by disappointment with the government of President Jacob Zuma.
“He (Kasrils) is allowing the disappointment to control him. His disappointment about Zuma’s administration may or may not be justifiable.
“It is a mistake to say Zuma is a mistake, because we don’t know what the next presidents will be like,” he said. He said the mistake that the ANC made when it took over in 1994 was to be overly cautious about its economic policies.
The government erred by not prioritising developing the country. He said the government had been more concerned about satisfying the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
“When we came to power, we were told that there was a huge financial crisis in the country.
“We then adopted a policy in the Budget which cut down on state expenditure. As a country, we have not got to the state of mind where we say, what is our priority? Is the priority fiscal prudence or developing the country and its people? We need to be more bold and invest in people, education and health,” he said.
Although he had retired as an MP, Turok said he had not retired from politics and still believed the ANC had the capacity to take the country forward.
But it was indecisive. “President Mbeki had 21 priorities, the government has five priorities. But I think we should have one priority and stick to it,” he said.