No-vote campaign: The big debate

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Copy of SI 1994 election.jpg AP Millions of people came together to vote for the first time in the April 27, 1994 general elections. Ronnie Kasrils maintains that the ANC has betrayed the ideals of the ruling party's founding leaders, a view which has been dismissed as false by top leaders in the party. Photo: AP

Ronnie Kasrils and Jessie Duarte are on opposing sides of the Vukani! Sidikwe! campaign.

 

Yes! Get involved in the democratic process and vote ‘no’ against the ANC and DA, writes Ronnie Kasrils.

Is there a final straw that breaks the camel’s back, or a single incident that makes for a tipping point? Perhaps not. But a series of events in specific circumstances can make it clear that some action must be taken. The massacre at Marikana, the obscene expenditure at Nkandla, the corrupt relationship with Schabir Shaik, the Guptagate saga are among the most notorious events that come on top of the serial scandals involving President Jacob Zuma and numbers of senior party and government officials.

Crony capitalism, patronage, corruption, nepotism, inept leadership, denialism, unacceptable levels of secrecy, moves against the media, interference with the legal process, the shocking insults levelled at the public protector, maladministration, police out of control, regular shootings of demonstrators, name calling and labelling of opponents to divert attention from the substance of debate, have become the hallmark of this post-Polokwane government.

Good comrades within the structures of the movement have not been able to challenge these developments, let alone speak truth to power apart from gallant exceptions like Pallo Jordan, Marion Sparg and Mavuso Msimang who remain lone voices.

They believe that by remaining within the movement and raising the issues they can alter the disastrous state of affairs that so many within and without ceaselessly talk about.

To many of us the rot has gone too deep, the class interests of the leaders has dramatically changed, and the ANC, which we once thought of as being an exception to the rule, looks like going the route of other liberation movements that have lost their way and like a South African taxi driver signals left and takes a series of violent turns right.

This is why the Sidikiwe-Vukani campaign came into being. It calls on all registered voters to turn out at the polls on May 7 to make their mark in protest at the levels of corruption and the disastrous economic policies pursued by both the governing ANC and the major opposition, the DA.

Contrary to misleading media reports and to similarly misleading and often abusive comments from within the governing party, this campaign does not – and never has – advocated abstention from the electoral process.

As democrats, we are encouraging the greatest possible contribution, calling on those millions of South Africans who usually abstain, to come out and vote.

But what we are saying – and what seems to have terrified the ANC and SACP leadership which now tamely and venally follows the ruling party – is: don’t vote for either of the two major parties that are promoting policies that have increased the wage and welfare gap and that have worked in ways that contradict the spirit of the Freedom Charter and the Bill of Rights. At the same time, we are under no illusions that our call will result in the ANC losing the election nationally or the DA not remaining the main opposition.

But we want to send a warning to the ANC that it can no longer take its traditional support base for granted. And that there are many people who are heartily fed up with the way in which the country is being run and the policies pursued by both major parties.

I personally respect Helen Zille for her guts and ability and she has shown her appeal by attracting township people to the DA but as a socialist I reject the DA’s economic policies.

So we are saying, there are two choices that can be democratically exercised: either vote tactically for a minority party that you feel prepared to put your trust in this time round or, spoil your ballot by writing NO across it.

Whatever you do: become involved in the democratic process – it is your right.

From our point of view, the campaign is an example of tough love: we wish to do all we can to pull back, from the brink of disaster, the movement to which in my case I have devoted most of my adult life.

For one of our number, Sarah Carneson, who joined the communist party in the early 1940’s, this too is an act of hard love.

So too with Barney Pityana, member of the ANC Youth League at Fort Hare with Chris Hani, and colleague of Steve Biko.

So it is with former deputy minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge who joined the underground in 1980, and Horst Kleinschmidt who served in government, and MK members Damien de Lange, Susan Westcot, Stephanie Kemp and Louise Colvin. They are joined by Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro), Breyten Breytenbach, Ilse Fischer (daughter of Bram Fischer), Louise Asmal, the ANC’s Cedric Mayson who headed its religious desk, and patriots like Sampie Terreblanche and the young Mangaliso Sobukwe as well as Vishwas Satgar and Mazibuko Jara, both expelled from the SACP.

We are not motivated by a personal agenda or the taste of sour grapes for having lost positions. We are moved by our concern for the country.

Along with my colleagues there have been many straws breaking this camel’s back and causing me to speak out publicly to reject the self-serving enrichment of the ruling party.

I see no hope in the ANC reinstating the former values of this movement unless there is a revolution within which throws out a leadership bent on serving their own narrow personal interests over service to the people. Should this rot continue the ANC will be damaged beyond repair.

We need to be guided by Mandela who said if we fail to deliver to the people they have the right to vote us out of power.

Hani said the same thing when he became general secretary of our once proud communist party in December 1991.

He declared that he was not going to go into government but would rather continue to struggle under different conditions and continued, “I will work to have the ANC elected into power. But if that ANC government doesn’t deliver, I will not hesitate to march against them, just as I marched against the apartheid regime.”

I well remember how he would then chuckle and add: “Look, it’s going to be our government, the people’s government, they won’t tear gas us or shoot us like this apartheid bunch.”

How infinitely tragic that last remark. How many more camel’s backs will be broken and how many more lives lost in protest before the pro-poor, people-oriented government that we fought for is restored?

Our people will not wait for those within the ANC to quietly rectify things. What chance have they got?

Things have gone from bad to worse. Whatever the outcome of May 7, a revolutionary mood looking to a socialist alternative is looming on the horizon. I believe that is where we will find South Africa’s new Chris Hanis.

*Kasrils is former minister of Intelligence.

 

 

No! This is nothing but a bitter, veiled anti-ANC mobilisation campaign,writes Jessie Duarte.

The Bill of rights in the constitution, among others, guarantees the right of each and every citizen to choose. The limitation to such an exercise applies only when one’s choice adversely infringes on others’ exercise of their own choice.

In this regard, our democracy resonates with other democracies throughout the world.

Consequently, the No Vote campaigners are within their democratic right to exercise such a freedom.

They have thus far embarked on a peaceful campaign.

They have not given an impression of wanting to do otherwise, even if to incite anyone into acting outside the constitution or act against the legitimate and elected government.

Therefore, we can safely conclude, these are democrats acting in accordance with their hard-won freedoms.

We should, however, pay close attention to the evolution of this campaign.

At the same time, we should try to understand whether it is purely an attempt to register a protest through mobilising individuals to spoil their votes or a deliberate attempt at mobilising a vote against the ANC.

In the first instance, this began as musings of an individual who suggested he did not know who to vote for in the 2014 elections. It then proceeded to urging individuals to spoil their ballot papers on election day. It has since taken the form of a quasi- movement against the ANC, mobilising society not to vote for the ANC.

Behind the scenes numerous attempts were undertaken by the lead figure of the campaign, secretly writing to various members of the ANC urging them to join the campaign. Fortunately, these veterans and stalwarts of our movement have rejected these overtures.

Some have even challenged the campaigners to publicise their responses, which hasn’t been done.

All those who have declined to join this campaign have highlighted some key, salient points.

They have reaffirmed and publicly asserted that the ANC remains, at its core, the liberation movement of the people of South Africa and the only true hope for a transformed, normalised society.

This resonates with our message and reality that South Africa under the leadership of the ANC is by far a better country than before.

That today there are more black, in particular African, students in institutions of learning – from pre- to post schooling – is an indication.

Not only that children go to no-fee schools, but those who are from poor families receive a meal every day in those learning centres.

That today there has been growth of over 250 percent of the black middle class is a reflection of the outcomes of a government that invests in the advancement of those who were intentionally and legally maligned by the evil of apartheid.

That today our life expectancy has improved, the chances of living of women and children with HIV and Aids are better and on the whole ordinary people’s access to healthcare is greater.

Those who disagree with the campaigners have indicated that the suggestion that the ANC today is not the same as before are ahistorical.

Indeed, together we agree that the ANC has continued to evolve and has not remained static.

Like any other institution in society it has, at different historical moments, taken on different forms without losing its essence.

Throughout history there have been unsavoury moments and episodes in the movement.

However, unlike others even today, the ANC is premised on and proceeds from a liberation content and context. This reality imposes on it and its members the imperative to seek to strive for the best in each person and in society.

The above leads to another point that those who have declined the overtures of the campaigners highlight sharply.

They assert that although the big body of the ANC is good there are among its members corrupt individuals.

We couldn’t agree more, hence the various interventions in government and the ANC to try to deal with this ill.

It is noteworthy that the ANC is the first and only political party that made the “fight against crime and corruption” one of its five priorities.

Our election manifesto also speaks to the kind of public representative conduct and character.

We have set the bar quite high because we intend to realise a progressive and totally different culture in our society and its various institutions.

The integrity commission in the ANC, a body inhabited by veterans and stalwarts beyond reproach – who are above all our organs and can call anyone to account – is a tool to assist us in navigating today’s treacherous paths.

We agree with these veterans who are willing to walk the path with us today, that it is better to be in the ANC and defend it against tendencies foreign to its essence than create an opportunity for these ills by walking out of our beloved movement.

The greatest challenge to us, as the leadership of the ANC continues to state publicly, is that we should entrench a culture of intolerance to corruption.

As we continue to interact with the campaigners, we should also caution them against transposing their individual bitterness into societal bitterness.

They should be mindful that they, too, have wronged many others in the course of our struggle.

Nevertheless to date, uppermost in our minds has been the people of South Africa.

We should be guided by that maxim because as we have all learnt throughout, the struggle is about people – as Augostino Neto emphasised.

The campaigners should also be made aware of the fact that their anti-ANC sentiment does not and should not mean that we cannot assert views contrary to theirs.

 

In fact, we urge our people to vote ANC on May 7 because we are fully conscious that it has made the lives of South Africans better than ever before.

Many, from Goldman Sachs to the South African Institute of Race Relations, have attested to this.

We urge the people of our country to vote ANC on May 7 because we know for a fact that we have strong, efficient and effective state, public and chapter nine institutions to stem the tide against the ills of corruption in government and society.

We urge that our people vote ANC with the full knowledge that they will do so because they can see the change it has brought to their lives.

They live the change. Anything else, the No Vote campaigners and all ills in society, will only take them back.

As a result we confidently say vote ANC because together we move South Africa forward.

* Duarte is deputy secretary general of the ANC.

 

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.

Sunday Independent



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