Mamphela Ramphele.

All reasonable people, whatever their race, background and political persuasion, can agree on a few things. First, our country is far better off than it was before 1994. It is true that houses have been built, water is more widely available, as is electricity, and infrastructure has been developed in places where there was none.

But we also agree that we have slipped from the heady days when this country fearlessly tilted for the Olympics, lifted the African Cup of Nations, won the rugby World Cup, and secured the rights to host the Fifa World Cup; when we basked in Madiba’s magic, went through various sensitisation programmes at work so we could learn each other’s histories and culture and went out of our way to meet and greet the “other”.

Generally, we felt good about ourselves and the proof was in the way we spoke: we talked about being a rainbow nation, a miracle and an example to the world. We don’t feel quite so good about ourselves today. How can we when we talk nowadays about Nkandla, Marikana, Mothutlung, Bronkhorstspruit, to-and-fro marches on opposition buildings, Andries Tatane, Anene Booysen and children falling down pit toilets? Somewhere, the sense of how great we could be, which Madiba inculcated in us, has been lost.

And so our political conversation is race based and too many votes are about to be spent on protecting class and group interest, fear and against, rather than for, something. The sense of building a brighter future has gone out of the bath with the baby that is our democracy.

Election promises are made that simply cannot be met, party rhetoric changes with impunity so that yesterday’s promise is simply replaced today with another, and manifestos are designed not on principle nor on how realistic they are.

So, it becomes easy to promise 6 million jobs yesterday, and then ditch that promise when people catch up to it as being unrealistic. Give pause and consider: in a country losing its sense of greatness and routinely settling for mediocrity, how will we reach the greatness Madiba lived for when we lie and opportunistically change our election promises? In other words, when we disrespect our compatriots?

In all the time we knew Madiba as the father of our nation, did he ever not tell us the truth and show us how to live together as a winning nation? Was he ever anything other than truthful and honest with us?

It is with Madiba in mind, and his recipe for building a winning nation, that the AgangSA manifesto was built, from the ground up. Ours was always going to be a manifesto that captured Madiba’s principles and his commitment to truthfulness and transparency.

Much to the irritation of trade unions and the more radical wing of the governing alliance, Madiba realised the contribution of business and entrepreneurs was needed and he went out of his way to give them room to operate. The result is we have an economy three times the size it was.

Madiba recognised the power of education and worked tirelessly to champion it, establishing foundations, building schools and even in death ensuring that some of his estate was sent to schools close to his heart.

He taught us that effective government was a government of the people and for the people. That is why his own instruction was that we should do to the ANC what we had done to apartheid should the ANC ever let the citizens of this country down.

And can anyone doubt Madiba’s role in empowering citizens to take control of their lives, or his desire to make sure citizens were in control? It was all he lived and fought for. AgangSA’s manifesto incorporates each of Madiba’s principles: empowerment of citizens, education, employment and entrepreneurship, and effective government. Our five Es.

But it is one thing observing principles and making election platitudes. There is a harsh economic reality that dictates what political parties can do. Unlike the DA and the ANC, whose election promises seem easier to mould and change than putty, AgangSA preferred to put our election promises under the microscope and ask experts: can we do what we say we want to do? Is it viable?

Experts have looked through and costed our political manifesto and declared it viable, affordable and needed – and it can be accomplished within three to five years.

This includes free education, professionalising the public service (including the police), filling teacher vacancies, divesting state-owned land, shrinking the government to Mandela levels (28 ministries from more than 60), scrapping sector education and training authorities and establishing artisan training centres, cutting bureaucracy and red tape, establishing township entrepreneur support and financing hubs, strengthening the competition authorities and removing centralisation of industries such as electricity (Eskom), telecommunications (Telkom) and air travel (SAA).

Our aim is simple: to create an economic foundation that makes it possible for this country to grow, to revive the principles that Madiba held dear, and to return this country to the greatness we once tasted.

It begins with how we conduct ourselves in this election cycle and, for us, citizens and their welfare, truth and transparency will always come first.


Mamphela Ramphele is the leader of AgangSA.