Paarl.30.11.13. Founder member and president of the Patriotic Alliance Gayton McKenzie and the party's co-founder Kenny Kunene who is the party's secretary-general during the launch of the political party at the Schoongezicht restaurant in Paarl. Picture Ian Landsberg

Co-founder Kenny Kunene and the ANC's Phillip Museka debate the bona fides of the Patriotic Alliance.

 

Communities know that gang leaders are more trustworthy than politicians, says Kenny Kunene.

When Gayton McKenzie and I became involved in creating the Patriotic Alliance, we obviously knew our opponents would try to use our past to attack and distract us. We were prepared for the worst.

But those same pasts are exactly what has put us on the tongues of all South Africans. All the same, we’re not counting on it keeping us there. Our present and future deeds will do that, and for all the right reasons.

Just as everyone in this country knows that we were once criminals, the same people know that for more than 10 years we have not been criminals. We have actively opposed crime, particularly all forms of gangsterism and have poured our money, energy, personal networks and time into initiatives to reduce crime.

South Africa’s future will be one in which gangsterism and crime disappear not because we think that would be very nice, but because we will create a country in which committing crime is not among the few options available to so many of our young people to survive.

There is nothing worse than seeing your own life improve while you leave your people behind you in the gutter.

Sushi has long lost its flavour for me, when it is something the children from my old township might never be able to taste for themselves.

To be clear, I am not ashamed of my success, my money or the flamboyant lifestyle I enjoyed over these past few years. It was my right to enjoy my success and there was nothing wrong with me or any of my friends having money.

But there was definitely something wrong with all the millions in this country who had nothing and I just can’t look the other way any more.

I can’t look the other way when those in the government put money meant for our people into their back pockets. When billions are “lost” each year, but should have uplifted the poor. When multibillion-rand deals are signed and simply go towards making a few rich men even richer.

When the RDP house a mother once showed tears of gratitude for simply falls apart around her because it’s built so poorly.

When gangsters kill each other for nothing more than a few corners from which to make our children slaves to drugs – while no one shows the political will to be accountable to those people who put them in power.

I can’t look the other way when deep down I know what needs to be done to fix this country. You may be surprised to hear such a statement, which I say not in arrogance but with the weight of all the responsibility that statement brings.

It would have been easy for me to just shrug and say “this is far bigger than me”, but I would have been lying. Millions of poor people look up to me and to Gayton. With them, we are far bigger than any one man or two friends.

I must try to make this vision real through something I believe in: the Patriotic Alliance. It has been far too easy for our detractors to say we are nothing more than a gangster party.

When Mzwandile Masina from the ANC Youth League says that he will write to the Independent Electoral Commission to object to former prisoners going to Parliament, he is providing evidence that politicians in this country don’t read. The law says after more than five years after you have served your sentence, you can go to Parliament. But for the record, neither Gayton nor I intend to go to Parliament, though the PA will win a substantial number of seats next year.

Our place remains in the party, forming alliances with ever more groups, to make them understand our vision to turn South Africa around. So instead of focusing on the policies we are offering, our detractors focus on our past. They make out that we are the first politicians to talk to gangsters. But at every election both the DA and the ANC have gone to speak to gang members to ask them to support their election campaigns. They know that the gang leaders are rusted more than politicians in communities.

Politicians have brought that on themselves and now want to blame the gangsters.

Politicians sneak to the gangsters’ houses at night. We go by day because we are openly and boldly opposed to the culture of gangsterism. The PA doesn’t quietly, tacitly support gangsterim – as the other parties do.

All the research into gangsterism shows that you only find gangsterism and vigilantism in communities where there is far too much violence – but no justice, no trust in the police, no trust in the government and no alternative forms of survival.

In Khayelitsha, you see necklacings. In Manenberg, you see guns. The root cause of both is the same: complete and utter disinterest from the DA in the Western Cape to make a fundamental change in the way our people live.

The PA will not be treating symptoms, because gangsterism and crime are symptoms.

We will treat the causes.

Poverty is a cause. Injustice is a cause. Lack of political will to transform our society is a cause. These are the things that turn our children into gangsters.

No child is born a gangster and no child should become one. All the former gangsters who support the PA do so because they are tired of war. They want lasting peace. They want a future for their children.

Everyone said that once Rashied Staggie came out of jail there would be war. But he has done everything he promised us. He has stayed away from gang activities. He has focused on his family.

No gang member is a leader of this party. But all South Africans are welcome to join this alliance, be they former criminals or future saints.

When the PA consulted the community, we spoke to everyone, from floor cleaners to politicians who once crossed the floor in Parliament.

At these meetings in the Western Cape and in other areas across South Africa, people came out in their numbers. No one in the PA nominated himself or herself as a leader. We were elected from the floor at our inaugural conference.

There are far bigger issues in South Africa than the pasts of Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene.

If you think we are missing something in our vision for this country, then join this alliance and help us to make service delivery second nature to government; help us to truly empower all South Africa’s people; give them quality education, a corruption-free state with strong capacity, quality healthcare for all, booming industries, fair remuneration for work on farms, transformation of the fishing industry, a land reform programme that delivers results and a banking system that serves the people instead of exploiting them. Help us to lower crime by raising equality.

Our critics should consider what anticolonial thinker Amilcar Cabral, the Guinea-Bissauan nationalist leader who freed his country from Portuguese colonialism, said: “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”

This is what our Patriotic Alliance commits to give to our people: A guaranteed future for our children.

* Kunene is co-founder and secretary general of the Patriotic Alliance.

 

The Patriotic Alliance makes a mockery of society and our constitutional values, argues the ANC’s Phillip Mesekwa.

Reminiscent of 1994 when the breakthrough elections saw organisations such as the KISS Party register with the IEC, the recent registration of the Patriotic Alliance as a political party to contest the 2014 National General Elections raised eyebrows amongst many. If not to bemuse the public as Kenny Kunene did with his sushi stunts, it seems this time around what this party, ostensibly of former convicted gangsters, seeks to do is show the middle finger to our body politic.

While Kunene is not necessarily new to the formation of political parties, having recently jumped from the newly formed EFF, his collaboration with Gayton McKenzie was bound to be viewed for what it is – an alliance of gangsters.

Of course Kunene in particular, as the more outspoken of the two, would allege they are now reformed and, like all former convicts, deserve a second chance.

The right to form a political party is a constitutional principle.

But their alliance is not a coincidence outside of their conscious identification with gangsterism; it was intentional, as they admitted.

The question is: what does this mean or imply to our democracy? It is important first and foremost to underline the non-negotiable constitutional principle of the right to freedom of association, including the right to form one’s own political party.

As political parties by definition seek to contest the political space, they inadvertently admit to their views being contested and that includes the morality of their political views as their ideological foundation.

Critique of the Kunene/McKenzie Patriotic Alliance is thus no exception.

The lingering question is what moral claim do former gangster convicts have in taking the moral high ground to launch a party of their own that they hope the majority of our people – who detest gangsterism – would nonetheless vote for them?

Or do they hope that gangsterism has gained so much currency that it now has the potential to constitute formidable political force?

Even so, supposing there were enough gangsters to win at least a single seat in parliament, is gangsterism a political currency that we must celebrate as part of the diversity of our democracy?

In as much as the constitution guarantees the rights to which the Patriotic Alliance is founded, the rest of society

must be wary of the boldness of the worstour human nature rearing its ugly headand seeking political and social hegemony.

The implications are that the constitution can become so vulgarised as it is seen as platform to advance what is actually antithetical to its text and spirit.

Nonetheless, we must swear by Voltaire’s adage, that we detest gangsterism being celebrated and elevated to political hegemony ut will nonetheless defend their constitutional right to be.

But it will be injustice to our collective human values and conscience not to emphatically condemn this new development in the strongest terms, utilising the very same constitutional principle that they are inadvertently abusing.

Gangsterism has ravaged communities in different parts of the country, especially in the Western Cape where even children have had their lives violently cut short. It is associated with drug abuse and manifold other crimes.

Young women have been raped and killed by gangsters, often under the influence of drugs.

When gangsters fought each other for what they conceived as their own turf, the adage that “when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers” come to life. Schools often suffer consequences of these turf wars as stray bullets have often resulted in the deaths of innocent souls.

This is but the tip of the iceberg occasioned by gangsterism that Kunene and McKenzie seem to brush aside as they utilise their ugly past as a supposedly noble platform on which we as society can engage on the pressing social, economic and political challenges of the day.

It is heartening that government has revoked the parole of another notorious collaborator, Rashied Staggie of the Hard Livings gang, for joining the Patriotic Alliance.

It is a bold statement on all our behalf that we as a nation we will not be fooled by a few gangsters who seek to vulgarise our hard-earned democracy and take for granted our leniency that gives them a second chance to alternative lifestyles.

It is a stern message that the provision of parole and the general thrust of changing “prisons” into “correctional facilities” must not be taken for granted. Many times we have had notorious inmates released only for them to betray the very goodwill that enabled their early release.

While some former inmates haven positively utilised their early release as opportunity for rehabilitation, some have abused this, swaggering around as though being a former inmate somehow bestows some hero status.

The significance of this is that such behaviour, which often receives media attention, is misleading to impressionable young minds, leading them to think that crime does in fact pay as, first and foremost, it grants one some sort of status.

We must be wary of how a former convict was able to amass so much wealth within a short period of time, when many other law-abiding citizens have not been able to achieve that.

This is not to say we must be prejudiced against former inmates, it merely means that we must not support former inmates than we support other citizens, as that in itself sends the message that crime does actually pay.

What Kunene and McKenzie are doing by launching the Patriotic Alliance is building on the dangerous precedence that you can go a long way on the fruits of your crime by brazenly launching a party premised on gangsterism.

In spite of our various political differences, we must be united as a people to say no to the celebration of criminality and its elevation to possible political hegemony.

If anything, this is a direct assault on our collective consciousness and the constitution that guarantees a better South Africa on the basis that our vast political differences are actually a heritage for the good of our country.

It is why we celebrate our diversity, including on political matters, but we must emphatically say gangsterism can never be part of it and neither a platform for any of our national heritage.

Instead of being amused as the sushi stunts probably did to some, this time around we must boldly say we are disgusted.

If the formation of the Patriotic Alliance is to show our democracy the middle finger, they must know our middle fingers were up first, against gangsterism.

If we fail to appropriately respond to the launch of the Patriotic Alliance we will be betraying the many victims of gangsterism and fanning the flames of ongoing gangsterism in the Western Cape and elsewhere in the country.

For that reason, society, in spite of its many differences, must unite against gangsterism and the Patriotic Alliance.

By so doing, we would be reinforcing the valid unity characterised by the valid diversity that the constitution envisages.

In that way we would be collectively defending the integrity of our democracy, which the Patriotic Alliance seeks to vulgarise.

* Musekwa is a member of the ANC in Tshwane

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

Sunday Independent