The beginning of a new era - Resisting the cabals’ quest for power
2020 has seen the rise of activism around the world, as Covid-19 levels the playing fields but, in South Africa, a new kind of activism is urgently needed to ensure there are playing fields left to level as capitalism and corruption join forces to entrench the economic divide, says Dr Iqbal Survé, Chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and Executive Chairman of Independent Media.
On December 5, 2013, the world woke up to the news that the father of our South African democracy, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba), had passed away. He left behind him a legacy that earned him adoration, praise and recognition around the world, much of which was based on his extraordinary ability to forgive and see a better future.
Next week, in a year marked by untold challenge and hardship, yet also human kindness, we will celebrate the seventh anniversary of this icon’s passing. It is perhaps pertinent then, that we look back to remember a lesson or two.
After casting his historic vote in the country’s first democratic election on April 27, 1994, he said: “This is for all South Africans, an unforgettable occasion. It is the realisation of hopes and dreams that we have cherished over decades. The dreams of a South Africa, which represents all South Africans. It is the beginning of a new era.”
This new era that Madiba alluded to captured the hopes and dreams of an entire nation. However, 27 years into democracy, the question that needs answering is whether the ushering in of this “new era” has actually made any significant inroads into alleviating the triple burden of inequality, poverty and unemployment that was endured pre-1994 or not. Going by the current discourse in the country, it would seem not, and unequivocally so.
Today, our democracy is at a crossroads – our current direction is on course to firmly entrench factionalism, corruption, crime, poor service delivery and economic stagnation. The other direction, one that Madiba ushered in for us all and that would see true economic transformation as par for the course, is all but a distant memory. It’s time to change this.
Notwithstanding the transfer of political power to the ANC in 1994, control of the economy still remains firmly in the hands of the pre-democracy capital owning cabal. Coupled with this, is the consummate greed of the post-democracy ruling political elite, who have now joined forces with the old clique, and to all intents and purposes, hijacked the country’s desired transformation and stymied any form of meaningful mass economic participation.
These cabals (or one uber-cabal) are omnipresent and omnipotent and have created an environment where any attempt to challenge or expose them is met with despotic retort.
Despite the fact that we have the most progressive Constitution and Bill of Rights in the world, in which media freedom and freedom of expression are enshrined, our democratic order has been usurped, and our nation has been duped into believing a singular narrative, one created and controlled by this combined cabal.
To advance their agenda, the cabals have assiduously inveigled the legislative framework, levers of economic power, regulatory instruments, and financial institutions to do their bidding.
Not immune to their wiles, sections of the Fourth Estate have also bought into this manufactured narrative, playing a critical role in silencing or discrediting advocates of fundamental transformation, through smear campaigns and intimidation. Sadly, there are numerous journalists and publishers who have become, perhaps unwittingly, others determinedly, strategic tools in the hands of the cabals as they relentlessly pursue their mission – whatever that may be.
Regrettably, I have first-hand experience of the dirty tricks adopted by these cabals.
My involvement in the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013 is a case in point. The contestation for its ownership and the subsequent successful bid led by Sekunjalo Independent Media consortium, are well documented. One such example involved a revolt by senior editorial staff following the acquisition of Independent Media. This revolt, conducted under the false narrative of an erosion of editorial independence, was meant to bring the newspaper group to its knees, thus, creating a platform for a hostile takeover by those who would rather not allow it to tell a different story.
They were unsuccessful.
Instead, this revolt paved the way for Independent Media’s own much needed transformation, which came much sooner than anticipated, and for which, I am eternally grateful. The company is now a testament to the fact that transformation is possible – on all levels, even though I will admit that at present, our economics are somewhat challenged by a radically changed media landscape and pressured business due to Covid-19 fallout. Transformation is also at the fulcrum around which the company’s business and editorial strategy is based.
My refusal to follow the Pied Piper’s tunes and my dedicated commitment to ensuring that Independent Media asserts itself as an authentic voice for the marginalised and the voiceless, have however, had serious repercussions and consequences. It has not deterred us, instead, it has renewed our determination to speak up and speak out, add our voice to an active civil society and hold those in power, to account.
South Africa’s current woes are a complicated quilt of interwoven issues, many of which are historic and a good deal of fresh ones of the people’s own making too. It would be easy to lay the blame at the foot of any one person, party, or circumstance but, that would be neither true nor fair. Casting blame whilst not looking in the mirror also does not always help in mapping out a new way forward, since learning the lessons from the past is also something we need to take on board, otherwise we are doomed, therefore, to rinse and repeat.
To change this and create a new pattern, we need to adopt new habits and that starts with a fundamental rooting out of corruption and having leaders whose moral compass are a light by which everyone can be guided.
True economic transformation – something I believe the majority of us really do desire – can only happen if the stranglehold of the ensuing cabals is broken, and for good. This demands a new form of activism. A type of activism which will ensure that the “new era” promised by Mandela on April 27, 1994, does indeed become a reality for the majority of our people.
As a reminder, Madiba also said: “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named goodness and forgiveness.”
Isn’t it time to choose these, the roads less travelled, instead of the path we currently find ourselves on?