The year 1955 marked a momentous occasion in the history of the ANC immediately after the defiance campaign of 1952. People from all walks of life converged on the sleepy town of Kliptown to adopt the Freedom Charter, which gave greater meaning to the ideals of the national liberation of the majority of black people who suffered under the repressive white minority rule.
The year 2008 also defines a remarkable epoch in the political landscape and the beginning of the dilution of dominance of the ANC as we know it. The announcement by the former minister of defence Mosiuoa Lekota of the intention of disgruntled members of the ANC — largely former Cabinet ministers — to form a new political party is a welcome development. South Africa has been technically a “one-party” state for some time, and as a result the ANC has becoming overwhelmingly arrogant.
Lekota informed us that a consultative conference would be held to chart the way forward with regard to the formation of the new political party. This presents an opportunity for every South African, whether black, white, Indian, Chinese or coloured, to choose leadership on which to impose the burden of transforming the nature of politics and changing the lives of millions of our people for the better. It is an opportunity for those who want to influence the policy direction of the new party to participate in its formation.
There may be doubts regarding the members of the ANC who are purported to be forming this party — that the majority of them had served in government and were unable to deliver on their promises. This would be a valid concern and criticism, but nevertheless not informed by the realities of the nature of ANC politics. It is important to have some understanding that these members were implementing policy decisions of the ANC, as agreed at the ANC policy conference.
Of course, they would have had input in the formulation of these policies, but you and I never had such an opportunity to make submissions. It is thus vital that those charged with renewed energy participate in the formation of this party and ensure that it pursues policies that reconcile with their wishes and expectations. It is very clear that current opposition parties lack the strength to challenge the ANC and threaten its dominance at the polls, and this is why those who want change must be part of that change.
The new party may be seen as putting new oil in an old engine — that these members of the ANC, many of whom are old, have nothing to offer voters and the country. But what is important is that the formation of this party stands to benefit from the exuberance of youth who are disillusioned by despotic tendencies, populism and mindless revolutionary rhetoric within the ANC as well as the uselessness of existing opposition parties.
We are standing at the crossroads of political history and it is incumbent upon us to define our future as we see it and as it ought to be; to have the courage of conviction to rise against the sabotage of democratic principles for which many lives were sacrificed, and against growing injustices that are embraced and promoted by those we to whom almost surrendered our future.
This may be an opportune time for small opposition parties to consolidate their membership in the formation of a stronger party that should contest elections with the sole objective of claiming victory and governing. Themba Godi, leader of the African People’s Convention, a breakaway party of the PAC; Bantu Holomisa, of the United Democratic Movement; Patricia de Lille, of the Independent Democrats; and Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance should put aside their egos and appetite for power and join hands together with ANC dissidents for the good of the country.
South Africa craves a truly multiracial party that pursues policies which serve and accommodate the interests of all South Africans. A single and inclusive political party is the only way to bridge the divide between “two nations” that has long characterised our country. This is not the time to be despondent and surrender the gains of the liberation struggle to power-hungry ruffians who threaten the plunge the country into anarchy if the courts rule against their allegedly corrupt leader. When Hitler was appointed in 1933, Germany was a democracy. It had fair elections; nobody had their right to vote abused; and there were numerous political parties you could vote for, but soon things changed for the worse. We are seeing similar changes imposed on the ANC and ultimately on the country by communists and hooligans.
The unusual reaction by most senior members of the ANC, including Jacob Zuma, to Lekota’s announcement indicates a deep sense of worry among the party’s leadership. They have come to a sobering realisation that their strategy of skop, skiet en donner has failed; that the formation of a new party is a reality and no longer a rumour. Some denialism of the mounting challenge by the new party at the polls is only informed by the egotistical nature of these politicians not to concede that they have failed to bring unity to the ANC.
The prospect of the new political party overwhelms me with hope for the future. Let us not cower before the magnitude of the task imposed on us by the seismic shifts in the current political landscape. Let us not sink under the weight of intimidation, and rather find some support in a consciousness of our purpose and confidence in the principles that inspired our democracy. The question we must all answer is whether we are determined to exhaust all efforts to affirm our commitment to upholding and defending our democracy. Our charge is to leave for future generations the task of imitation. Change is coming!