Agang, Agang

Dear Mamphela Ramphele,

Congratulations on a courageous first step forward with the formation of Agang (Build South Africa). Reclaiming the dream of a better life for all South Africans is an important political project, and I dare say there is no political formation in the country to date, which has managed to reinvigorate and mobilse the mass of ordinary South Africans, in this , the second phase of our democratic revolution.

A number of articles published by the local press refer to your wish to engage South African’s on electoral reform, in particular the end of party lists and the introduction of constituency based politics.

This would provide a much-needed corrective to the current political impasse in which a powerful, well-funded elite has merely consolidated its grip on power while remaining unaccountable to ordinary voters. The time when giving political parties our votes meant nothing is surely over? The period of corruption in which fat-cat politicians are allowed to abuse the public trust while claiming to act on behalf of the masses, is surely at an end?

Opposition parties have already expressed their willingness to support this initiative. However, a political party cannot exist on one issue alone. There is thus, another set of reforms which I wish to mention, all of which impact on this process, and which might distinguish Agang from other political formations. These are in regard to reform of our justice system and our economic system, and also a renewal of the process of reconciliation and forgiveness upon which our nation is based.

Judicial Reform

The last time lay assessors were admitted to a South African court of law was in 1969 in the district of Kimberley when the last South African jury court presided over a case of culpable homicide. Shortly thereafter, the National Party abolished the whites-only jury system. South Africans were de-emancipated, denationalised and demoted by the self-same legal system which turned us into servants, vassals and subjects of the national flag.South Africa is thus a country in which the law is in the exclusive domain of the legal profession. Although much has been done in order to give effect to articles in our constitution providing citizen access to the courts, there has been absolutely no attempt  to balance the power of the judiciary, to give effect to the idea of a “fair and public hearing”, in other words a hearing which is fair precisely because it is public, a people’s court. Instead, as may be seen by the constant battles over who is “meritricious” enough within the profession to occupy the post of judge, the harsh reality is the ruling party elite ends up controlling and manipulating the judiciary  as judicial independence suffers.

The result is a system with an inherent tendency towards corruption. Instead of the current system in which a judge is both judge and jury, an optional jury system comprised of lay assessors separate and distinct from the judiciary would provide a much needed corrective in ending the monopoly of power and its contingent abuses. The test for reasonableness in our law, should not be what a businessperson, albeit a legal professional, thinks in chambers. Rather it should be what 12 citizens or peers believe or think in an open courtroom. I have thus been actively calling for the option of a jury in capital crimes and defamation cases, and would encourage Agang to take up the cudgels by calling for judicial reform.

Economic Reform

South Africa is a country which is trapped in a nineteenth century extractive mining system, you have said so yourself. We can hardly be considered a top rate industrialised country, since much of what is produced, is produced elsewhere. Made in China and Taiwan instead of Made in South Africa. Result – we are a nation of mercantilists and retailers, albeit with a thriving financial services sector and an extractive resource based economy, which opens us all to exploitation by foreign investment and hedge funds.

If we are to bootstrap ourselves into the third industrial revolution which is in full sway in places like Russia and  Germany, we must fund research and development, encourage scientific inquiry, and develop new industries, some of which have only come about in the past decade. Digital manufacturing, Carbon fibre nanotubes,  nanotechnology, fibre optics, hydroponics, aquaponics, solar, 3D printing, molecular engineering a whole range of new industries that have emerged in the 21st century.

We must do this without putting up barriers and creating new taxes which merely punish the consumer. Rather, a system of rebates, incentives to buy local, matching finance schemes which attract investment in local industry and which create a competitive advantage, not because we are reduced to slave labour, but because we have innovation, a healthy work-force and produce quality goods. Providing access to digital manufacturing through hubs that are open to everyone, increasing the capacity of fablabs and prototyping spaces, neighbourhood and grassroots programmes that impact upon township youth. Micro-businessess and industries, the whole gamut of what a super-connected society can truly be if we want it to be.

Protecting user rights in cyberspace and providing open access to broadband can accomplish this. South Africa is wasting an enormous amount of money merely switching over to digital television. We could have simply provided every citizen with broadband cable and distributed communication, focusing on open networks instead of corporate and state monopolies.

Knowing where we have gone wrong and doing what we can to solve the problem. Clearly, the ruling parties policies on parastatels have failed. Breaking up Telkom into small regional telcos, and creating a cable wholesaler. Dismantling Eskom into small regional power utilities and turning it into a provider of smart grid cable, both would serve to place South Africa on a firmer financial footing. Again, why is SAA allowed to operate at a loss, ferrying politicians around the country while ordinary people suffer because the firm is able to unfairly compete against private investment, the recent failure of 1time is just an example.

Ending South Africa’s R1 trillion nuclear white elephant programme once and for all. It is criminal to see the wastage of scarce resources on apartheid-era technology which is now being palmed off to poorer African countries in the name of solidarity.

Transforming the Health Sector from a megalithic structure and massive co-payments bureaucracy which is faceless, unaccountable and unable to provide for the needs of the individual, into a friendly, local, and regional people’friendly service that is entirely free and affordable.

The post-Democratic economic boom enriched institutions and the global elite, we need to open the economy and a second boom to the average South African. Having an economy in which the workers who build automobiles cannot afford to drive them, is a consequence of a lack of right-sizing, wrong priorities, massive corporate institutions taking precedence instead of thousands of small, worker-lead, autonomous cooperatives.

Where are the cooperative projects we were promised after the democratic elections? Where are the model farms and small-holdings that should have been a requisite of a truly sustainable economy?

Renewal of Reconciliation.

The process must continue. Second, third tier hearings until all the truth is revealed. Perpetrators of crimes against humanity continue to act with impunity. Let them rather face up to a renewal process implemented by a broader Agang. True reconciliation instead of the sell-out deals of the ANC in which the ruling party simply looks the other way in exchange for favours. Why is Canada the only country prosecuting apartheid psychiatrists? Why are we still in the dark regarding the medical hearings into apartheid atrocities? Why is there no constitutional compact with the nation so that we can all say with one voice, NEVER AGAIN, and mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ALL PEOPLE?

Is South Africa the exception?

South African exceptionalism must be allowed to triumph, we must not allow ourselves to be drawn down by Afropessimism and its flip-side, Afro-chauvenism. Let all who wish to build a New South Africa, come together, let everyone have a place. I thank you.

1 comment
  1. To me this souds logical and balaced even though not beyond crificism. Read with a positive mind, this shows that there are many south africans of good will whose aim is to build the country and improve the general standard of life . Politics of anger and desire for reversal of events in RSA have an understandable history but cannot serve as a sound basis for nation building and taking up our country where it belongs in transforming the world order !!

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