Greetings, my name is Neeshan Balton. I serve as the executive director of the AKF. On request from the organisers of the conference the AKF agreed to communicate the holding of this conference to the organisations on its and FutureSA data base. While most were happy were to receive the invite a few questioned why were doing it and what our interest was in saving the ANC? Others simply stated that they had no interest in saving the ANC and declined the invite. The issue has raised questions about the alignment of the AKF with this initiative and what this work meant for its own non- partisan posture?
The AKF could easily rebut these by pointing out the association of Ahmed Kathrada with the work of the S&V since its inception and could also point to its recent visits to Robben Island with the EFF and DA. But truth be told it has a more work to do to be truly non-partisan, though its journey in that direction has begun.
The question for the ANC is whether it can understand, accept and respect why civil society must be strongly non-partisan. Judging by its recent utterances, it would appear that lots more work has to be done in this regard. Its fear of CS leading a “ colour revolution” or being behind regime change and to be agents of foreign powers are but a few pointers of how it perceives CS.
CS has been in a rebirth period in the last few years, though in its broadest sense CS has been functioning alongside and sometimes in spite of the state. It can be said that political CS has seen a rebirth of sorts around issues of social justice, accountability, respect for the constitution and nation building.
The almost near collapse of the state in many areas has contributed to this, as has the reality of growing poverty, hunger and unemployment.
The dereliction of duty by the state and the usurping of its role by the many shadow role players brought about a sense of realisation that CS needed to respond. And boy did they respond.
Save SA, # UniteBehind, Outa, Freedom under law, corruption watch, BLSA, the SACC, Umabhugance and Scorpio and many others have kept the spotlight on the issue of SC in an unrelenting way. And while we might have marched at different times on the same issue, we also marched together with opposition parties on this one. Together CS called on MP’s to support the motion of no confidence because we saw it as affording Parliament and the governing party to redeem itself and rid the country of a President that was all but declared delinquent by the Constitutional court.
Sadly it failed but the struggle to expose the rot goes on through different platforms.
I don’t have time to elaborate on the role of CS today, but would be failing if I did not make special mention of a few outstanding interventions by CS which prevented or helped to expose immense wrongdoings by the state:
- Black SASH
- Section 27
- Equal Education
- Corruption watch / Outa
- Right to Know
- Former civil servants who have stood up to state capture and who suffered as a consequence thereof.
But there is another dimension to what we call CS – those who feed, clothe, provide shelter to the needy and without whom millions would be without the basics of life. CS organisations are today involved in drug rehab work, emergency services, tuition , youth programmes, building of shelters, legal aid, poverty relief, food security, environmental justice, rural women organisation, etc. As the state continues to fail it is up to many of these organisations to puck up the pieces and hold communities together. Where they succeed we see relative stability and where we they don’t we see the kind of flare ups that are on the increase. I would go so far as to say that should many of these CS structures fold it would result in mass starvation and the uprisings that follow such instances.
CS would therefore be calling on you stalwarts and veterans to understand that it has to play a non-partisan role today and in the future so that we guard the vision and aspirations of our constitution jealously and hold all who transgress it to account without fear or favour. Today it’s the ANC , tomorrow it might be the DA or EFF, we must be ready to do what is required irrespective of who is in office.
The challenge that I need to raise with this gathering is what are you going to be prepared to do to save SA?
- At a recent FSA meeting one of its patrons, Shiela Sisulu mooted the idea of a period of intensified civil disobedience. Kumi Naidoo recalled the precedents for this of the 1952 defiance campaign and its repeat during the 1980’s. The same conclusion was arrived at independently by the #Unitebehind and the UDF veterans in Cape Town, who courted arrest at the offices of the NPA under the there arrest us or Zuma. How many of you would be prepared to heed this call and go back to the trenches in 2018 when it becomes clear that the ANC will not remove the main obstacle to getting SA onto a path of rebuilding? On November 30 # unite Behind has made a call for South Africans to present themselves at the offices of the NPA or SAPs under ther banner of a campaign “ Arrest Zuma or arrest us.” The 30 is the last day for President Zuma to make representations as to why the case against him should not be pursued by the NPA.
- This is call that the Stalwarts and Veterans should consider supporting. It is no longer good enough to only make statements calling for Zuma to go. When you as veterans decide to march or occupy Luthuli House or Union Buildings in support of this call, you can be assured that civil society will be there to support you. Your collective political and social capital extends way beyond the ANC and it maybe time to consider applying that to its widest base in support of righting all that is wrong in SA today.
Lastly while civil society might not be directly involved in the elections of ANC leaders. It would have an interest in measuring up all the proposed leaders of the different political formations who will be contesting the 2019 elections to check how they measure up the requirements as spelt out in the Concourt rulings on the Public Protectors report. In short it require a person or persons with the highest levels of integrity. Anything less will not be acceptable.
If we focus on saving SA first , the ANC and all political formations will learn to respect CS and the electorate in general. They will come to understand the power of the dictum in the Freedom Charter that no government can
“ can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;
that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;
And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.
A sentence from a speech delivered by Leigh – Ann Naidoo at a Ruth First memorial lecture, should haunt all of us here today. She said “ the spectre of revolution or radical change, is in young peoples minds and their politics, and it is ALMOST NOWHERE IN THE POLITICS OF THE ANTI – APARTHEID GENERATION”
We have the opportunity to prove her wrong.