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Sentletse Diakanyo: 20 years of broken promises

The history of black people in South Africa is a history of struggle. A history characterised by the painful struggle for the liberation from colonialism and apartheid. The black majority rose against the injustices that sought to subject them to a sub-human existence with no political freedoms and mere providers of labour in an economy that benefit the white minority. The ANC, the PAC, AZAPO and other black formations led the formidable struggle to liberate the black majority from the tyranny of apartheid. Non-violent means of protest were met with violent repression of the rights of the black majority to express their collective disgust at the brutish system of apartheid.

Nelson Mandela during the Rivonia Treason trial in 1964 said, "We had no doubt that we had to continue the fight. Anything else would have been abject surrender. Our problem was not whether to fight, but was how to continue the fight. We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the races further apart than they already were. But the hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights."

The collapse of the apartheid regime in 1994 signalled a new beginning and the promise of a better and prosperous future to the black majority who had for decades existed on the periphery of the mainstream economy and living in ignoble conditions of poverty. The ANC in its 1994 elections manifesto promised, "a democratic government at provincial and local levels, with the powers and resources to meet people's needs." The provision of basic services such as housing, water, and education is enshrined in the Constitution. This signified an inalienable commitment by the presiding government to restore the human dignity of South Africans with the provision of such basic services, among other things, and to restore the faith and trust of the people in the government of the day that exists to serve them but not to oppress or limit their freedoms and violate their human dignity.

The 20 years of democracy has been nothing but short of the fulfilment of the promises of the dawn of new dispensation. The ANC has delivered poor quality housing to the people. Billions of rands have been lost through corruption to constructions companies and government officials. About R1bn was set aside to fix the poor workmanship identified in the construction of RDP houses. Taps have been delivered to the people but there is no water available. The water infrastructure has been ignored for many years while about R30bn of taxpayers funds is wasted on extravagant and fruitless indulgences. A report by the Global Financial Integrity revealed that a staggering R385bn was lost to corruption at every level of government since 1994. In 2009 alone, corruption in the public sector cost the economy an estimated R70bn. In the meanwhile, the country has to contend with an unstable electricity supply and dilapidated infrastructure.

Not only has the ANC regime failed the people in the provision of basic services over a protracted period of time, while billions went to waste and ANC cronies enriched themselves, millions of South Africans remain unemployed. The economy has grown in the last 20 years not to the benefit of those who under apartheid existed on its margins, but to continue to benefit the white minority who also were sole beneficiaries of the apartheid regime. The Goldman Sachs report shows that the white minority have benefited significantly more under the current democratic order than the black majority. The command of the economy remains in white hands. The structure of the economy is representative of the apartheid-era economy. The people have been liberated politically but continue to be subjected to economic apartheid with no immediate prospect of full emancipation if things continue as they are. They are gatvol of repeated empty promises from a discredited and corrupt ANC regime that has demonstrated its incapacity and will to fulfil its promise of a better life for all. This is a regime that readily murders its own people who take to the streets to express their collective discontent with lack of provision of basic services. Our people are being murdered for rightfully demanding water, among other things.

A rising number of protests against the ANC regime have turned violent. The regime has shown unwillingness and lack of commitment to respond to the legitimate grievances of the people. That we have over 3,000 recorded protests in the last few years, without any meaningful response and improvement in service delivery levels shows a complete lack of regard for the people. Peaceful protests are ignored. The people appear to have resorted to violence as the only means through which they can receive the necessary attention from the corrupt ANC regime. The arrogance of regime officials in responding to the legitimate demands of the people has only served to add more fuel to raging passions of the people. That the president can take time off to go relax at his R250m taxpayer-funded private resort, while the country burns, is testimony to the general attitude of the ruling party towards the public.

However, it is rather unfortunate that the same people who have taken their legitimate grievances against the ANC regime to the streets have resolved not to allow voter registration in their areas. They are disempowering and denying themselves the only means through which they can hold the government accountable and enforce performance under the social contract that exists between the government and the people. The Constitution is that social contract between government and the people. Those in public office took an oath to serve and protect the Constitution. They have elected to wilfully repudiate this inviolable social contract. It is time to vote in a new and responsible government.

Follow Sentletse Diakanyo on Twitter: @Sentletse