Mamphela Ramphele: Why I am fighting again
Twenty years after the birth of democracy, there is a new fight worth fighting. This speech was made by Mamphela Ramphele at The Gathering.
In the mid-1970s we fought for freedom and dignity, for the right to be who and what we were and are; a people of dignity and worth.
It was to all intents and purposes a fight against an edifice that back then seemed immovable. But it was a just struggle. So we fought without personal regard, because we fought was for what was right.
The early consequences of that fight were dire. We saw death, detention, banishment, suffering, blunted aspiration; we lived lives that in many respects were not ours.
When the unexpected happened, our joy was unconstrained. Imagine our happiness after so much suffering.
1994 was in many respects the end of an era - freedom attained, dignity restored; a bright future in sight.
In my case, it was an opportunity to realise personal goals, to re-direct my energies, to make a contribution to improving the lives of all I came into contact with.
It was a time to develop normally in a normal world.
Madiba, of course, created a world where hope burned brightly for years - all was possible. When he left the political stage, the decline began, but the decline was slow, gradual, almost unobtrusive, apart from the occasional glaring misstep - like the HIV/Aids denialism.
Into that decline stepped Jacob Zuma. Now I find myself, at 67 years of age, having made my contribution, having to step back into the breach to save our freedom and preserve our dignity. It is important to understand this clearly - no 67-year-old with a life history of suffering and struggle, with some means, willingly steps into the world of politics.
But how does one, a part of the small band who laid down their lives for freedom and dignity, walk away when all we fought for is threatened? No, we stand up and fight again.
Our struggle now is against old enemies: The tyranny of impunity, corruption, refusal of accountability, and theft from those whom we fought for, and so many died for.
If those of us who laid the bedrock that Madiba built on, stand back, what will be left for our grandchildren? Standing back is not an option. It is not an option for me. Nor is it an option for Kasrils, Naidoo, and occasionally Manuel. Nor for the thousands of ANC stalwarts who mourn the loss of their ANC. Why, then, you ask, did I begin a political party to fight back?
I believe, after years of conversations with many like minds, that the ANC is now in the death grip of the corrupt, greedy, and the arrogant. This country bows and scrapes before one man! This was an impossibility under Madiba and ANC presidents of the past.
The official opposition is severely limited. If it is honest, it will acknowledge that it cannot in the near or medium-term future attract the votes it needs to mount a serious opposition to the ANC: What can 20% of the vote achieve that the DA's 16% cannot? Can anyone here seriously expect the official opposition to reach the 40% it needs to begin to be taken seriously, before Zuma destroys our country?
The remainder are small parties, you point out, so what difference can they make? Whenever I am asked this question I remember the mid-1970s. Who gave 15 students a chance of upsetting the Apartheid machinery? When cooperation and courage mix, all is possible.
And there is a great deal to fight for. Remember that more voters remain outside the political system and have not voted, because they refuse to, for either the DA or the ANC. In other words, there is much more growth in store for smaller parties who offer a positive solution than is on offer to the ANC and DA who are locked into the status quo. A status quo of trying to deafen each other and the electorate; of marching on each other's buildings in the guise of debate; and of trying to outspin each other while citizens wait for answers. It is this status quo and ongoing failures that has created the EFF.
Let us be honest about this - the EFF appeals to young black men and women who have grown tired of waiting for government to provide meaningful solutions.
It is this status quo and ongoing government failure that enables this group of angry young people to espouse policies that we know can lead only to ruin for our country. Let us note that analyses show that their policies will bankrupt the country within a year. What shareholders will stand back and allow their mines, their banks and their businesses to be co-opted by untried and unproven leaders without any track record of success?
What entrepreneur and business owner will be willing to be dictated to by government when the rest of the continent offers much better possibilities? But what can we expect when there is no way out of this status quo because the current political players demonstrate only self-interest and derive pride from adding a few thousand votes to their collection every five years as though they have somehow changed the lives of the poor? Something drastic has to be done - yet something so fundamental to democracy that it is often overlooked - we must hear and respond to voters!
Agang's policies have been built from the ground up - ours are simple, yet effective and proven policies. Most importantly, they are what citizens want. But policies are not enough; they must be accompanied by political will - the will to put our people first.
What have citizens told us?
- We want empowerment;
- We want education;
- We want employment;
- We want to be entrepreneurs;
- We want effective government -
- What Agang calls the 5 Es.
At the age of 67, when I had hoped to lay aside at least some of my struggles, I find myself fighting again - again against self-interest, greed, corruption; and for the freedoms and dignity that our leaders fought and died for. I do so because it must be done; and I do this through Agang because our politics today is failing. I do this again, with a small group of dedicated, committed and trustworthy patriots who have chosen to put their country and its citizens before themselves and who are unafraid of the task.
As we did in the mid-1970s, we fight against an opponent that many believe cannot be moved. We will move that giant, just as we moved Apartheid. We fought against Apartheid for almost 20 years from 1976. Now, 20 years into democracy, we fight again; because it is a just and right fight to end corruption, reclaim our dignity, and to again build ours into a winning country together. It is a fight we will fight to answer the cries of those millions left out in the political wilderness. It is a fight I have fought before, and it is a fight Agang will win, together with empowered citizens across this nation.
It is a fight worth fighting.
This column appeared on Daily Maverick.