South African residents preparing to vote in Ficksburg, South Africa, on 18 May 2011. (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Nicolene Olckers)


South African residents preparing to vote in Ficksburg, South Africa, on 18 May 2011. (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Nicolene Olckers)

Current political parties don’t understand the problems South Africans are dealing with and therefore do not present workable, realistic and credible solutions, writes Herman Mashaba.

When you consider the prospect of our country being turned around, you have to look at the policies of the established political parties and the prospects of them being elected to implement them.

When you look at the sorry state of the political establishment in South Africa this is the origin of our great depression.

The policies of our current political parties are a confused ideological morass that explain why 18.5 million South Africans of voting-age couldn’t be bothered to vote in the last elections. Further too many politicians are more focused on their internal political battles than they are seized with the desperate circumstances in which millions of South Africans find themselves living in.

Part of this problem arises from career politicians being involved in drafting the ‘solutions’ to South Africa’s problems. Yet when you analyse the credentials of career politicians, you notice that few amongst them have succeeded in any endeavour outside of politics. Most have never grown a small business, nor worked in a police station, a hospital or a school.

The consequence of this, is that political party policies do not present workable, realistic and credible solutions. They do not provide South Africans with an understanding of what practical changes would be implemented on the back of support granted to them by the voters.

This is something I am seeking to change with the launch of our new political party.

The People’s Dialogue was a project borne of public engagement. 2.4 million perspectives were solicited during the dialogue phase from which five non-negotiable values have arisen: 

  • A commitment to a free-market economy;
  •  Building a non-racial South Africa;
  •  A commitment to social justice; 
  •  A respect for the rule of law; and
  •  Electoral reform.

Our work in preparing for our launch in August this year, requires that we build on these foundational values and develop a comprehensive set of blueprints to solve the challenges faced by South Africans. There is a reason why I avoid the word “policy”, because we need solutions and not high-brow academic discussions around ideology.

This is why I called for professionals from all backgrounds to come forward and involve themselves in the construction of our plans, because South Africans with expertise have been excluded and ignored by our current political parties.

People came forward in their thousands; doctors, nurses, teachers, principals, policemen and women, prosecutors, business owners, academics and the list is endless.

Engagements

We therefore began a series of engagements with these experts. It required a sense of humility that is uncommon in politics, to accept that we do not have all the answers despite the rich experience in governing Johannesburg. The results of these exercises have been staggering.

In addressing the question of our criminal justice system, policemen and women were able to point out where the under-resourcing exists. Security experts provided insights into misalignments between policing and criminal activities. Prosecutors demonstrate where the coordination between detective services and the NPA breaks down. Retired judges speak to how criminal prosecutions fall apart because of flawed investigation methods. These understandings have emerged just through discussions around our criminal justice system.

Solutions have begun to emerge from these engagements which are practical, workable and address the crux of the failures in our criminal justice system. Consider for example, the direct election of District Heads of the NPA, voted by the public, and held accountable for the performance of the NPA in that area.

We have begun work in engaging the enormous number of people who have come forward to engage around solutions for our economy and jobs crisis. Captains of industry, small business owners, experts in investment banking, economists, artisans and directors of major corporates have participated to date. The quality of these discussions has begun to produce solutions, directly from those who know what has to happen for their businesses to grow.

One small business owner made the following point. “We are currently producing a nation of employees and not employers, but nobody is hiring right now. We need employers. Our education system must provide the skills for people to open their own businesses, and government must remove the red tape, provide access to financing and make it easy to grow.”

Labour system 

One of the most eye-opening moments was when small business owners spoke of how they can expand and generate more revenue, but chose not to in order to avoid the risks of employing people under the current labour regime. Our labour system must be overhauled to stop protecting the employed at the expense of the unemployed. This is especially true when considering the projection of three to seven million job losses arising from Covid-19 which would push unemployment to above 50%.

From next week we will begin to engage with experts in education, social cohesion, agriculture, social justice, BBBEE, immigration and electoral reform.

In just over a week the solutions arising from these discussions give me certainty that the solutions we will table when we launch the new party in August this year, will be capable of turning our country around.

We will demonstrate to South Africans that we will win the contest around the solutions that can offer hope of a better South Africa.

–  Herman Mashaba is the founder of The People’s Dialogue and the former Mayor of Johannesburg.

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