The FW de Klerk Foundation writes regular articles on topical issues, supports language and cultural rights and participates in the national debate on racial and cultural issues. The Foundation also promotes communication by holding conferences and workshops.
A damning report has been compiled by well-respected academics and a seasoned investigative reporter. The word “coup” features prominently. The report titled The Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being Stolen provides factual information and draws linkages between a powerful political elite and business individuals. It reveals a toxic cocktail of patronage and corruption, all the while seriously undermining the constitutional state. Its biggest takeaway: State institutions are being repurposed to the detriment of all South Africans.
The Report follows hot on the heels of another released last week by the South African Council of Churches (SACC). The SACC’s report too, references statements from current and former government employees on how individuals closely linked to the highest office in the land have gained control of some state-owned entities.
The eight Foundations' National Dialogue Initiative (NFDI) was successfully launched on 5 May in Johannesburg. The vast majority of the 300 people - from all walks of life and racial groups - who attended and participated in the group discussions, viewed it as successful. It was indeed a historic initiative and the spirit was one of shared and straightforward talk about our common future. The agenda of the future dialogues was determined by group discussions whereby topics that will be discussed nationwide over the next two years were identified. The next step is to have launch events at a provincial level.
The NFDI launch resulted in two coincidental reactions.
First, 40 EFF members (mostly young people), fuelled by a Tweet from one of their leaders that dialogue with FW de Klerk and his Foundation was unacceptable, stormed in after lunch after breaking through security. Initially they stood around because the NFDI was just dividing into small groups. The EFF members even accepted an invitation to form their own group and put their issues on the agenda. However, when they realised that their leader's Tweet did not command cooperation and dialogue but rather, disruption, they refused to give feedback on their discussion.
The participation of former President FW de Klerk in the meeting of the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative (NFDI) on Friday, 5 May elicited unwarranted and intemperate attacks on him by a number of political leaders, commentators and media personalities. The NFDI includes eight foundations associated with former South African leaders who have come together to initiate a dialogue between South Africans within the framework of the Constitution on the serious challenges that confront South Africa.
The general gist of the attacks - which included vitriolic and unfounded accusations - was that FW de Klerk should not be participating in the national debate because he was “the last apartheid president” and was guilty of gross violations of human rights.
Playing Fast and Loose with State Resources
While some would call it a confession, others have referred to it as a disclosure. Newly-minted Energy Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi, revealed to a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on 2 May 2017 that South Africa’s strategic oil reserves were sold and not ‘rotated’ by her predecessor Tina Joemat-Pettersson, leaving the country reeling, yet again.
When the story broke almost six months after the sale of the 10 million barrels of crude in December 2015, then Energy Minister Joemat-Pettersson dismissed media enquiries as silly nonsense and that ‘rotating’ old stock of crude oil had a precedent way back when. There was little more concrete information forthcoming from her before she tossed the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF), a unit of the Central Energy Fund (CEF), into the fray. The Department of Energy, as the largest shareholder of the CEF, was simply following the orders of its principle, the Minister.
I regard our conference here today as one of the most important and hopeful developments in recent years. It is enormously significant that Foundations that were established by former national leaders from across the political spectrum have come together today to discuss the future of our beloved country.
The timing could also not be more appropriate: South Africa is in the grip of the most serious challenges that have confronted it since the establishment of our non-racial constitutional democracy 23 years ago:
- Our economy is in a more parlous condition than at any time since 1994.
- We are experiencing an unprecedented constitutional crisis;
- We are also beset by serious social challenges.
IT IS TIME TO START TALKING TO EACH OTHER (AGAIN)
Last Thursday was Freedom Day, the celebration of the birth of the “New South Africa” in 1994. But we are far away from the positive attitude and euphoria that were part of 27 April 1994. Instead, our country faces numerous serious challenges, amongst them the quality of leadership, corruption, state capture, racial polarisation, unemployment, poverty and inequality. Most importantly, many of these challenges are characterised by the lack of respect for our Constitution, or by lack of implementing the Constitution and its principles.
As the FW de Klerk Foundation, we are in full consensus with our fellow Foundations that our country is in a crisis, a crisis that can only be addressed if we start talking to each other again. We need to start a new National Dialogue. This National Dialogue will endeavour to bring together all South Africans at various levels, to have rational and deliberate discussions about the future we want and how we should get there. This will re-establish the truth that our future is in our own hands. We are in full agreement with the other Foundations that our National Dialogue takes as its point of departure our Constitution, the Rule of Law and our constitutional democracy. The Constitution has been our salvation in trying times - despite attempts to challenge and dismiss it. The Constitution’s fortitude is supreme and speaks to the strength of South Africans to re-emerge per the spirit of the document.
In this article, it is (again) suggested that the country needs a proper and credible land audit before we carry on with a debate that would otherwise remain emotional and divisive. It is, secondly, highlighted that some research has shown that we may have progressed further with land reform than we are sometimes led to believe. And it is thirdly pointed out that the real “land hunger” is not necessarily for agricultural land to farm, but for urban and peri-urban land to build houses and make a home.
Land reform, especially of agricultural land, is nowadays almost a shibboleth for South African politics. The reasoning of the associated rhetoric usually has the following elements:
“Soil is prosperity, and if you first possess land, you can buy all the other good things with that wealth.” And this usually refers to agricultural land.
“Historically, white people stole the land from black people and it has to be returned.”
“23 years post-democracy, black people still only own 9.8% of the arable land in South Africa.”
“There is a hunger for agricultural land among our people, like in Zimbabwe, and if we do not listen, we will follow the path of land occupation and confiscation.”
As the country stares into junk status, the hardest hit are the poor and unemployed. Contrary to the utterances of several (uninformed and or reckless) public officials that junk status allows South Africa to set its own rules of the game, there is no good that comes from higher borrowing cost, higher rates of debt repayment and its concomitant effect on domestic allocations for social services, infrastructure development and cost of food and transport, among a myriad of impacts of a downgrade to sub-investment ratings.
The status quo stands in contrast to a vision that was outlined by the National Planning Commission in its 2011 National Development Plan (NDP). Chapter three on Economy and Employment (Vision 2030) outlined a considered strategy whereby “achieving full employment, decent work and sustainable livelihoods is the only way to improve living standards and ensure a dignified existence for all South Africans. Rising employment, productivity and incomes are the surest long-term solution to reducing inequality”.
How will the NDP’s central goal to “expand employment and entrepreneurial opportunities on the back of a growing, more inclusive economy”, be held ransom by the current incompetent and unaccountable political leadership, on whose watch the economy has slid into a tailspin, with growth levels predicted at under 1% per annum.