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Herman Mashaba laments “sentimental allegiance” to the ANC – Excerpt from Capitalist Crusader

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Capitalist CrusaderBlack Like YouRead an excerpt from Herman Mashaba’s new book, Capitalist Crusader: Fighting Poverty Through Economic Growth.

Mashaba is the founder of the Black Like Me empire and the author of the bestselling memoir Black Like You. He is also executive chairman of Lephatsi Investments (Pty) Ltd, Leswikeng Group of Companies and Phatsima Group of Companies and holds several other directorships.

Mashaba recently announced that he is making himself available as a mayoral candidate for the Democratic Alliance for the City of Joburg in 2016, saying: “For too long I have watched from the sidelines at how corrupt and self-serving ANC politicians have mismanaged Johannesburg.”

His offer was officially been taken up by the party on Saturday in an announcement by DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Mashaba beat Wits professor and DA councillor Rabelani Dagada to the candidacy.

Mashaba made some controversial comments at the press conference on the subject of Black Economic Empowerment. “If I have the powers to instruct Parliament to … remove all laws and policies that classifies me as a black South African, as a black human being … I can assure you I would do it tomorrow,” he told reporters.

Read the excerpt from Capitalist Crusader, in which Mashaba expresses concern about the allegations of corruption that exist at all levels of government, including cronyism, nepotism, and mismanagement and exploitation, specifically “on mines owned by Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) companies”.

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CHAPTER 2

THE POWER OF OUR VOTES

Strong national policies and good governance are essential for the development of a healthy democracy; without them South Africa faces collapse on all levels. Fortunately, the South African Constitution was formulated and developed by top legal and social minds to provide for the human dignity of all South Africans, and is a remarkable democratic legislative framework for good governance. The Constitution came into effect in 1997 and really gave me a strong sense of national and social security, since I believed that by adhering to its provisions, South Africa was on a path of genuine, sustainable reform that would uplift its entire people and advocate good governance.

When Thabo Mbeki became president in 1999 I had a positive outlook on the future of the country, and my faith in the nation’s leadership was cemented when Mbeki eloquently advocated and promoted what was commonly known as the African Renaissance initiative, whereby Africans strive to surmount African challenges to achieve economic, cultural, and scientific renewal; an initiative that I and many other people embraced. The rebirth of our continent under South Africa’s leadership was an exciting prospect.

In 2000 the German government invited me to address a conference in Berlin to promote the African Renaissance initiative, which I understood under Mbeki’s leadership to mean encouraging the continent to embrace the fundamental cornerstones of democracy, namely democratic principles, respect for the rule of law, and freedom of the press. Moeletsi Mbeki and Tokyo Sexwale were also among the speakers at the same conference.

However, my faith in Mbeki’s leadership and his understanding of an African Renaissance were soon somewhat compromised when he supported (by his quiet diplomacy) Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme, a venture that resulted in massive human rights violations when white farmers were stripped of their farms without compensation, and often violently so. I felt betrayed and disappointed, and further events triggered serious doubts in me about Mbeki’s political vision. In 2000 he appointed Jackie Selebi as the national police commissioner. In 2007 the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) issued a warrant for Selebi’s arrest on corruption charges. On the grounds of this investigation into Selebi, Mbeki placed him on extended leave in early 2008 and suspended Vusi Pikoli, head of the NPA. Mbeki’s handling of Selebi’s corruption and Pikoli’s suspension raised serious questions in my mind regarding Mbeki’s leadership and his lack of respect for the rule of law. How on earth could anyone justify maintaining the country’s Commissioner of Police with a cloud of criminal cases hanging over his head? These doubts were extended to the ANC when they recalled Thabo Mbeki as president of the country in 2008, only three months before the national election; I realised I could no longer vote for the party of Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu and all the other leaders who had helped to deliver the freedom we were enjoying. Later, upon reading Reverend Frank Chikane’s book Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki, I got a sense of how the ANC was prepared and determined to expel Mbeki, again with brazen disregard for the rule of law. The rule of law must be paramount in a society that wishes to be considered democratic.

When the Congress of the People (COPE) was established as a result of Mbeki’s expulsion, I was immediately suspicious of some members of its leadership, because it appeared that these individuals’ motives were driven by personal advancement rather than an intention to serve the people of South Africa. The main mandate a political party receives when it wins an election is to adhere to the will of its constituents. Voters are guided by the principles and the policies that a political party promotes, and if a party advocates promoting the economy, I expect to see their policies aligned to such advocacy. When a party fails to deliver on its election promises, and appears to have other agendas, it is time to reconsider supporting that party.

Was it just me who was disgruntled with government policy in the run-up to the 2014 election? I engaged in conversations with friends and family, trying to gauge their political opinions and sentiment. I was encouraged that lengthy and vociferous political debate was taking place in my hometown of Hammanskraal, since I believe that without engagement, critical thinking cannot develop and there can be no hope of solutions for the country’s problems. Even though I support everyone’s right to vote for the party he or she supports, I was depressed by some of the opinions I heard.

Many of my friends and family, from young to old, seemed to feel that the Economic Freedom Front or the Democratic Alliance were best qualified to tackle the country’s immediate local problems, such as employment or service delivery, because the ANC had failed to deliver basic human services, and protests seemed to have had no effect. Yet these same people felt that they could not abandon the ANC nationally, and upon further probing, I saw that their support for the ANC on a national level seemed to be motivated more by loyalty to the party that had delivered them from apartheid than by any belief that the ANC would actually deliver on promises. I drove home in a dark mood that night, dispirited by how sentimental allegiance might prevent the growth and development that South Africa so desperately needed. Just as I believe there is no place for emotion in the boardroom, I don’t believe emotion has a place in elections. When voting, we really have the responsibility of voting for the party that represents our perspectives and will provide good governance.

In the build-up to the watershed 1994 election, I had taken some time off from my business and involved myself in voter education. As a member of the previously disenfranchised, I found that putting my cross on the ballot paper represented more than just supporting a political party. Like the majority of black South Africans, I was also voting for the first time in my life and recognised it for the momentous occasion it was going to be. We were exercising a right that had long been denied to us. Those who voted for the ANC were finally able to say thank you, we believe in you to lead us into the new South Africa. Undoubtedly, for many voters that first vote was going to be emotionally charged. However, I was adamant that people should understand what their votes meant, and I wanted to ensure that everyone who wanted to vote knew the procedure involved. Prior to that first democratic election, education was vital, since, like me, the majority of South Africans had never imagined ourselves being granted the freedom to vote, and we had little to no knowledge of voting protocols. My company Black Like Me funded a voter education programme run by Dr David Molapo of the I Can Foundation. David and his team, including his wife Mmamiki and Abner Mariri, did a sterling job across the country educating the educators. Many other organisations embarked on voter education campaigns. Despite these combined efforts to encourage voting, only 56.38% of the population were finally registered to vote; but what was inspiring was that 86.87% of those registered voters did indeed vote.

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I need hardly describe the attendant euphoria. Every South African remembers. Images of long lines of eager and patient first-time voters swept through the media across every nation during the three days of voting in this historic election. The whole world was celebrating with us as 19 million people voted for candidates in 19 political parties and the ANC swept to victory. Our votes were a hard-won freedom, but now voting is our right, and it deserves to be treated with mature thought and consideration for the future of our whole nation. As the 2014 election approached, I tried very hard to gauge South Africans’ commitment to voting; after all, we can hardly criticise an administration if we do not participate in it at the most basic level, namely by voting.

In this voting statistics table it is evident that there are discrepancies between the South African population, the voting age population, the registered voters, and the number of people who actually cast their ballots. If we look at the 1994 election, the discrepancy between the recorded voting age population and registered voters is in the region of about a million.

If we analyse the results across the 20-year period, we can see that there has been a marked decline in the number of registered voters actually casting their votes (from a difference of 3 million in 1994 to a difference of 7 million in 2014 between registered voters and ballots cast). Indeed even more worrying, we see a significant decline in citizens registering to vote (25 million out of a population of 48 million). The decrease in registered voters is disturbing; our electoral responsibility has decreased from 86% to 72%, which means that almost 15% of electorally eligible people have renounced their civic responsibility. This will have severe repercussions on the administration of South Africa, since these voters are effectively leaving other people to decide their futures. While we can acknowledge that there are obvious valid reasons for not registering to vote – access to registration, illness, remoteness, lack of education, and fear of intimidation – a 15% abstention is high.

I wonder what this abstention is saying about the South African voting age population? Which segments of the population aren’t registering to vote? Why aren’t they registering to vote? Are they apathetic or frustrated? Have they given up or have they emigrated? Are they satisfied or dissatisfied with the way that South Africa is being governed? How do we even begin to assess this abstention? We need to engage with our fellow South Africans who don’t vote and we need to examine their reasons for staying away from the polls, because votes are the way of ensuring that all voices are heard. Generations of South Africans never enjoyed this political freedom, and many suffered and died for this privilege. Not bothering to vote is both an apathetic shrug of one’s political shoulders and an insult to those who fought to secure voting rights for all. It is also political myopia to refrain from voting, and it irresponsibly eliminates one’s voice and one’s say in the political future of our country. While a single vote might be a drop in the ocean, collectively votes have weight and can transform the direction a country takes.

The people and the policies that South Africans vote for determine the country’s future. People who are against the government and refrain from voting are voiceless; their silences are not votes. Failure to vote will result in an administration that considers itself mandated by its population because of its policies. All the people who want to have a say in those policies must become responsible voters and must actively demand that their wishes be heard by voting for a party that will ensure the country is administered according to our Constitution. Being proactive and casting our votes means that we don’t have the retroactive battle of challenging a government that strays; reactive and retroactive responses are ignored by government simply because when voters had the chance to challenge government or its policies, they were absent instead of seriously showing their commitment to how South Africa is administered. I think Pericles put it aptly: ‘Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.’

From the voting patterns shown in the preceding table, it would seem that voter education needs to be sustained and that it is as important now as it was in the run-up to our first democratic election. If South Africans hope to have any say in the country’s administration and future, then we need to ensure that people vote, and we all need to know why we are voting and what the party we are voting for actually stands for, and what that party has delivered and what it intends to deliver.

As I engaged in conversations with fellow South Africans in the run-up to the 2014 election, I was frustrated with the responses from people who had decided to vote for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the ANC. Why couldn’t they see that the EFF was no better than the ANC, and that their economic policies, in particular their rhetoric about land expropriation without compensation and nationalisation of mines and banks, will certainly hurt the country? Why would anyone voluntarily support the ANC when it was led by a man refusing to face censure for his alleged corruption? How is it possible that our president managed to slip through the tight strictures of our Constitution? I tried to make sense of it. Was the ANC-led government’s failure to respond to voters a reflection that the ANC was no longer in touch with what the citizens needed, and as a result some people felt that the EFF was the only party still in touch with their needs? On the other end of the political spectrum, why was the Democratic Alliance (DA) perceived as an elite white party that only had room for the ja-baas blacks? Did people consider the ANC government’s misappropriation of the country’s money to be acceptable because then the whites got less, or did ANC supporters view it as a time for blacks to feast? After 20 years, were we finally seeing what white people had been afraid of when the ANC came to power – that the white population would be sidelined in every sphere of society? Did marginalised black people want to see suffering for both whites and so-called kleva blacks (who look down on African ways and subscribe to middle-class individualism)? How had the country failed so spectacularly that these underlying racial issues were taking precedence in decision-making?

Surely when we vote we need to exhibit maturity and responsibility. But when I think about friends who basically have not worked since we left school 36 years ago, men and women who are only sporadically able to support their families, I can understand that they are hoping Julius Malema and the EFF will bring the plight and fight of the poor to the forefront of political agendas, that it is emotion and desperation that motivate their support of the EFF. Considering that it is the new political party on the block, the EFF did well. It managed to achieve an astounding 6% of the votes cast, more than a quarter of the votes secured by the official opposition, the DA (22%). And the EFF beat diehard parties such as the Inkatha Freedom Party (2%), the United Democratic Movement (1%) and the Pan Africanist Congress (0.21%). I can hardly blame EFF supporters who feel that the EFF is the only party talking to them, because as far as those unemployed and poor people living in dire circumstances are concerned, no other political party is saying anything to improve their situation. But this is all the EFF is doing too: talking. The party has not actually achieved anything except to incite disharmony and promote Mugabe-style land grabs. So what sector of the electorate is it to whom the EFF appeals – the genuine poor or the bone idle?

In the run-up to the 2014 election, and indeed since then, paging through the major newspapers reflects the signs of a government not coping, a government that has spiralled into dysfunction. A president being accused of allowing his alleged benefactors to land a plane at a national key point during wedding festivities, a president using R246 million of taxpayers’ money to fund the upgrade on his personal property and refusing to repay the money despite the public protector’s recommendation that he do so. Cabinet ministers giving jobs to pals and contracts to partners and family members, metropolitan cops trying to coerce motorists into buying e-tags on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency, parliamentarians and their wives accused of earning ghost salaries and drug-dealing, mismanagement and staff being exploited on mines owned by Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) companies. The allegations of corruption at every level and in every sector and the hardships suffered by the poor fill our newspapers. But amid all these depressing and infuriating news items, is there something positive that I am missing? Is the government’s scorecard as poor as I imagined it is, and is that why people have stopped going to the polls – because they believe that their vote has no power to challenge or change government – or has the government achieved significant accomplishments that have given its supporters hope? Have the ANC actually delivered on the promises they made in their election manifestos?

Apartheid and its draconian policies systematically froze out black people until the onslaught had dehumanised them. Are the ANC and its leadership flouting the Constitution and doing the same to anyone who challenges them – intimidating people and freezing them out? If South Africans don’t demand adherence to the Constitution, namely democratic principles and adherence to the rule of law, where does our future lie? On the country’s 20th anniversary of democracy it seems appropriate to perform a thorough investigation of the government’s policies and adherence to the Constitution.

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