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It’s time we all did the right thing

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On Saturday at 10am, a People’s Consultative Assembly on democracy and why our president should “do the right thing… and resign will be held at the University of Johannesburg campus in Soweto.

The assembly is being hosted by a diverse coalition of people who love our country and are determined to defend its constitution: churches, independent trade unions, students and academic organisations, non-governmental organisations and some respected ANC leaders.

I’ll be there. I hope you will too.

You might ask why. Let me tell you my reasons.

“Crisis’ is a word that is used too loosely and too frequently. But I have no doubt that South Africa is in a crisis. So, how do you measure a crisis, you might ask. I say a crisis exists when thousands of our children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and there’s no relief plan; when 12 million people are hungry; when 60% of young people are unemployed.

I call it a crisis when 80 000 people die a year of TB, when textbooks are still not being delivered to schools, when we have an epidemic of rape and violence against girls and women.

Of course, the government and the ANC of Jacob Zuma admit that there are problems, but in the same breath respond that can’t be blamed on their president. But it can.

The situation I have described above is an unconstitutional state of affairs and, as reaffirmed by the Constitutional Court, the president is our first citizen charged with ensuring respect for all aspects of our constitution.

He swears an oath to “protect and promote rights… do justice to all and… to devote myself to the well-being of the republic and its people”.

This crisis is therefore an indictment of a government that does not take its constitutional responsibility to the poor seriously, that is led by a president who is a serial violator of his oath of office. After the allegations of corruption, the spy tapes saga, the abuse of Waterkloof Air Force Base and the relationship with the Guptas, Nkandla was the last, not the first, straw.

Getting rid of a constitutional violator will help our country heal.

Let me offer you proof from the ANC’s own annals.

Our last but one president, Thabo Mbeki, was also a violator of his oath, particularly when it came to his heinous response to HIV/Aids. He too had to face the judges of the Constitutional Court and was found wanting.

His recall made it possible for the government to replace Aids denialists like Manto Tshabalala-Msimang with honourable people like Barbara Hogan and then Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. After this civil society and political parties quickly found common purpose with the government. So, can we unite as a country? Yes, we can. Do we have the skills and human resources? Yes, we do.

Tomorrow, at exactly the same time as the People’s Consultative Assembly takes place in Soweto, Zuma’s ANC will be launching its local election manifesto in Port Elizabeth.

This promises to be a big event.

But many of the people there are likely to be people who have been bused in, fed for the day and given a T-shirt.

It will be a costly occasion running into tens of millions of rands.

No one knows where the money will come from.

Maybe the Guptas, maybe Russian oligarchs hoping for a sniff at the nuclear energy deal. We don’t know.

But what we do know is that many people won’t be there because they don’t trust and believe in Zuma any more.

The Zuma ANC’s manifesto launch will contrast with the much smaller number of dedicated activists who come to Soweto, ANC members among them. These will be people working for change, people taking risks to speak out, people wiling to risk barbs and even bullets.

We hope you will be among them.

But will it make any difference?

Yes, it will. Our democracy requires it of us. We have to show that the people of this country are tired and want change.

Various excuses are being made about why the president can’t be removed, including by people like ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe who would like us to believe that he is on the side of good. The most convincing excuse seems to be that the ANC fears another split, and this would not be good for the ANC or the government.

But actually, the ANC is going to have to split – for the good of itself and the good of the country. Today, it seems to be the bad and corrupt people in the ANC who are mostly calling the shots, sometimes literally. They come from an alien tradition. The good people, and they are many, are starting to raise their heads above the parapet.

But they need to do so much more forcefully and in a more organised fashion. I cannot see how a party of Mavuso Msimang, Cheryl Carolus and David Makhura can co-exist with a party of Benny Malakoane, Baleka Mbete or Richard Mdluli.

While the side of good dilly-dallies, it is most probable that a negotiation of sorts is taking place between the factions where someone acceptable to both sides is being lined up for the hot seat. Mantashe, this will not do.

You may no longer sacrifice the people of this country on the once-hallowed altar of the ANC.

We demand a constitutionalist, a conciliator and an incorruptible leader. We will not accept the replacement of one thief with another.

So, if you care about our country, join us tomorrow. We want to hear your views. We want an alliance of integrity to keep our constitution and its promises of “a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights” alive.

Tomorrow, it’s your turn to do the right thing.

If you or your organisation would like to attend and register for the assembly, please send an e-mail or SMS to Ethel Williams-Abrahamse at or 078 754 1223.

*Heywood is the executive director of Section27. This article is written in his personal capacity.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

[Source: The Star]
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