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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

ANC stalwarts lose faith in party

Phosa also called on South Africans to stand up and speak truth to power – and be prepared to die for it.

Former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa says the party will be further punished by voters in the 2024 election and the trend of municipal electoral losses will continue.

Phosa also called on South Africans to stand up and speak truth to power – and be prepared to die for it.

“Silence will only serve to strengthen those who believe it is their birthright to steal and plunder. Those fearless and honest leaders who must stand up and say: ‘If I die, I die, but enough is enough,’” Phosa said.

“It is not someone else: it is you actively listening, and me speaking to you. Our country is a strong one, with principled and brave young men and women of all races, willing to lead together.”

Phosa was addressing the first annual seminar hosted by Stadio Centurion Campus yesterday on “Speaking Truth to Power as part of constitutional duty”, moderated by academic, analyst and activist Khaya Sithole.

He lambasted leaders who were untouchable, not willing to subject themselves to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, chaired by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, or other investigations, and attacked the security agencies for being big on talk with no action on criminality.

“Government’s job is not vague, it must improve the lives of all who live in our country,” he said. “The National Assembly must hold government accountable to the last cent and the judiciary must be left alone to do their job without fear, favour or prejudice.

“We are, however, currently in a situation where we confuse and conflate party and state, and government is increasingly usurping the powers of the other two pillars of good government.”

There were people in leadership positions who were untouchable, even in the face of damning findings by the Zondo and other commissions and agencies, while “our justice system is slow and politicised, and our security agencies heavy on statements but light on action”.

“Against these troubling optics of a government living in the lap of luxury whilst the electorate is facing power cuts, potholes, lack of water, shacks for schools and a strained health system, the ANC government was severely punished at the municipal elections, losing control of prized metropolitan governments, and losing majority support in that sphere,” he said.

It would face severe punishment at the next national elections and the trend of municipal electoral losses would continue.

“In politics, momentum counts and the governing party has not only lost the trust of the voters, but also its position as the moral leader of society.

“And yet, some in government and the party seem to believe, mistakenly, that the party will govern forever,” Phosa said.

A lawyer by profession and one of the ANC’s legal minds during the Kempton Park constitutional negotiations, Phosa was the first premier of Mpumalanga in 1994.

He became famous for speaking “truth to power”, particularly against corruption and governance ineptitude. The ANC stalwart highlighted the disgruntlement among senior members about the state of affairs in the party.

Some were contemplating abandoning it. “The situation has now arisen, sooner than we could have expected, that strong and principled leaders who were schooled in the ANC are looking elsewhere to find more suitable homes for their hopes.

“Long-time loyalists have irrevocably given up hope that the party [which] liberated South Africa will reach deep within and renew itself,” Phosa said.

“Against this unsettling reality, we hear the distant rumblings of the formation of a new political party with its roots in liberation politics but its eyes on clean government, people-sensitive delivery and an abhorrence of the current corrupt practices of those in power.

“Think for a moment what an effective government could have done with the billion or so rands spent on the Zondo commission or the billions siphoned off by the Guptas and their luxury-loving local associates.

“Think for a moment what our country could have done with functioning state-owned enterprises. Think for a moment what could have been if we had woken up earlier to the complimentary power of renewable energy.”

He said despite the constitution clearly protecting freedom of speech, there were growing noises and actions which hinted that “we should be cautious when we speak truth to power”.

When people spoke out against corruption, misuse of power, absent service delivery, discrimination and insensitivity to the plight of the poor, some so-called leaders were quick to call them counterrevolutionary, clever whites or blacks, capitalists, or protectors of minority interests.

“Fear of reprisal and public humiliation by those in power is not an option anymore. “We must point out the sickening and criminal misuse of our votes, trust and money; the betrayals of our trust, aspirations and values,” he said.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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