If it is true that in a democracy the people get the leaders and country they deserve, then the purpose of this gathering must be to say what kind of country and leaders we deserve. The country we have, and the leaders in charge of it, are not what I deserve. They are not what you deserve. They are not what our children, families and communities deserve.
They are not what our brave ancestors such as Nkosi Albert Luthuli, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Steven Bantu Biko, Lillian Ngoyi, Phyllis Naidoo, Oliver Tambo and Zephania Mothopeng along with many other heroes and heroines of our struggle for freedom envisioned for us. This country is not what the great warrior kings and queens of our land should be looking on from the heavens. We have a responsibility to make sure their struggles and sacrifices were not in vain.
But we have an even bigger responsibility – and that is to make sure that we do not hand over to future generations a country that is like a dump site full of hungry and desperate people. Our brothers, sisters and children cannot go and scrub floors in Europe because we could not grow the inheritance the blood and sweat of our liberators gave to us.
We have a great country. We are a great people. We have a beautiful country but millions of our fellow South Africans do not have hope because they have no work and no income with which to look after their families. They are unsafe in their homes and communities. When they try to make ends meet so they can put food on the table, the strong boot of corruption keeps them down because they are not politically connected or have no money to pay bribes so they can access services that our constitution says are their basic right .
Our country is in deep crisis. Although we have many crises, such as rolling blackouts, high unemployment, water shortages and restrictions, we somehow submit ourselves to a so-called leadership that has no new ideas and no new energy to deal with the problems of our time. As one South African from my home area of Mthatha said a few months ago when Rivonia Circle visited, “we have a leadership that appears to have lost interest in us as the people.”
This moment calls for us to be bold, to be brave and to rise to the generational challenge to build a country that is better than the one we inherited. To do that, we needed the ability and the space for South Africans who are willing to rise to this challenge to meet, to talk about our national mission, and then to choose ways in which we will act on that mission.
This is why the Rivonia Circle exists. But we must do more and do it faster, with more purpose.
I want to believe that none of you would be here if you were not ready to make some important choices:
- We must choose a South Africa that is rising;
- We must choose to rise to the big challenges of our time; other
- We must choose to build a society where hope of a better life is real and tangible.
I am here because I am tired of belonging to a country that sometimes makes me embarrassed to call it home because those who represent us have no sense of shame. They steal from the poor. They steal funeral money. They even steal from the sick and dying during a global pandemic.
I am here because I am tired of waiting for the perfect moment, for a perfect leader to emerge from the heavens to give us a perfect politics. I am tired of seeing young visionary leaders think so little of themselves that they look up to thieves and chancers for leadership when deep down they know, South Africa will not rise unless we start believing we are the ones we are waiting for.
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Unlike those who choose to run away, or to pretend things aren’t so bad – we must make a declaration that we refuse to leave our country, we refuse to remain silent, we refuse to lower our expectations so that we don’t have to behave like responsible adults, we refuse to think little of ourselves, and we refuse to believe that South Africa must continue falling.
Instead, we must believe that we can rise up, put up our hands, link our arms and march together into the democratic battles we must fight to raise South Africa to the great success it can and must be. There are more of us who want South Africa to rise than those who want to destroy her. The only thing we have not yet done, and we must do from today onwards, is to own the warrior spirit of our ancestors. They gave it to us as an inheritance. We must not shame them!
We must be brave and take a stand. We must, by any democratic means necessary, take our power back and make sure that our country is never again controlled by a corrupt few who believe we owe them respect when they don’t deserve it.
This is the time for focused anger, focused on practical solutions to our most serious challenges.
As we hold our discussions today, we must keep in mind that our challenges are so serious and so many that there are not enough people in this room to deal with them. Whatever decisions we take today, we must make a very serious commitment to reach out immediately to as many South Africans as possible so they can be part of the work we will commit to doing.
It is my sincere belief that South Africa’s Constitution is socially democratic. This means we must be a country that provides the best opportunities especially to those who have the least. We must be a country where those who have and own plenty act in solidarity with those who have little by making sure that the country’s resources and wealth are used for the common good even in the context of making a profit.
We must fight for a society where everyone is treated fairly and has an opportunity to realize the true meaning of freedom. This is freedom from poverty, freedom from fear of crime and violence, freedom from social oppressions and freedom from a corrupt system that produces corrupt leaders.
Freedom means being free to pursue happiness in an environment where politics places the wellbeing of every individual, family, and community at the center of national attention.
We must be a society where citizens are treated as adults who can identify both the problems affecting their families and communities and can find and implement solutions to those problems.
It is a lie that democracy means we must sit and wait for things to be done to and for us as if we cannot think and act in ways that advance our common interests.
Finally, we must remember why we are here today.
We are here to rise to the challenges of our time.
We are here to begin the journey of making sure South Africa will rise instead of falling into the dustbin of history.
We are here to talk about ways in which we are going to convince our fellow South Africans to commit to rising to the task of taking full ownership of our own country.
We are here to make sure that future generations will not know what the bottom of the barrel looks like because they inherited a country that only knows how to rise to every challenge it faces, and win. That is the country we deserve! That is the future our children and future generations deserve.
We are here to bring power back to the South African people by any democratic means necessary!
Thank you for being part of this important conversation. DM
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