Mon. Apr 22nd, 2019

South Africa’s 2019 election: Political promises and the time ahead

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses wine farmers at BeyerskloofSouth African voters must listen very carefully to the promises made by politicians and, mindful of their past record and the credibility of parties they represent, determine for themselves whether to reward them with their votes or not.

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Soon after taking over from the one whose name I shall not mention, in early 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa undertook a trip to London, United Kingdom, where he attended a gathering of leaders from Common wealth countries, around the world.

South Africa seemed to begin to rise from the ashes of a decade long state capture and South Africans were, on the whole, definitely Ramaphoric, even though some expressed the need for caution, painstakingly reminding everyone else that Ramaphosa’s victory was not a clearly strong one and that he would not have the free hand he would need to clean up his party of suspected criminals and his cabinet of incompetent individuals.

To do anything, he would need to discuss his plans and to negotiate with some of the people at the top of the list of the implicated. Their calls for caution have since become real as we witness a governing party that has continued to tear itself apart even when it claims that this is not the case.  

In London, Ramaphosa assured his Common Wealth colleagues and the world – for global media was also present – that “Nelson Mandela’s South Africa was back.”

There is no record of anyone asking him to explain what he meant by that. Perhaps no one saw the need to ask because the whole world had a very good idea of what Nelson Mandela stood for.

The internet is also full of many of the speeches he had made over the years, especially when he was president of South Africa. He lived the values enshrined in democratic South Africa’s founding documents; the Constitution and the Bill of rights.

More recently, back on home ground, Ramaphosa made a call that many South Africans, especially white South Africans, had been waiting to hear. He expressed a wish for White South Africans to remain in the country and be part of the rebuilding. 

News24 reported a moment when Ramaphosa was asked whether white people had a future in South Africa, to which the president responded that “This is the South Africa that should deliver a better life for all of us”, going on to say that he wanted South Africans in the diaspora to come back home and contribute to growing South Africa, and adding, probably tongue-in-cheek “I don’t want young white South Africans to leave the country. If I could, I would tie them to a tree. The feeling that they were no wanted in the country is simply not true. There is room for all of us to play a role.”

Few will disagree that in saying the above words, Ramaphosa spoke as the president fitting to lead a country as diverse as South Africa, where all belong, equally, and must work together to ensure that the South African sun gets to shine for all of its people, not just a few.

But it is only a pity that the words were uttered on a pre-electoral, party political campaign platform. Politicians say anything and make many promises when they seek votes. Politicians who are personally liked, like Ramaphosa is, need to place even more care in the promises they make, especially in times like these.

South Africans, across the board, are looking for hope. They want to know that the nightmare of the past ten years will soon be a thing of the past and that those who will get elected to lead this country understand both the damage and the pain.

The impact has been material at personal, household and national levels, and it has also been emotional. Many have been hounded out of the country they love after having been made to believe that there would be no future for them here, or that their property would be forcibly confiscated without compensation.

More than ever before, South Africa needs a uniting president, one who will not have to look over his or her shoulders as he/she seeks to build for all, inspired and guided only by the country’s Constitutional pledge, not a political party manifesto that only speaks to a section of the population.

South Africans in the diaspora, whose importance Ramaphosa also acknowledged, do not have to physically return to South Africa in order to contribute and to be positive influencers and ambassadors of our country, wherever they are in the world.

Those who choose to return from time to time or permanently should be welcomed, of course; and those who prefer to remain where they are, in their new found second homes around the world, should be embraced as the fellow South Africans they will always be and encouraged to contribute in the best way they can to building and protecting the image of our country. But they cannot do so positively if the messages we keep sending out are negative and conflicted. 

Indications are that Ramaphosa’s party will remain in power; but these are just indications. Whatever happens after the coming elections, we should hope that whoever will be president, Ramaphosa or not, never forgets who we are, as a people, and what we sought to build, at the dawn of our democracy.

We have been massively deceived and failed in recent years. We should never allow it to happen. One way to make sure it doesn’t happen again is to change the balance of political power, in South Africa, so that no one formation can again ride rough shot over us and do as it pleases with our institutions, our resources and our country.      

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