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Our government has over the last 30 years failed to heed far too many wake-up calls for us to expect better from them. They do not deserve another chance to display their utter disrespect for citizens and incompetence as unaccountable public servants.

We the people, must stand up and use the power of our votes to elect only competent, ethical and accountable public representatives, capable of transforming our current colonial cities into cities of the 21st century. Our cities should be equitable living, working and playing spaces befitting citizens of a constitutional democracy. Johannesburg is a failed city.

What has become of the plan to rejuvenate the estimated 600 dysfunctional inner-city buildings approved by the Johannesburg Metro Council announced by former Mayor Herman Mashaba in 2017? The plan promised public-private partnerships that were to transform the inner city into a liveable vibrant space providing affordable housing for people and sustainable livelihoods. It was a plan to re-ignite socio-economic development beyond the ugly extractive mining industry to a vibrant city promoting well-being for all. Why was the process stopped when Mashaba stepped down as Mayor in 2019?

South Africa must move beyond political party focussed governance that undermines long-term planning towards a mature citizen focussed governance system to serve the real owners of the country – its people. There is an opportunity to turn this monumental tragedy into a galvanising opportunity for citizens to abandon reliance on the elites whose sole interests are to enrich themselves. We must create conditions for each of us to self-liberate the power within to assert our rights and exercise our responsibilities.

Thirty years is enough to conclude that our current public representatives do not have what it takes to tackle the fundamental transformation our country so desperately needs. The failure to take decisive action against those who have stolen so much from the public purse is testimony to the failure of leadership. Imagine what that stolen money could have funded: investments in desperately needed infrastructure for water sanitation, roads and rail, housing, social amenities for dignified living, renewable energy, education, social safety net, and health care. Instead, to add insult to injury, fire has been, and continues in too many occasions to destroy evidence of massive state capture by public officials in state owned entities, including hospitals.

We cannot expect the same people who presided over the degradation of our inner cities and towns, public enterprises, schools and hospitals across the country, to be the appropriate ones to reimagine and rebuild our country. There is no vision by the current leadership at local, provincial and national levels, to inspire the confidence in the future we aspire to: a prosperous well governed safe, and secure democracy.

The entire African continent with the exception of a few led by visionary leaders, has failed to reimagine, invest, and rebuild colonial towns and cities, into human settlements providing spaces that promote and celebrate human dignity and sustainable livelihoods. Few African countries have leveraged our rich diversity and culture to inspire citizens to live the dream of prosperous secure nationhood within a thriving Pan-Africanism that would model what Ubuntu driven governance could look like.

The notable exceptions are Botswana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the islands of Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde. None is perfect, but despite some major lingering challenges, they are continuing to push towards showcasing what African excellence could look like.

We the people of South Africa must insist on the following bare minimal program of action for tackling the unfinished business of transforming our beloved country into the country so many fought and died for:

1. A professional, competent, ethical public service independent of party-political biases and influences to serve the public. The conflation of the party, the government and the state under the ANC over the last 30 years laid the foundations of, and continues to perpetuate state capture. We need a complete audit of the public service to root out incompetent corrupt elements, and to reduce the bloated service.

2. Political Deployments of political operatives into the public service - many of whom are incompetent and corrupt - have undermined the constitutional requirements of an independent competent public service and administration. Excellence in public administration and service is essential for the stability and continuity of the running of state institutions. A complete audit is essential to ensure the right people in the right jobs.

3. A secure sovereign nation with a proper International Migration Policy in accordance with international law, is critical to ensure proper border control and management of migration. Refugee protection and provision of appropriate dignified places of refuge is our obligation under international law. Imposing refugees and undocumented migrants in poor communities violates the rights of national citizens and is fuelling xenophobia. Citizens deserve secure borders as a basic right in a sovereign state.

4. Law and order need to be re-established. The basic building blocks of a competent efficient law enforcement system are public servants and officials competent enough to implement laws that have been enacted. The illegal mining saga driven by international criminal syndicates is enabled by the failure of successive governments to implement the stated procedures and policies under The Mineral and Petroleum Act of 2002. The Act stipulates the responsibilities of mining companies to ensure the closure of mines, the rehabilitation of the landscapes, and to secure the socio-economic rights of mining communities. Why are we seeing so much carnage from open shafts and access to disused mines? Why is the government not holding accountable those who have extracted the wealth from these mines?

5. Citizens must demand civic education about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship: at school, higher education and at workplaces – private or public - as part of personal development. No democracy can function well with an uninformed citizenry that is unable to hold public representatives and servants accountable for serving the common good. Citizens of our country liberated themselves through mass mobilisation and do not owe anyone for their freedom.

Our beloved country and its citizens deserve better than what we have been subjected to over the last 20 years. We have all we need to reimagine and rebuild our country: a youthful population; much sought after graduates, who are leaving our shores in droves in search of greener pastures; re-activation of those who have withdrawn into themselves because they

are displaced by less competent employees; women professionals, entrepreneurs and public servants who feel secure from gender-based violence to give their best to their country.

The future we desire is in our hands as citizens to shape. We must liberate ourselves from dependence on abusive public representatives and officials.

Mamphela Ramphele

Co-Founder of ReimagineSA


1 Comment

Adobe Sings
Adobe Sings
Sep 12, 2023

Nice words and makes a lot of sense but you have no power or influence like so many movements, including opposition parties in SA. The status quo will continue because none of you can get your act together and your egos are too big.

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