Delegates at ‘the new Codesa’ resolve to form new bloc to take on ANC
Thousands of delegates attending the South African national convention have resolved to form a new political party to oppose the ANC in next year’s general election.
According to a draft resolution obtained by the Sunday Times, the new party will campaign on the following key issues:
Defending supremacy of the constitution;
Reforming the electoral system from proportional representation to a constituency-based system. This could result in South Africans directly electing their president;
Restoration of the rule of law where “no citizen can be above the law”; and
The party is likely to be launched on December 16, will have a name and logo different from the ANC as the leaders want to build a brand new identity.
In their draft resolutions, delegates committed themselves to creating a cohesive nation and “to building a society that is caring, has empathy and protects our people from poverty, joblessness, and all forms of diseases including HIV/Aids”.
More than 6000 enthusiastic delegates sang and toyi-toyied inside and outside the Sandton Convention Centre, where the gathering was held.
They waved South African flags and bandied placards condemning the ANC and its leader, Jacob Zuma. Other placards praised former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa.
In a rare show of unity, opposition parties shared the platform and threw their weight behind the new formation to loud cheers by the mostly ANC-supporting crowd.
Opposition parties attending the convention included the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Independent Democrats, the African Christian Democratic Party and the United Democratic Movement.
University of South Africa principal Barney Pityana, who was a guest speaker, said the proportional representation system, which gives parties the power to decide on behalf of the public who public representatives should be, was archaic and “an insult to the intelligence of the people of South Africa”.
“It is my considered opinion that we shall breed an electorate progressively cynical about politics unless we enhance participatory democracy,” Pityana added.
“That can and must be done by a review of the electoral system, ensuring the direct election of the president and a possibly mixed constituency and proportional representation system of government. The people of this country must demand a change that matters.”
His sentiments were echoed by Lekota — at one time the chairman of the ruling party — who added that power should be taken away from political party bosses.
“We cannot afford to have a situation where people vote for a party and leaders, then sit in a corner and decide on who should occupy what position. These positions go to their friends,” he said.
Lekota added that there was a general consensus in 1994 that the current electoral system would be in place for a few years only, but that nothing further had happened to date.
Calling for the “return of morality and reason” in South African politics, Pityana received a standing ovation after painting a picture of an ANC leadership that had betrayed the values espoused by its former president, Nelson Mandela, and had discarded the principles enshrined in the constitution.
The Sunday Times understands that members of the convention want to recruitPityana to a leadership position in the new party.
He told the Sunday Times that he had never belonged to any political party before, but that he identified with what the convention stood for. “If the new party is formed, I will decide in due course whether to join.”
Leaders of existing opposition parties expressed their willingness to work with the new political party in a post-2009 election coalition government at national, provincial and local levels.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said there was a need for discussions on how opposition parties could co-operate, while DA leader Helen Zille said the future of politics was firmly based on coalition governments.
Prominent people who attended included Mojanku Gumbi, legal adviser to former president Thabo Mbeki, businessman Moss Ngoasheng, former ANC head of presidency Smuts Ngonyama and businessman Peter Vundla.
Decrying the culture of political intolerance, Pityana recalled how, in 1991, Mandela had condemned the “bully tactics” of those who supported Winnie Madikizela-Mandela during her abduction trial.
Without mentioning ANC president Jacob Zuma by name, Pityana criticised Zuma’s silence when his supporters threatened to kill in his name, and while others labelled judges counter-revolutionaries.
Pityana said Mandela had preached political tolerance within the ANC.
“May I remind you that those who were babies at the time when Mandela made that call are currently writing their national senior certificate examinations. They are a different breed of South Africans. Many of them expect to vote for the first time next year. They do not wish to be burdened with the past,” Pityana said.
Young people deserved a political dispensation founded on the constitution and politics conducted according to the constitution as promised by Mandela, he added.
He said South Africa’s young people were “not interested in any culture of entitlement” and “would have no truck with corruption”.
He added that all South Africans were seeking opportunities for development, joy, creativeness and innovation.
Pityana said the convention signified a “looming on the horizon of the glittering prospects of breaking the mould in our national politics.
This, he said, had the potential to move the country towards a “truly free, open, transparent, equal, accountable and participatory (democracy) founded on moral values”.
Pityana added that the convention was a sign of a “huge groundswell” that could lead to an unprecedented shift in the South African political landscape.
Lekota, who gave the welcome address, compared the convention to the Codesa negotiations.
“What has given birth to this convention is that we together, we the masses of our people, believe that the hope of Codesa has turned into the despair of the present,” he said.
“The dominant political forces are no longer interested in leading our country to eradicate the colonial legacy we inherited in 1994 ... the dominant political forces are determined to abuse their power to advance their personal interests, and those of their supporters, contrary to the aspirations of the masses our people.”
In a clear reference to the ANC, Lekota said the current dominant political forces were prepared to crush any one — including councillors, mayors, MPs and MPLs and the president — in pursuit of selfish interests.
Sanco president Mlungisi Hlongwane, who supported a bid for Mbeki to be national president for a third term, was applauded when questioned whether Mbeki was fired because he stood for gender equality, grew the economy and pioneered African development.
Political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki, who attended as a guest, said: “What struck me was the reception given to leaders of the opposition parties by the delegates.
“They were polite, friendly and listened to their messages. That showed the spirit of tolerance. No one was booed and it was a clear message to realise that there are people in this country who still believe that people are entitled to different opinions.”
As the convention was preparing to adopt the declaration, the ANC itself was bracing for more defections, following the shock resignation on Friday of its national executive committee (NEC) member Lyndall Shope-Mafole, who is also director-general of the Department of Communications.
Party sources told the Sunday Times that they had drawn up a list of people who they might lose to Lekota.
They include three deputy ministers.
The Sunday Times has also established that there are at least 100 ANC MPs preparing to desert the party in the run-up to the 2009 elections.
Most of the MPs are set to join closer to the election day because they want to secure their pensions for the five-year term first. This may throw the whole ANC list process into disarray.
Last week Mantashe pleaded with MPs in the party’s parliamentary caucus to remain loyal. After his address several informal meetings were held, at which scores of MPs criticised their party and lobbied each other to go to the convention.
In one of the meetings attended by several MPs, including former Free State premier Winkie Direko, MPs expressed their dissatisfaction with the appointment of Nyami Booi as chief whip.
“If you look at the latest changes, the most stupid of MPs are now chief whips and committee chairs,” one MP said.
Another MP who attended the meeting said the problem they had with the appointment of Booi was his impending fraud trial, emanating from the parliamentary travel voucher scam.
“It is no longer speculation or fear that many of us (MPs) are unhappy about what is happening in the ANC. We are going to resign and join the new party. People are very bitter. Our hearts are bleeding.”
All very exciting, no ?