In an article that he wrote for Rapport last Sunday, Frans Cronje of the Institute for Race Relations quite rightly warned South Africans to plan for all eventualities.
The fact is that many things are going wrong in our country:
- The ANC has embarked on increasingly aggressive and racially-based affirmative action, BBBEE and land reform policies. This is all part of what President Zuma calls the "radical implementation of the second phase of the National Democratic Revolution";
- The ANC has consistently filled top posts in government, the security forces and parastatals on the basis of political affiliation and race - rather than on merit and experience. As a result, there has been a serious erosion of the capability of these state institutions;
- Our trade union/employer relations are, according the World Economic Forum, the worst in the world. Many unions do not really accept the right of management/owners to exist.
- The ANC is making it increasingly difficult for big and small businesses to operate by subjecting them to intolerable over-regulation and by setting impossible race-based quotas and targets;
- Property rights are under pressure with the abrogation of bilateral investment treaties and wildly unrealistic proposals that farmers should give half their farms to farm workers;
- All this is chasing away foreign (and domestic) investment and is making it increasingly impossible to achieve the growth targets that we urgently require to create a better life for all our people.
It is accordingly quite appropriate for Frans Cronje to suggest that concerned South Africans should start thinking about the need for a "Plan B".
The fact is that South Africa has never been an easy country. Almost every visitor to the country since 1652 has commented that it is a beautiful place - but that it can’t possibly last another five years. Living, surviving and prospering in South Africa has always been a struggle. However, time and time again throughout our history we South Africans have faced and overcome the challenges that have confronted us. Today, the situation is no different.
That is why we should not forget "Plan A". I would suggest that it should include the following components:
- Firstly, there is our Constitution. It has served us well for the past 20 years. It has been used time after time to prevent the government from taking unconstitutional action and to strike down unconstitutional laws. It remains one of the best defenses of the rights of all our people. It enjoys widespread support nationally and internationally and has been frequently upheld by our independent and transformed courts. We must fight tooth and nail to defend each of the rights that it enshrines - and to achieve the vision that it sets out in Section 1. It is a vision of human dignity; the achievement of equality; the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms; non-racialism and non-sexism; the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law; and a genuine multiparty democracy based on accountability, responsiveness and openness.
- We should make use of the full spectrum of rights that the Constitution guarantees to oppose unfair policies, racism, corruption and persistent efforts to erode the rights of citizens. We should make use of our right to freedom of expression - in the press, in the electronic media on the internet to communicate our views and concerns. We should use our political rights to support the parties, policies and values of our choice. If we really feel strongly, we can demonstrate, picket or present petitions. We should use these rights to support the Public Protector and our independent courts. We should use them to oppose persistent efforts to undermine the independence and integrity of the National Prosecuting Authority. We should oppose corruption and new and old forms of racism wherever they raise their ugly heads. We must demand better education for all our children and better services from the state at every level of government. We should not allow our rights to be eroded simply because we do not have the will to claim them.
- Be assured that the values proclaimed by the Constitution are consistent with the best democratic traditions in the world. Those who oppose them and who are trying to re-racialise our society and who are trying to curtail rights and freedoms are out of step with the rest of the world. Those who support non-racialism, the freedom of the press and the independence of the courts can be assured that they, in turn, will have the support of enlightened people and governments throughout the world.
- Help everyone to realise that the future success of South Africa and all of its people can be achieved only if all of us work together - and if all of us contribute our skills and resources to helping to build a prosperous economy and a more just society. This will not happen if irresponsible politicians continue to divide the country racially and to inflame inter-community emotions.
- Use your skills and resources to build a more just and a more prosperous society for all our people. Reach out to South Africans from other communities. Show respect and compassion to all - because all our futures are inextricably interdependent. Join and support non-governmental and religious organisations that are doing good work in our communities.
South Africans from all our communities have faced and overcome far greater obstacles in the past: in 1856, at the time of the cattle killing, the future seemed hopeless for the Xhosa - but it was Xhosas who were at the forefront of our democratic transformation in 1994; in 1879, after the defeat at the battle of Ulundi, few Zulus would have imagined that one day we would have a Zulu president; in 1902, despite the devastation of the Anglo-Boer War, Afrikaners began to rebuild their shattered lives and communities and have made an indispensible contribution to prosperity and success of our society; during the dark days of the mid-1980s few South Africans thought that we would be able to build a peaceful, non-racial and democratic future.
Fortunately, there have always been enough South Africans with courage and faith in the future to pull us through the crises and to lead us on toward the enormous potential of our beautiful country. It is a struggle - but it is worth it. We live in one of the most beautiful, diverse and exciting countries in the world. Somebody once said that Australia’s biggest problem is that it has no big problems. Nobody can say that about us. The challenges that confront us mean that there is no room for complacency - that we really do have to struggle harder to build a better future for our people than most people in most other countries. Ironically, in an increasingly complacent and humdrum world, our problems may be one of our most important national assets.
So before we dust off "Plan B" all of us should do everything in our power to make sure that "Plan A" works.
By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation
Photo credit: Celso Flores / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)