Defend our Democracy: The Real SONA
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
8th February 2023
Defend our Democracy @ St Georges Cathedral, Cape Town
Fellow defenders of democracy!
I wanted to start with, “Amandla, Awethu!!” But nowadays, we have delegated our power, the peoples’ power, to a few, most of whom appear self- serving.
Thank you for the privilege of asking me to share some thoughts with you today. It’s important that you have rallied together in this, the People’s Cathedral, to examine the real state of the nation, a nation in which we have won political but not economic liberation, a nation in which we are still haunted by the scandalous gap between the rich and the poor. In these days, when too many of our leaders, tempted by the lure of quick wealth, have become sell-outs to the struggle against apartheid, it’s important that we step up our activism to stop the slide downwards into becoming a failed state.
My message today is simple, and it is this:
To save South Africa today we need to embark on a New Struggle to replace the old struggle against apartheid, a New Struggle for a new generation, a struggle to regain our moral compass, a struggle to end economic inequity, a struggle to bring about equality of opportunity and realise the promises of our Constitution.
Three quick points:
Firstly, we must recognise that the fight against corruption will be as tough as that against apartheid. It will take the same level of courage as our mothers and fathers displayed in the old struggle, for it is becoming clear that the criminals responsible for the plague of corruption which threatens to engulf us will fight hard to stay out of orange jumpsuits, deploying even death squads to silence us, just as the criminals who enforced apartheid did.
But, Amandla Ngawetu!! In this real SONA, we must commit to securing much better protection for those who blow the whistle on corruption. We say to President Ramaphosa: “Mr President, in your State of the Nation address, you must spell out practical action to achieve protection for whistle-blowers, and we demand that your commitment be acted upon immediately.”
Secondly, at the bedrock of our democracy is the promise that those in public life will pursue the common good so that everyone can flourish. But that has not happened. Load-shedding or rolling black-outs have revealed South Africa’s gross inequalities once again; those with means have inverters, batteries and solar power, and can dine out; but those without have no lights, their food rots in their fridges, thieves steal their electricity, many are jobless, and worst of all their children can’t study most nights. And so I believe it is our sacred duty at this real SONA to ensure that WE CALL as loudly as we can for an end to the blackouts, or at least to have spelled out a clear, practical timetable detailing the steps which will be taken to end them.
Lastly, a challenge to ourselves at this real SONA, and that is this:
We need to create a multi-stakeholder forum to pursue the New Struggle. As I have said before, an uncoordinated constellation of independent movements is not enough. We need a coalition that embraces all voices, from the poor to the spiritual leaders of our country, to the leaders of business and labour. We need an alliance of leaders and forces to say: “Enough is enough!”
That alliance must include the youth and one of its primary objectives in securing the future should be registering young people to register to vote, then they must be motivated to vote and help change government policies.
It is time to heal our political polarisations and to recognise that the chasms between rich and poor cannot be tolerated any longer. The New Struggle cannot be for a new, multiracial middle class to live as the white elite lived under apartheid. No, our struggle now must be for a new society, a more equal society, a society of equality of opportunity in which the wealth that comes from new economic growth is shared equitably among all. Our country’s future, the futures of our children, our grandchildren and the generations to come, depend on it.