“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.” – Nelson Mandela, 21 September 1953
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa is today at a crossroads. The charging of Pravin Gordhan with fraud threatens to pitch us into a political and economic crisis which will cause untold pain, new poverty and inequality. At SECTION27, our work leads us to be daily witnesses to the pain suffered by children trying to access basic education in ‘schools’ and patients in hospitals and clinics. We work with our partners in the wreckage of a state that is failing its people. The latest political machinations is contemptuous of the daily reality of poor people.
South Africa is at a crossroads. The road pursued by the President and his clique will lead to economic collapse, then deepening poverty, inequality and inevitably to an authoritarian dictatorship. This road will also quite possibly lead to the suspension of our Constitution and a police state. That is the only way the state will be able to keep “control” in the face of deepening inequality and anger. The logic that has led to the securitisation of our universities will lead to the securitisation of our society.
The alternative road is the road we must now walk. It is not a business as usual road. Business as usual has got us where we are. This road is a business unusual road that must lead to a deepening of our democracy and in particular, fulfilling the promises of our Constitution to the poor and marginalised in South Africa.
But that road starts with the question of whether we are willing to resist a criminal clique who have captured parts of our state. It starts with defending our democracy against a President who has rubbished its letter and spirit.
Which road South Africa elects to go down is a matter that will be determined in the next few days and, at most, weeks.
Which road we go down now depends on whether the massive majority of honest South African people opt for the alternative road, and are ready to step up and assume their own Constitutional duties as citizens.
In the next few days, leaders in the African National Congress are on the front line. To you, we say that we know you will be ordered to participate in sanitising the dismissal of our Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. We ask you to exercise your conscience, demonstrate your loyalty to the Constitution and refuse to obey these unlawful orders. You will be called on to assist in legitimising his removal. We ask you to not obey orders. That is the command that Chris Hani, OR Tambo and Nelson Mandela would have given you. To take a stand against these orders.
The charges against Pravin Gordhan, Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula are not ordinary rule of law issues. These are an abuse of rule of law. The charges are patently manipulated to suit ulterior motives. The attempt to humiliate Pravin Gordhan at the press conference by Shaun Abrahams was evidence of that.
For this reason we believe that any notion that Pravin Gordhan must be suspended or removed as Finance Minister must be resisted. Ministers and all public officials and private individuals facing real corruption or fraud charges should be suspended and removed when found guilty. But it is hypocritical in the extreme when we have multiple Ministers and MECs facing more serious charges or allegations of serious misconduct, but continue to be in office. It is hypocritical when we have a President who has been told by every court in the country that he has to face the 783 charges of among others fraud and corruption, but continues to duck and dive.
The people of South Africa should send a message to those who are behind these dangerous moves to destabilise our country. The people of this country are revolutionaries and idealists. We know that the latest moves are intended for some to get their hands on the coffers of our country, to get the signature that will pave the way to a corrupt and bankrupting nuclear deal that will cripple this country for decades to come. We call on society as a whole to rise up and block that nuclear deal. We will join and encourage others to join anti-apartheid struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada at the Pretoria Regional Court on November 2 to support Pravin Gordhan. We are heartened by the Kathrada Foundation’s call for all democratic-minded South Africans to demonstrate in support of Minister Gordhan and call on other foundations and organisations to endorse this call.
We must stand up peacefully and with dignity and within the framework of our Constitution. We must find common purpose as schools and university students, workers, business leaders, the unemployed. We desperately need moral and political leadership and in this regard we appeal urgently to leaders of all faiths to lead the country in mass protest and defiance of corruption. We appeal to you to find your second “Kairos moment” (the time in 1985 when church leaders decided that churches must lead the fight against apartheid) and fulfil your prophetic duty to defend the poor, oppressed and marginalised.
It is time our country rallies again as we have done before. We are not helpless. We are capable of achieving a better life for all and the vision of our Constitution. The time to choose is now.
12 October 2016
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