They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So is the road to sound leadership and a democracy that manifests its set-out ideologies.
In pursuit of this, there often needs to be a call and an illustration of where the flaws are, where the failings have been and a roadmap pointing to the potholes of temptation and poor judgement that should be driven around to keep a steady path.
However, the by-product of holding the current ANC leadership accountable and taking them to task on poor decisions naturally gives the impression that your only political case to reform is an attacking narrative and not a proactive one.
The mistake is understandable, the faults have been plenty.
The journey that set me out to contest the ANC leadership was a move of conscience and a deep awareness of the principles of leadership and Ubuntu in which the fallen comrades of the party were anchored.
The ANC has become a shadow of its former glory; the scarcity of virtue and policy pursuits that put people first has led to a moral decay in the party and a complete breakdown of a trusting relationship.
It may not be possible to resurrect the ANC of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo. We are a different people today, in a more complex society that interrogates different needs, but the fundamentals have remained the same. The headline topics of transformation in the new ANC need to be a robust economy that elevates South Africa from the “developing country” plateau.
The rhetorical question to this ideal is the all-important “How?”
We must take lessons from success stories around the world: the education policies of 1960s Cuba, the social and economic development policies of places like Singapore; the strengths of the democracies of Europe; the cultures of our ancestors; and the wisdom of our political elders.
Fiscal policy is not negotiable.
Fiscal and institutional stability is not negotiable if we are to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. This is not a surge of instant gratification. Hence, the popularly acclaimed term of Radical Economic Transformation is confusing because actually it is sustainable economic and infrastructure development we should be looking towards.
The time has come where we should start implementing reforms such as re-engineering the labour markets to ensure competition and dramatically enhanced access to skills; critically evaluating public sector efficiencies; and reducing the size and impact that the cost of public sector wages has on the budgets of the three tiers of our government. We need a smaller government to create bigger wealth participation.
We must evaluate all our state-owned enterprises, turning around those that we need for assisting our economy and society to develop and grow and, where necessary, closing the doors of those corrupt institutions that are robbing us of our scarce resources.
We must fundamentally reform the education and health-care systems to ensure that we have an educated and healthy labour force, aligned with the needs of our economy; and critically evaluate all expenditure in our national, provincial and local government budgets, removing expenditure on items that are not in the national interest.
With our national debt, probably in the order of 60% of our annual GDP if we add local government and state-owned enterprise debt and guarantees to the national debt, we exceeded the magic number of 40% of GDP a long time ago. We need a good strong and growing economy – a 6% real growth in our annual GDP is not far-fetched – to allow for foreign direct investment in our economy. To achieve this, a restructuring of our economy away from commodities, and therefore mining, must become a priority with our policy makers.
To achieve the South Africa we deserve, we need political stability and political certainty. When I speak to foreign investors, they consistently tell me that political risk is the biggest problem. They also tell me that policy uncertainty, an outcome of political turmoil, precludes many funds from even considering South Africa in its investment portfolios, let alone buying South African stock to hold.
The number one threat to these aspirations and democracy-led initiatives is the poison of corruption. This leads to economic growth and development playing second fiddle to intense greed, nepotism and deceitful individual enrichment.
It is something that has blown over to South Africa since we started to court our new Indian friends. It has become a tornado of looting that will leave destruction and untold hardships in its path.
We all need to rebel against corruption in the party first, because once we clean the party, we can clean the government.
If I were ever privileged enough to be the president, all those corrupt individuals would be put in jail.
They would be investigated and prosecuted if criminal evidence is found. It is uncouth to smile with thieves. We cannot claim corruption as a vice of collective responsibility, when we can sift out the bad seeds.
The ANC has dedicated 2017 to its former president, Oliver Tambo, who would have turned 100 years old in this year. In remembrance of this great revolutionary, we need to be stimulated by more than sentiment and nostalgia. We need to write a new narrative, where we are honest and brutal about where we are and how we got here, a narrative that is clinical and absolute in solution-finding.
Skilled politicians are no longer welcome in the ANC because they have strict values, they still believe in the principles of the Freedom Charter and they believe that we are one nation, irrespective of colour.
One can only hope for a sobering in conscience amongst the ANC members, for they have the power and the ability to restore the organisation that delivered South Africa its freedom. A nation’s potential never subsides; it only needs to be reignited by great men and women who are tireless in the pursuit of righteousness.
I strive to be counted among these men and women to make a difference, big or small, but ultimately to put the people first so they can see the glory of spilled blood.
By Mathews Phosa