Introducing RISE Mzansi - Songezo Zibi

Leader says South Africa needs a reset, a new direction, new energy, and new leadership

RISE Mzansi Speech by Songezo Zibi

RISE Mzansi National Leader

For South Africa to RISE, We, the People, Must Govern

Date: 19 April 2023 Release: Immediate

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by RISE Mzansi National Leader, Songezo Zibi, at Constitution Hill, during the media launch of RISE Mzansi as a modern, people-driven Political Alternative, that will contest for political power.

Good morning and thank you all for coming.

Before I get into the formal part of my remarks today, let me tell you a short story about my home, Mqanduli, in rural Eastern Cape.

It is where I herded cattle, sheared sheep, and tilled the land for maize, beans, and pumpkins. Oosenza, oocetshana, oosolontsi. It is this life and spiritual experience that informs my own part in what we are announcing today.

Mqanduli is where, at 3 weeks old, my single parent mother left me in the care of my grandparents so she could start at her first job as a teacher. When I was old enough and working, I set down my own roots there and built a home. Ndiligoduka.

So as much as we speak English in the boardrooms we end up in, or events such as this, deep down some of us are instinctively village people. And for important occasions like today, my instinct is to speak isiXhosa because I can reflect a sense of seriousness that speaking English does not.

So please bear with me and my village stories just now. It is what I know, and the best way I can articulate why the work we do is unavoidable.

To get to my village, you take the Coffee Bay and Hole-in-the-Wall off-ramp on the N2 just south of Mthatha.

Anyone who has been on the road to Coffee Bay will tell you even 4x4s find it difficult. In places, vehicles occasionally drive off the road because the tarred section can cause a breakdown. I can tell you confidently that there is someone watching me right now who is confirming this to the person sitting next to them. That road is bad, and that 62 kilometres distance can take up to two hours if you are not familiar with it.

Mqanduli town is a typical South African rural town under this government. It is collapsing under the weight of political neglect. The neglected government buildings on one side of the main street are located on land that used to belong to a local family. That land was confiscated by colonialists in the early 1900s to make way for the town.

On either side of this road, and all the way to Coffee Bay, are homes and communities that have never had a flush toilet, ever! This is because there is no piped water to every home such as you see in most urban areas. The town itself doesn't have a municipal sewerage system.

Because there is almost no spatial planning, people have no specific addresses. This means an ambulance, when one can be found, struggles to find their homes when there is a medical emergency, especially at night. Often people die either waiting for an ambulance to get there, or on the slow journey to hospital. To save time, people must hire a car to take their loved one to hospital.

Those of us who are from there leave our loved ones for the cities so we can earn an income to feed and take care of them. This is the same journey our forefathers used to take to the mines, leaving land, families and communities that struggle to retain the structures that make communities functional and stable.

It is here that, somehow, people must find work in a local economy that virtually does not exist because it only relies on the public service. Yet this land is some of the most fertile in the country. Its natural tourism assets are world class, but there is very little infrastructure supporting them.

The people of the communities from which we come are unseen, unheard and uncared for. When you get out of your car and walk in those villages, you will see that these are black people, mostly black women. Daily, they are toiling to build a life for their children, and pulling together to make their community a community.

At night they live in the dark and are terrorised by crime; crime that sometimes comes from within the community because young people live a life of no opportunity and no hope. These young people are introduced to the prison system at a young age and can no longer find work because they have a criminal record.

The story of Mqanduli is the story of every little rural town or township in South Africa. It is a story of colonial dispossession, of apartheid spatial exclusion, racist oppression, destruction of family and community structures, and denial of opportunity. It is a story of political neglect and systemic violence. It is a story of past and present trauma its people carry with dignity and resilience.

It is a story that all of us must care about because we want to be one people united by the same values and sharing a dream of the South Africa, we all deserve. This is a dream we have lost as politics has come to symbolise corruption, the arrogance of power and an embarrassing eagerness to conclude political deals without even thinking of asking for the people's mandate.

We have unfinished business in South Africa. The picture I have just painted shows how colonialism, apartheid and neglect by the present government have conspired to keep people under oppressive conditions. This should not be the case a whole 30 years since we attained democracy.

Today we have invited you here for two main reasons:

First, we table a grand vision and framework of how to significantly change South Africa. That is to stop this crisis, stabilise the country and then deliver the fruits of democracy. Those are safety, prosperity, and freedom. That work is a generational mission that will transcend elections and feed off the participation of millions of people who become part of this movement.

Second, that RISE Mzansi has commenced the process to register as a political party with the Electoral Commission to contest the 2024 elections with a national list across all nine provinces. You cannot achieve the vision we set out, and the sweeping changes we propose, without political power.

Our goal is to build a country based on the principles of Justice, Freedom, Equality, Solidarity, and Integrity. These are not just RISE Mzansi's values, but the values we believe must anchor how we revive the South African dream. They are for all South Africans.

We cannot have Justice if we still have Economic Injustice.

We cannot have Freedom if we don't obsess about ending poverty.

We cannot have Equality if we do not end Inequality.

We cannot have Solidarity if we do not have a new non-racialism that sets out to end racism

and build real national unity.

We cannot have Integrity while corruption is driven from the very top.

That level of transformation needs the participation of all of society. This is why we are building RISE Mzansi as an inclusive movement. These values and goals must be a way of life that informs what we do in politics, civil society, business, and the public service.

We have become a society ruled by politicians, guided by laws we ignore and anchored by nothing — no clear value system at all. There is no self-propelling moral that anchors us as a society. We are politically led by people who lack seriousness, depth, and respect for the South African people.

But the reason we are in a crisis is not for a lack of good people, it is only because good people have yielded the political space to those who do not deserve it. This is our country and our democracy. It must be a societal mission to return both to the South African people. This means getting involved today, not tomorrow.

The political system is not the only thing that is broken. The nation-building project has also lost its way because we have not delivered economic justice

But creating this kind of change means we cannot use the same political rules, the same tired and uncreative politicians, the same methods, and attitudes that have brought us to this point of crisis.

We have started reversing the gains made since 1994.

- Violent crime is at intolerable levels.

- Our economy is dying for lack of electricity and growth because of political neglect, incompetence, and corruption.

- Unemployment today is higher than it was 15 years ago.

- Millions of people are lucky to have all three meals a day, and too many children suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and stunting.

- Our municipalities are falling apart — and our roads, bridges and railways are crumbling before our eyes.

- We remain among the world's most unequal societies, with historical fault lines etched out according to race and sex.

- The corruption that is endemic to the ruling party has spread like a cancer into the state, and the rest of our society. We now have too many people who no longer have any sense of right and wrong.

- Our foreign policy, previously a light among developing nations, has moved from non-alignment to misalignment with our constitutional values.

South Africa needs a reset, a new direction, new energy, and new leadership.

But then this crisis is no surprise because our very political system is broken. Instead of a government of the people, by the people, for the people, we ended up with a government of political parties, by political parties, for political parties. We are now paying the price.

Our national politics today is like a used furniture shop. Every piece has been bought and sold numerous times. Every piece has been slept on, spilled on, stained, and ravaged by time. Some of it has even been stuffed with foreign objects — like illicit foreign currency. Every piece has witnessed shady deals and false promises, whether whispered or screamed. At one time this furniture was fit for purpose; now it needs to be cleaned out!

The political establishment tells us that there is nothing wrong with our political system, and all that is needed is to remove the ANC. We cannot build a new future on a system that is unaccountable, unresponsive, corrupt, and removed from the people. We cannot use the same rules that delivered the unserious people who call themselves leaders today.

We must be bold and change the rules, and in our documents, we set out a political reform programme that can finally deliver real democracy. We cannot deliver a better future by entrusting everything to a broken political system that relies on court litigation for the right things to be done.

Instead, we have prominent politicians using nationalist and racist divisions to mobilise their political bases and drive us further apart. There is not a single major political party today that can claim to have a programme to build national unity in South Africa. Not one!

- The ruling party has come to represent failure, despair, incompetence, and corruption. Millions of its own supporters deserve a better political home, one that takes their valid dreams seriously instead of using them as fodder for personal enrichment and power.

- The largest opposition groups have reached a dead end, electorally and politically. Many of their voters, too, want to see a competent and capable partnership that can unite South Africans and lead our country effectively.

- And a minority, with crude sloganeering, with a hint of violence on its lips, threatens to tear apart our country's democratic fabric. They thrive on the politics of despair and anger without bringing any practical solutions.

South Africa needs a unifying moment. We have been divided and taken advantage of for too long. RISE Mzansi intends to realise a longstanding objective of our democracy that until today has remained only words: The people shall govern.

RISE Mzansi's vision is to build an equal, safe, prosperous, and united South Africa in one generation. 20 years! But that work is urgent and needs to start tomorrow and proceed with great urgency.

We are open to every South African who wants to build a nation that cares, not a country where only the most privileged enjoy a decent life. South Africa has enormous capacity, but our political culture demands that people be card-carrying members of political parties to matter.

At RISE Mzansi, the basis for contribution is an alignment of values and our vision, not party membership. This is the work of patriotic South Africans, not party loyalists.

We stand for:

- A society that is fair — where class, race, gender, or disability do not determine who succeeds in life and who doesn't.

- We stand for a country governed by the rule of law, where life is not cheap, and the powerful are equally subject to the law.

- We stand for a country where economic justice, economic inclusion, economic growth, and investment are not opposing concepts but part of the same package that delivers a prosperous life.

- We must be a country where climate justice is about human wellbeing and protecting our natural environment. It cannot be dominated by the fight between elites about coal and renewable contracts that we have now. Rural subsistence farmers are losing their livelihoods. People's homes are being swept away by floods.

Thousands of people in the coal belt have respiratory diseases. Surely, we are not suggesting they all be forgotten again?

Our movement, RISE Mzansi, was not born in the used furniture shop.

In November 2022, hundreds of patriotic South Africans met to discuss the country they wanted to build and how to build it. What followed was a powerful pledge to:

- Be loyal to the South African Constitution.

- Work together to build an inclusive movement, driven by the people, to contest for political power in Election 2024.

- Work in our communities and volunteer to find solutions to make our communities safe and prosperous.

- Develop ethical, accountable leaders capable of leading our country and communities.

It is this pledge that has brought us here today and will fuel the building of this movement. Those who would hastily dismiss us should understand that we have been building from the ground up, not the top down.

This is what "We, the People shall govern", means.

That said, we believe there are four urgent thematic priorities.

The first is Political Reform to return democracy to the people and to build a capable state. We cannot carry on with political business as usual and expect a different outcome. That political reform program must include electoral reform, government, and judicial reform. These will underpin efforts to clean up, capacitate and professionalise the civil service.

It is not better slogans that deliver the fruits of democracy, but a political system that is thoughtful, transparent, and democratically accountable. We do not have it. We must and we will have it.

We, the People Shall Govern.

The second is safety. South Africans are unsafe in their homes, in their communities, on the roads and in their places of work. It is not just violent crime that is keeping us in distress but communities that are overwhelmed by drug trafficking, drug addiction and a disintegration of social structures.

This work is going to be as much about policing as it is about restoring a sense of community order — another reason why this cannot be a party-political process. This is the work of movements.

The third is building an economy that creates jobs and opportunities for everyone.

South Africa is not poor. We should not be home to so much poverty. We have natural wealth such as minerals that are critical for the green economy, world class tourism assets and arable land for producing enough food for every South African, and exporting it to the world.

We have a world class financial system and deep capital markets. But our economic policy is essentially about keeping the post-colonial structure intact. We are also failing to get very basic things right.

Mining investment has lagged other mineral rich countries because our licensing system is corrupt and inefficient. We have not been able to benefit from the Mining Royalties Act because we simply have not had new mining projects of the scale other countries have been able to. We only benefit from higher prices but not greater volume. That is a travesty when we have such a rich endowment.

Companies pack up and leave municipalities that are being run to the ground by corrupt cadres, leaving hundreds of people unemployed and their families without an income.

This is why we talk about ministers and administrators who are capable system leaders. Economic management is not just about regulation, but making sure every piece of the government policy puzzle fits together to create opportunities.

This illustrates the importance of municipalities to deliver basic services and rebuild our economy. One of the ways in which we can see the banality of our political establishment is that they have a slogan for every single issue because they cannot even see how integrated some of these problems are.

Our municipalities are falling apart. Our basic infrastructure is falling apart. Localities are riddled with crime. But every business exists in a locality. We cannot rebuild this economy while the very areas in which we hope to build an economy are falling apart.

Earlier I spoke about the road to Coffee Bay. How are we supposed to build an economy and create jobs when very basic infrastructure such as a provincial road is not there?

At RISE Mzansi, we will not patronise South Africans by offering silver bullets while leaving the basics unattended.

Finally, we must root out corruption. It is not just grand corruption at national government that eats away at our dreams of a better life, but the degrading, humiliating corruption South Africans suffer through at a local level.

We now have a culture of corruption that, as a fish rots from the head, has infiltrated all levels of society. People have to pay bribes to access services they are entitled to, and this is now regarded as normal. This fight needs all of us.

2024 is our 1994. It is a crossroads moment. If we do not intervene now, it will be too late. This needs a special effort. It needs all South Africans. It needs something deeper than just party politics. It needs a shared vision, a shared value system, an inclusive culture that seeks to unite. It needs real patriotism.

South Africa's population is very young, and yet the future is being destroyed by old people who think young minds and talent belong in leagues and agencies but not at the centre of politics. This is an opportunity for young South Africans to lead, to build the future they deserve.

To those in the current system who reduce politics to the art of the deal, we say "no deal" without the South African people.

To those who say South Africa is broken beyond repair, we say: you are wrong. This beautiful land belongs to all of us, and it's worth fighting for.

Now is the time to get to work and RISE for Mzansi! I thank you.

Media queries: Mabine Seabe National Communication Director

Issued by Songezo Zibi, RISE Mzansi National Leader, 19 April 2023