Together we'll restore the promise of a free SA - Mamphela Ramphele

Text of founder's speech at the launch of Agang SA as a new political party, June 22


Dumelang! Sanibonani! Molweni! Axusheni! Ndi macheloni! Ngiyanibingelela! Goeie dag! Good morning!

Fellow citizens I am here today to invite you on a journey to build the country of our dreams. Today we celebrate the launch of Agang South Africa as a new political party as we take the first steps toward change in 2014. We are here to begin the restoration of the promise of our great nation and to offer the hope of a better future for every South African. We are here together to honour the sacrifices of the struggle and take inspiration from the achievements of the past.

Agang pledges to live by our founding democratic values: human dignity, equality and freedom.

We pledge to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.

We pledge to improve the quality of life for all and free the potential of each person.

We pledge to build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

I see a great future for our country. One in which we finally realise true freedom for all. Freedom from poverty, crime and corruption. A job, a home, a life of dignity.

I am inspired by a burning ambition to aim higher.To expect excellence in education, in healthcare, and policing. To restore integrity to public life and pride to public service. To restore the trust between citizens and their leaders.

We believe in restoring power to the people. We believe in a government that listens to the people and is accountable to the people.

All this is possible if we raise our expectations of the future. You know I want us to dream bigger, to expect much, much more. Imagine for a moment that 90% of our children passed their matric each year and that we had libraries and computers in every school.

Imagine that our economy grew by 5% every year, creating thousands of new jobs and imagine that we could drive unemployment down below 10%. Imagine that every mother and her baby are born happy and healthy and that we could walk the streets free of the fear of crime. And imagine that we had the education, job opportunities, housing and healthcare to raise millions out of poverty.

This, is what true freedom feels like and it is within our reach. It is a future we can have if we expect more from ourselves, our government and our country, and if we vote for the future, not the past.Many times we have had the courage to stand together and lead our country forward.

We are rightly proud of our past achievements. From our struggle was born a nation based on a constitution that protects the pillars of democracy with respect for the rule of law. We have long been blessed with immense potential, with an abundance of natural, mineral and human resources, with fine business leaders, and of course, world beating sports men and women.

Upon these solid foundations we sought to grow a prosperous society that redressed the many wrongs of the past. Successive governments have sought to build and electrify homes, to educate our young, to create jobs and provide the protection of social grants for the young, the old and those unable to work.

Great efforts have been made but the truth is with each passing year, we have fallen further and further behind. For millions of our fellow citizens still living like forgotten people we have not come far enough, fast enough. 

For the last five months I have been on a tour of our country listening to what people have to say about where we are today. From rural villages to urban townships people everywhere tell me that they have been waiting, waiting, waiting. "It's been 20 years, Sisi, and we just don't know what is going to happen." They experience sadness, even despair.

The message that keeps coming back is that our schools are not delivering the education our children deserve; that people willing to work hard cannot find jobs to support their families; that crime is growing and people no longer feel safe in their neighborhoods.

And behind closed doors, wealthier more privileged South Africans, both black and white, are deeply worried. They tell me they know our country is on the wrong path, and that there is a desperate need for change.

There are others who may say be patient. Change is coming. The full promise of our nation is just around the corner. But in our hearts, a voice says, no. After nearly 20 years the country's leaders have failed to deliver on the promise of freedom that so many of my generation fought and died for.

I say that 20 years is too long to wait for jobs

20 years is too long to wait for quality education

20 years is too long to wait for health care and for safe and secure places to live

20 years is too long to still have millions living in poverty

Our future is at stake, we must act now.

The time has come to restore the promise of a free South Africa, to offer hope and the prospect of a dignified life for all. The time has come to lift our gaze and aim higher, to raise standards across the whole of our society. To finally bring about true freedom for all.

Our country has reached a crossroads and I for one do not want to think about where we will be in five years time unless we change course.

Imagine 5 more years of corruption

Imagine 5 more years of young people being lost from the education system and the economy.

5 more years of millions of people entering the workforce but not having jobs.

5 more years of non-functioning hospitals and clinics.

Imagine 5 more years of living in fear of crime.

We are at a critical moment in our history but I have faith that we South Africans will act. It is our huge potential for the future, for the building of a great society and our immense and unbreakable spirit that inspired me at the age of 65 to enter South African politics and to found Agang SA.

I have seen both the high points and low points of our imagined future and I understand our country and our history. We have come a long way together since the dawn of our freedom in 1994. South Africans will never forget the many people and nations who supported us through our struggle against racial oppression, and who shared in our joy when we finally achieved freedom, bringing with it so much promise for the future. 

Many of us fought side-by-side on the path to freedom. We remember well the gallant resistance against colonial invasion and subsequent oppression throughout the centuries. We remember the brave fight put up by our various kingdoms, the resort to the armed struggle, notably by Umkhonto we Sizwe, The Azanian People's Liberation Army and the Azanian National Liberation Army.

We pay tribute to the fallen heroes of Sharpeville and the students who rose up in ‘76 to reignite the struggle. We remember the outpouring of hope and joy at the release of Nelson Mandela, fist raised in defiance.

In step with our country's history, I have travelled the long road from student activist to medical doctor, university executive, to global public servant at the World Bank.

As a daughter of rural Limpopo I have had to overcome the high barriers to opportunity confronting many black people, especially black rural women.

I fought in the darkest days of our struggle alongside Steve Biko, Barney Pityana and many other brave men and women. And I cried tears of joy and relief as we finally cast our votes for the first time in 1994. My whole life I have strived to nurture my family, serve the communities I have been part of, and to grow the organisations I have led.

As one of community programmes of the Black Consciousness Movement, I worked with communities to found the Zanemplio Community Health Centre in eZinyoka near King William's Town in 1975. In 1976 I was arrested and detained. In 1977 I was banned and banished by the apartheid government to Lenyenye near Tzaneen.

I worked with the community to set up the Ithusheng Community Health Centre and I'm proud to say it is still serving people today.

I have seen how active citizens can change society for the better. To be an active citizen is to be the spark that ignites change. It is to live guided by Ubuntu that ancient principle at the heart of our traditional knowledge systems. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu says it beautifully - "I am what I am because of who we all are".

Ubuntu guides the structure of Agang so that from the grass roots up we are a formidable team working together to bring about change. Our message of hope has already struck a chord with thousands of active citizens across the country.

Together we are building a bridge between the generations, reaching out to our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. We are building a powerful campaign machine to fight the 2014 elections. To Agang's thousands of volunteers, many of whom are here today, brothers and sisters, you are our heart and soul.

Your are the strong arms that link our party together on the long road to 2014. I salute you!

Agang has appointed a world-class campaign team from the spheres of South African business, politics and academia.

Nkosinathi Solomon, Campaign Director, joins us from ABSA Bank

Dr Mills Soko, Director of Policy, comes from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town

Thabo Leshilo, Director of Communications, has 20 years experience in the media industry including as editor of the Sowetan

Zohra Dawood, Director of Fundraising comes from the Open Society Foundation of South Africa

Rorisang Tshabalala, Deputy Director of Field Management is a talented young entrepreneur

And Vanessa Hani is joining us to focus on mobilizing women as part of the Field Management team

I am also excited by the prospects for our political leadership. Moeketsi Mosola Agang's Political Director is leading the creation of our political leadership team. Agang will contest the 2014 elections represented by parliamentary candidates from all across SA and will challenge locally in key battleground provinces.

There are many experienced parliamentarians and battle hardended activists who will join our national and provincial leadership in the coming months. We will strike a balance between old hands and many new faces. In keeping with the best traditions of fair, free and democratic elections Agang will hold its Elective Conference toward the end of the year.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the whole of the Agang family for coming togther and for bringing our vision to life.

So, where must we begin if we are to restore the promise of freedom? From my travels across our country it is clear that people from all walks of life see exactly what is going wrong with our country and they are extremely angry.

Corruption is at the heart of the problems our country faces today. Corruption and a culture of impunity have spread throughout government and society stealing textbooks from classrooms, stealing drugs from those living with HIV and stealing thousands of jobs and billions of rands of investment. What angers me is that these are all failures of political will, not policy or a lack of money.

What frustrates me even more is that we can achieve great things when we put our minds to it. Just think of the pride we all felt for the World Cup in 2010.

Corruption and waste is costing us billions. The Auditor General's report identifies R33billion that was misspent or wasted in the 2011/2012 year.

Imagine how many thousands of teachers and police officers that would pay for? Government officials are stealing millions of rands for themselves and their families, paid for by you and I and yet there is no accountability. It is staggering that those found guilty of corruption are allowed to take another job in government. People know a thief when they see one. They know when they are being abused.

After 20 years we have arrived at a crossroads. We must change course now or rampant corruption will rob every man, woman and child of their future and our country of its full potential. This is not the legacy our great leaders had in mind. This is not the country dreamed of by of our beloved Madiba, by Steve Biko or Lillian Ngoyi, by Ruth First or Chief Albert Luthuli.

Leadership begins at the top. The leaders of this current government set an appalling example that others follow. They seem to think they are beyond the reach of the law. They abuse the trust of the citizens who elected them. One by one they have systematically attacked the very foundations of our constitutional democracy: the judicial system, the freedom of the press, accountability of government and the human rights of all citizens.

The arrogance is breathtaking: to steal, to act with such brazen impunity and to abuse the resources of the state for the enrichment of a party, themselves and their friends. The Arms Deal, Nkandla, the Guptas, the list of these abuses goes on and on.

These are not the leaders our country deserves. Who steal from their own in broad daylight. Who wound our country's spirit with the language of hate, of fear and of anger.

Who threaten to take away grants and RDP houses if you don't vote for them. But there are even more serious charges.

For this government does not know how to run our country for the benefit of every citizen. In South Africa today:

At least 1 in 4 citizens is unemployed and more than half of young people are out of work. We have one of the highest rates of crime anywhere in the world and the poorest communities are affected the worst. We have created lost generations who left their education without the skills to find work. And we have mothers and children dying in childbirth at an unforgivable rate. This is a scandal given our country's level of development.

Let us be clear. These are not just bumps on the road to a better future. This government is destroying our economy and our society. These are not inevitable pains of a transitional period. They are a betrayal of the founding principles of our democracy. A betrayal of what our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers fought and died for.

Millions of our fellow citizens are still living like forgotten people and yet this government seems blind to their suffering and despair.

I say enough is enough, 20 years is too long to wait. No more time, this government has run its course. It is time to bring down the curtain on this shameful period of our history.

We must begin by making politicians and officials accountable for their actions.

To increase accountability Agang South Africa is calling for changes to the electoral system to ensure that every citizen can vote for a person who represents their local area.

The voters of Marikana or Ficksburg should be able to vote for someone who lives in their own area. If they see their MPs sleeping in Parliament, or failing to perform, they should be able to fire them at the ballot box.

Agang South Africa believes that all members of Parliament should be required to hold community meetings at least once a month. MPs should be listening to the voices of their constituents and making them heard in Parliament.

Accountability begins with the President. We deserve to have a President who knows that it is wrong to steal money meant for RDP houses to build himself a R206 million palace.

Increasing accountability must go hand in hand with a war on corruption and waste. Good governance and accountability can tackle corruption. We have a right to know what kind of business is being done between officials, their families and the government.

8000 public servants in the Eastern Cape have been doing business with the Department of Health and rendering it bankrupt and putting the lives of those who live with HIV and diabetes at risk.

None of these officials have been arrested yet. How can they be arrested when the President himself says there is nothing wrong with government employees doing business with the government?

We must have a government with zero tolerance for corrupt, unethical officials who abuse the trust of the public. We will ban government officials and their families from doing business with the state. And we will protect whistleblowers and train officials in the proud traditions of professional public service.

Tackling corruption is central to restoring confidence in our government and our economy. The billions lost today to corruption and waste can help us fire up the economy. That one in every four South Africans is unemployed is an outrage. That more than half of young people are out of work is a recipe for disaster.

The fact is this Government cannot be trusted to run our economy. It has failed our mining and agricultural industries and put thousands of small companies out of business. It does not know how to create jobs and we cannot rely on public sector employment alone if we are to get South Africa working again.

I was in my home province of Limpopo recently when Ma Mojapelo told me a story of just how government has failed small businesses as well as large. Ma Mojapelo ran a successful brick making business. She and her team made thousands of bricks over several years to build hundreds of RDP houses in the local townships around Phalaborwa and Namakgale. Local Government incompetence and political interference shut down her business with the loss of all 59 jobs.

We must aim higher. Together we can build an economy that works for all South Africans, not just the powerful and politically connected. We can set a stable course and that will unlock domestic and foreign investment fueling growth.

We can create thousands of jobs through an infrastructure public works programme to build roads, schools, railways and ports to unlock the potential of our economy. We can boost small business job creation with tax credits. And we can provide a 21st century education system to ensure that young people have the skills needed to drive our economy.

20 years is too long to wait for a decent education for every South African. The failure of the education system is robbing young people of their futures and is handicapping the progress of our country.

This government spends billions each year on education, and yet for the children of the Eastern Cape, like those in many other provinces, mud schools, pit latrines and unskilled teachers are the daily reality.

We must set the bar higher and aim for excellence, both in the results we need to see from learners and from the quality of education provided by teachers.

We will raise the pass mark to 50%, train talented teachers and create thousands more teaching posts, attracting unemployed graduates.

Together we can build an education system that restores pride in the profession, creating highly qualified teachers, proper infrastructure and better learning environments so young people get the education they deserve and have the best possible opportunity of dignified jobs.

If we upgrade the education system and get the economy moving we can start to tackle the poverty and despair that are at the heart of our social problems and are the root causes of crime.

This government has left us crippled by rampant crime. Citizens live in fear, many flee the country. The costs of crime make business more expensive or drive it away entirely.

The men and women in blue, who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect the public, are not inherently bad. The problem is one of bad leadership. It is lack of imagination and leadership, as shown by this government's chilling "shoot to kill" instruction to police, that led to the tragedy at Marikana and to increasing police brutality.

We must restore the trust between communities and the policemen and women who serve them so that society works together to tackle crime.

We must have a justice system that works. A professional, respected police service must protect citizens and criminals must know they will be caught and punished. 

We must better equip those who protect us and better support them in their work. We need to hire more officers, provide them with the equipment and resources they need and re-design the way they are trained to promote higher technology and scientific approaches to stay ahead of criminals.

And we must finally have a professional police service that has zero tolerance for brutality and one that inspires pride amongst its ranks. Finally, we need to restore dedicated ethical professionalism to our health care system so it can serve the public effectively and efficiently. 

Agang believes that we have the resources to restore our healthcare system and provide dignified care for all in need. You must be able to see a doctor and to get a script whenever you need. We must use our strong science and technology base to attract, train and retain the best health care workers to restore the pride and trust in our system. 

This is just the beginning of what Agang will do to change our country.

Over the coming weeks and months we will continue engaging with our fellow citizens on our draft policies as we shape our manifesto together. We will work tirelessly with all South Africans to find solutions to the challenges we face and to shape a vision of our country's future that we all share.

It is a tremendously exciting time and Agang is growing fast. Our party structure is clear. At our National Elective Conference later this year our members will elect their chosen leaders on the National Executive Council, which will be responsible for implementing our policies and programmes.

At a ward, regional and provincial level we will be creating Campaign Committees to deliver our election campaign and represent the members of Agang SA. This will allow time to design our permanent structures and hold transparent elections as we form branches after the 2014 elections.

I see Lawrence Moroasui there, our Provincial Organiser in Limpopo. Good work boet, what a pleasure it was to be in my home province with our thousands of supporters at Seshego recently. 

To Sam Njela our Provincial Organiser in the Eastern Cape and Pule Pule who leads our volunteers in Gauteng you are doing a fine job my brothers.

Together the Agang team will be relentless in taking our vision to the people and the challenge to our opponents.

Today we invite you to join a new party and seize this opportunity for change.

Millions of citizens could not bring themselves to vote in 2009. Millions more of you can vote for the first time in 2014.

Many of our great leaders have left us so it falls to you, a new generation of heroes and heroines, to stand up and be counted. You are the true heirs of freedom. It can be yours if you reach out and claim it.

Every South African has a choice. Let each one of us remember the spirit of our great leaders, honour those who gave their lives for our freedom. Use your vote carefully, make each and every one count in 2014.

Let every South African here and across the world be in no doubt. Change is possible. The country of our dreams is within reach. Where there has been anger and despair, working together we can bring hope. And where there is hope we can build a better future for our country.

Yes Agang has a vision of South Africa in which every citizen can finally prosper.

Yes we have a plan to bring change and restore the promise of freedom.

Now is the time for action. There is work to do and we must begin immediately.

Today we celebrate the birth of Agang SA, a party for all South Africans.

Let us rejoice in being together, let us sing together and dream together.

Remember this day, remember the feeling of hope we share. It is the torch we will carry as we march toward change in 2014. We will take our message of hope to every corner of South Africa, to every home on every street in every community.

Let's roll up our sleeves and get South Africa working. It is our duty as citizens to come together and change our country. Let us carry the spirit of our great leaders in our hearts and chart a course toward the future together.

Let us be boundless in our optimism, limitless in our love for our country and each other. Let us be steadfast in our resolve to aim higher and be humble in our duty to our country.

Together we will restore the promise of a free South Africa, a greater future for our nation. Freedom from poverty, crime and corruption. A job, a home, a life of dignity.

Excellence in education, in healthcare and policing. Integrity in public life and pride in public service. Trust between citizens and their leaders.

True freedom is within our grasp. Vote for the future and let us build the country of our dreams together.

Thank you

Issued by Agang SA, June 22 2013

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