We need a war-time strategy to turn things around – Roger Jardine

Change Starts Now leader says his party would raise R500bn for ReGrow fund through temporary, one-off tax measures

Change Starts Now – Charter Launch

19 February 2024

Ladies and gentlemen, the community of Kliptown, fellow South Africans, Thank you for joining us today at this historic national heritage site. Sixty-nine years ago, in 1955, three thousand members of the Congress of the People, gathered here to draft the Freedom Charter, the document that became the blueprint for a free South Africa.

This pivotal document articulated the aspirations and demands of the liberation movement and presented a vision of a South Africa based on equality, democracy, and human rights. It became foundational to the struggle against apartheid and later influenced South Africa's widely celebrated democratic constitution post-1994.

Our family moved to Eldorado Park from Riverlea and we have called this place home for almost 50 years. In the months leading up to taking up my scholarship to study in the USA, I volunteered as a maths teacher at Kliptown High School. I remember the Kliptown Post Office as a major community hub, and a meeting place for the people of Pimville and Eldorado Park. This historic space has a deep personal resonance for me. It also represents the roots of our movement.

To what degree have changes in the country over the past three decades lived up to the ideals of the Freedom Charter?

Let’s look at the facts.

20-million people in South Africa are on the spectrum of serious food vulnerability, requiring daily assistance. More than 30% of South African children under 5 are stunted due to malnutrition.

75 people are murdered per day. That is more than 27 000 people murdered in 2023.

You’d be forgiven for thinking these figures are reports from a major conflict zone, and you would not be far off.

In the Russia/Ukraine conflict, the average daily death rate in the civilian population since the start of that conflict is 15. An estimated 14.6-million people in that region require humanitarian assistance, of which about 4-million are children.

That is one-fifth of the number of people murdered in South Africa, and around 70% of the number of people in South Africa who, in truth, require some form of humanitarian assistance.

In recent history, the only two major conflicts that exceed the number of civilians killed per day in South Africa are the ongoing war in Israel/Palestine and the war in Syria between 2014 and 2019.

The total number of murders in South Africa in 2023 is almost 3-times more than total number of civilians killed in the Russia/Ukraine conflict, and exceeds the estimated civilian death toll in Gaza.

Just look around you.

South Africa is a country at war with itself.

This is the true state of the nation.

This past Friday, we held a meeting with the community and various community leaders from Kliptown and Soweto. We heard your concerns. They echo what we have heard from people and communities across South Africa and through our research.

You told us about the harm load-shedding has caused, and its costs to your families and businesses. You told us about the need for affordable and efficient transport, especially trains that run on time. Where community members, especially women and children, can feel safe all hours of the day.

You told us about the need for more support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. We were told that crime is rife, and local, but that you can’t always trust the police. You told us about hunger, about food safety and security issues that hurt this community. Decent housing, access to land, quality education and opportunities.. and above all, the need for jobs.

You also reminded us that freedom comes with responsibility, the importance of individuals being active and engaged citizens in advancing their communities’ interest.

You reminded us that to invest in monuments in the middle of a community where nothing works, is not sustainable.

We are here to say: We hear you. We see you.

This is a community – like so many around the country - that grapples with high unemployment, inadequate housing, insufficient access to basic services such as clean water, electricity, and sanitation, and limited educational and healthcare facilities. It’s also plagued by high crime rates, which inhibit development and the well-being of residents.

This complex interplay of historical, social, and economic factors that continue to impact Kliptown's revitalisation mirror the broader issues of urban poverty, inequality and lack of dignity in South Africa today.

The issues at hand are not new, but the urgency with which we must address them has never been greater.

We need a war-time strategy to turn things around. We need a government leadership that is honest and truthful, and also visionary and capable.

Our nation is struggling to achieve meaningful growth and inclusion.

For over a decade, real incomes have declined.

We face an unemployment and violence crisis that is unprecedented in the world for any country.

Not only is our economy at a standstill—it is regressing, losing capabilities, export diversity, and competitiveness.

The rule of law has been rendered moot.

Crime, an ever-present shadow over our nation, exacts a toll estimated at no less than 10 percent of our GDP annually. This is not just a matter of economics, but one of human dignity and safety.

Urban crime, high and ever-rising, alongside theft and sabotage, has crippled our national infrastructure, leaving communities vulnerable to disasters, both natural and manmade.

Our public services are weakened, and our people's safety is compromised.

Gender-based violence is pervasive, reflecting broader societal challenges that extend beyond the people directly affected.

The disproportionate care burden shouldered by women in our society, caring for children, the elderly, and the disabled, is a glaring example of the inadequacies in our social security and support systems.

Our state capacity has seen a dramatic collapse across numerous essential government functions.

The deterioration of critical network industries—electricity, transport, security, water, and sanitation—over the last 15 years is alarming.

This collapse is not merely a result of policy failures but of a deeper crisis in leadership and governance. We live inside a man-made disaster.

Today we say to the current political leaders of our country – stop lying to South Africans, stop pretending that what you are offering is anything less than an acceleration of disaster in South Africa.

Only urgent, bold action can reverse our fortunes.

At the end of the second World War, Europe was devasted.

By channelling over $13 billion into the war-ravaged region, the Marshall Plan catalysed the region's economic revival, cultivating a spirit of cooperation that laid the groundwork for future European unity and became a timeless reminder of humanity's capacity to rebuild and progress.

That $13-billion is the equivalent of $150-billion today, or 2.8-trillion Rand.

The social condition of our country is extreme.

20-million people are hungry, 30% of our children are malnourished.. we face an unprecedented level of inequality and an over dependence on government.

This is fundamentally undermining people’s faith in democracy, harming stability and is stunting growth.

From a government finance perspective, the South African economy is dealing with two significant challenges:

• income growth that is too low to address the socio-economic and service delivery requirements, and

• a government balance sheet that is buckling under a debt load that is increasingly unsustainable.

We need to urgently address the situation.

We need a Marshall Plan for South Africa – to rebuild and progress through social solidarity. The rich must make common cause with the poor!

As we stand on the precipice of change, we are called to reimagine our nation's path forward.

The Change Charter - our manifesto of hope - is a declaration which can forge a new destiny for South Africa — one defined by prosperity, justice, and unity. One defined by independence and self-reliance.

Our Charter is a bold, R1.5-trillion vision for the reconstruction and restoration of South Africa’s economic and social prospects. A plan heavily focused on healing our social divisions and on investment in infrastructure.

Through these initiatives, we know we can create up to 5-million jobs and reduce unemployment by 37% in five years.

Over the course of the coming weeks and months, we will continue to consult and engage widely – and do so with stakeholders, experts and the wider public – to refine the Charter and plot a new course of our country, together with you.

We invite engagement, debate and input on the Charter and its core proposals.

At the core of our vision is a thriving economy that benefits all South Africans.

We understand that the prosperity of our nation depends on the well-being and productivity of our people.

That's why we are committed to investing in our people – in education, skills development, and healthcare, laying the groundwork for a robust workforce ready to lead us into the future.

Laying the groundwork for a self-reliant and resilient population and economy.

To catalyse this transformation:

We will radically restructure and reorganise our largest SOEs to make them more efficient, with the potential to unlock up to R1-trillion in finance from local and international capital markets. We will lift our investment in infrastructure as a percentage of GDP to 22% over five years.

But, we will go even further.

We will create a Reconstruction and Growth Fund - the ReGrow Fund - a bold R500-billion initiative to mobilise our collective resources for large-scale investments in infrastructure, technology, green energy, and small businesses.

This fund is not just an investment in our economy, but in our collective future; aiming to create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth.

We will raise the R500-billion ReGrow fund through a range of temporary, one-off tax measures, including:

• A wealth tax of 1.5% each year, for 3 years, for individuals with a net wealth exceeding R40-million

• A corporate tax increase of 4.2%, for 3 years

• An individual tax increase of 4.5% for 3 years, for those earning more than R1.8-million a year.

• And a 1% a year charge on retirement funds for 3 years.

This would be a temporary reconstruction and development tax initiative. A one-off levy.

This proposal is based on a precedent of well-grounded crisis-measures that have been applied throughout modern history, using one of the oldest fiscal instruments to address national crises.

These contributions would be ring-fenced for targeted interventions and the fund will be governed by its own act. Its operation will be overseen by a panel representing the finest example of public- private partnerships and distinguished for its technical and financial skill headed by an independent chair with integrity and stature.

The ReGrow funds will be managed with extreme levels of transparency to restore and rebuild public trust in government.

In short, this temporary 3-year social solidarity fund will make it plain to see where your money is going and what it will be used for.

The Charter highlights the importance of functional and resilient infrastructure systems as a foundation for economic development. Infrastructure is the backbone of a thriving economy. By investing in ports, rail, water and sanitation, and digital communications, the charter aims to improve the quality of life for South Africans and create a multitude of jobs in the construction, maintenance, and operation of these infrastructure projects.

Through these initiatives, we also need to include local South African companies – and South African entrepreneurs - to restore our capacity and capability for economic self-reliance.

Acknowledging the critical role of reliable and sustainable power supply, the charter proposes a comprehensive plan to rebuild the electricity system.

This includes addressing underinvestment in generation, transmission, and storage, and undoing the political gridlock that hampers current reform efforts.

Transitioning to a green growth model and capitalising on South Africa's comparative advantage in the global decarbonisation trend are opportunities for creating jobs while addressing environmental concerns.

This includes promoting renewable energy sources, which would also create jobs in related industries such as manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy infrastructure.

The Charter stresses the importance of micro enterprise support as a means to stimulate job creation.

By providing infrastructure, training support, and enabling financing for entrepreneurs, especially in Special Economic Zones, the charter aims to develop an ecosystem where small businesses can thrive and generate employment.

We also recognise the importance of the private sector as a partner in progress.

Through regulatory reforms, public-private partnerships, and incentives, we will cultivate an environment where industries critical to our diversification and competitiveness can flourish.

Our commitment to justice extends beyond the courtroom and into the very fabric of our society.

It means dismantling the legacy of inequality that has long shadowed our nation.

It means building a South Africa where every citizen, regardless of background, has equal access to opportunities.

Our plan for land reform, for example, is guided by a principle of fairness and the need to heal historical wounds, ensuring that it contributes to sustainable economic development, food security and social cohesion.

Our plan for crime and policing is simple and rooted in common sense. We need to use partnerships effectively, and assess results independently. As an urgent priority, we need to restore confidence and public trust, increase efficiency and rebuild law enforcement capacity and capabilities.

We need to devolve and decentralise community level policing, rebuild trust and ensure we have the best people and that we measure against international best practice.

We need to make the NPA prosecutorial AND administratively independent as a matter of urgent priority.

Transparency, accountability, and efficiency are the hallmarks of good governance.

Our Charter introduces policies to strengthen government institutions and service delivery.

We will combat corruption head-on, implementing stringent laws and mechanisms, including whistleblower protection, to uphold the integrity of our judiciary and public services.

The strength of South Africa lies in our diversity.

Change Starts Now envisions a country where this diversity is celebrated and where every voice is heard.

Our policies aim to bridge divides, not just in terms of race or ethnicity but also in addressing the urban-rural divide.

We advocate for improved infrastructure and services in rural areas, ensuring that all South Africans are part of the journey towards progress.

Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world, as Nelson Mandela once said. It is the cornerstone of development. It is the bridge towards self-reliance and independence for our people.

Our Charter commits to overhauling our education systems, ensuring comprehensive reforms that enhance the quality of education from early childhood to tertiary levels.

We will emphasise STEM subjects, vocational training, and digital literacy, preparing our youth for the demands of the 21st Century, and ensuring that all South Africans have access to education that is relevant and empowering.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical importance of healthcare.

Change Starts Now commits to a healthcare system that is accessible, affordable, and of high quality for all South Africans.

This means strengthening our public health system, promoting preventive care, and integrating mental health services.

Our vision is a South Africa where healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

By investing in public health facilities and adopting technology, we aim to improve service delivery and ensure that every citizen receives the care they need.

Our policies will be inclusive, addressing the needs of the entire population, including gender based initiatives and rural development, to bridge historical inequalities.

At the heart of our charter is a new era of leadership—ethical, accountable, and transparent.

Change Starts Now stands for a government that serves the people, where corruption is met with zero tolerance, and where public officials are held to the highest standards of integrity. We are committed to restoring faith in our institutions and ensuring that they work for the benefit of all South Africans.

We will make anti-corruption measures a central, defining feature of government, enhancing the role played by the Public Service Commission in the appointment of senior civil servants, ending procurement-related corruption and implementing fully all applicable Zondo Commission recommendations.

Our vision for South Africa is inclusive.

The Change Starts Now charter is a commitment to the future—one where South Africa stands as a beacon of prosperity, inclusivity, and resilience.

Together, we can overcome the challenges that face us and build the nation we all deserve.

I stand before you with a deep sense of purpose and commitment to something new—a South Africa that builds, that brings hope, solidarity, and progress.

Earlier this year 250 people who are dollar billionaires and millionaires signed an open letter to public representatives for higher taxes on the rich. This call was inspired by a view that economic exclusion and a lack of social mobility is a root cause in the decline of support for


A 2022 survey by Afrobarometer shows that as much as 70% of the South African population

is not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with democracy. We are part of a global trend that can only be reversed by an increase in social solidarity.

It is common cause that the provision of public goods and services is a strong anti-poverty measure and it is common cause that the rejuvenation of our failing business infrastructure is a condition for economic growth. The rich must make common cause with the poor. Our democracy - our future - is at stake.

We must change our politics in order to change our country.

When we say change our politics we mean end corruption so that loadshedding ends;

We mean an end to tenders for friends so that when water and other services have to be provided

contracts do not go to friends who have no clue about the task.  

We aim to stop the disease that has plagued our nation and steer South Africa towards a future:

• Where the unemployed can find jobs and dignity through work.

• Where the poor can escape their circumstances.

• Where young people envision a prosperous future.

• Where investors are drawn to our nation and our exports are valued all over the world.

• Where our firms expand, creating prosperity and jobs.

We say in our Manifesto for Hope, South Africa needs a turnaround plan.

All turnaround plans require these elements:

the political will and resolve,

the ability to mobilize financial resources on a massive scale,

matching the will and financial resources with the best human talent available – imbued with ethical values and a sense of mission… and then some imagination and inspiration.

I urge all South Africans to join us and take the clearly sign-posted Change Lane The highway to the South Africa of our dreams, the South Africa that we want. The South Africa that we deserve.

As a fellow citizen who believes in the potential of South Africa and its people, I invite you to walk this journey together with us and be the change you want to see.

Join the initiative to make South Africa a better country. Work for change in your communities.

Help Change Starts Now to persuade other South Africans to choose a better future.

We urge all South Africans who care about our future, to go to our website – - to Sign-up for Change.

Register to vote. Vote for the South Africa you deserve.

Together, let's build a South Africa with stability, a growing economy, peace and safety.

A country for all.

Thank you.

Issued by  Roger Jardine, Party leader, Change Starts Now, 19 February 2024