In his opening remarks, Prof. Makhanya reflected on South Africa’s journey during its 20 years of democracy. He also said that democracy means that “all citizens must be heard and that decisions must be taken together as one people.” Representatives of the different parties included ANC national executive committee member Thoko Didiza, the DA’s Mmusi Maimane, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu, and Cope’s Lyndall Shope-Mafole. Bantu Holomisa represented the United Democratic Movement, and Jo-Ann Downs represented the African Christian Democratic Party.
Didiza spoke of how the ANC’s leadership lay the foundation for the country’s success and said that, even though SA had not been transformed, many substantial gains have been made in the last two decades. “All of us felt more like South Africans in the past 20 years,” she said.
Maimane said that while some citizens are enjoying the fruits of democracy and freedom, the majority are still suffering. He also spoke extensively about how government needs to build institutions and intensify the land reform programme. “What’s more important is what we want the next 20 years to be,” he said.
Holomisa said that, “Poor policy decisions, mismanagement of funds and corruption have turned South Africa into a welfare and not a developmental state.” He spoke of the ruling party’s disregard of the rule of law, attacked and undermined the public protector and also proposed a change to the country’s electoral system.
Shope-Mafole said that, “Our greatest responsibility is to make every South African understand the purpose and significance of the vote.”
Shivambu spoke of the lack of economic transformation and how it contributes to the country being the most unequal society in the world. He also spoke about land expropriation and corporate tax restructuring. He said that the ANC’s promise of six million jobs was nothing more than casual jobs. “The state, and not the private sector, should lead the development of the economy,” he said.
Some of the major issues that arose were unemployment, e-tolls, corruption, the public protector’s Nkandla report and the need for change in the political sphere. The event was well attended and the atmosphere was marked by song and dance, and robust debate.
Photo: Praise Magidi