SA Is Ready for Some Meaningful Change

Article excerpt

Catchy slogan, this: the Second Transition. Who in his right mind wouldn't think we need a new dispensation to deal with our country's depressing poverty, inequality and weak government 18 years after we became a democracy?

Of course, before I throw my full weight as a citizen behind such a Second Transition (the theme of the ANC's new policy proposals), I would have to know what the party means by it.

The first phase of our first transition - from an unstable, oppressive, conflict-ridden country ruled by a tiny minority to a proper, open democracy - was highly successful. It brought us social cohesion that few imagined would be possible; it brought us stability; it rescued our beleaguered economy and brought us some economic growth.

So why would we need a second transition? What went wrong with the first? Here's where I think my explanation would be different from the ANC's.

The ANC hotheads blame the white minority, neo-liberals, racists, coconuts, agents foreign and local, Helen Zille, the media, capitalists and a Western conspiracy for the failure of the first transition. The ANC recently discovered another scapegoat: the constitution that brought us all that initial stability and unity; the rock the first transition was built on. In the words of a senior ANC leader and deputy minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, the constitution left "the black majority to enjoy empty political power while forces against change reign supreme in the economy, judiciary, public opinion and civil society".

I would say we need a second transition because the ANC administrations under Thabo Mbeki and especially Jacob Zuma had completely messed up the first one.

The ANC top brass enriched themselves, abused public funds, lived and travelled like oil sheikhs and spent most of their energies fighting one another. Billions were spent on submarines, fighter jets, private villas and ministerial homes. Provincial governments and most local governments practically collapsed. The re-racialising of society and condoned insults of minorities (Jimmy Manyi, Julius Malema et al) virtually destroyed the dream of non-racialism (helped along by selfish and self-righteous whiteys, of course).

Corruption, theft and tender fraud have become institutionalised and cost the country billions every year. …