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Herman Mashaba has a dream for South Africa and wants you to know about it

Herman Mashaba.

Herman Mashaba.

Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images

  • ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba delivered a speech on Monday on his party’s vision for South Africa.
  • He contrasted the hopes and excitement of 1994 with the current reality and said his party would revive the dream of 1994.
  • The party will embark on a national campaign to share this vision, culminating in the party’s first policy conference. 

In a speech peppered with the words “prosperity”, “hope” and “imagine”, ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba invoked Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech on Monday when he said: “I had a dream for a future South Africa where all South Africans would not just be equal on paper, but genuine counterparts in a dynamic and vibrant economy where prosperity would be shared by all.”

He delivered the address ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday, setting out his vision for his party against the backdrop of the hopes he had for South Africa in 1994, juxtaposed with the current reality. His party will revive the dream of 1994, he said.

While Mashaba’s speech was light on policy positions – the party will now embark on a campaign that will culminate in its first policy conference – he dropped a few hints on what the party’s policy could entail: breaking the “stranglehold of unions”, removing the “constraints to doing business”, public-private partnerships, and re-enlisting retired and former civil servants and protecting the poor through basic service delivery.

He spoke at the factory where he started his business, Black Like Me, in Ga-Rankuwa Industrial Park, Tshwane, in 1985. He recalled how he grew up in poverty – his mother a domestic worker in Sandton, where he now lives – and the sense of optimism he felt in 1994.

“I was excited about an explosion of black entrepreneurship that would undoubtedly arise from the demolition of the apartheid-era legislative barriers that had served to limit my opportunities, and the opportunities of those around me,” Mashaba said.

He added:

But my optimism was short-lived. While we initially made progress as a nation in the early years of our democracy, it became clear that the dream I had of shared prosperity was not held by the ANC government.

Instead he said, legislation aimed at “empowering and enriching a new class of politically connected black elite” was implemented while the “black majority that had been marginalised by the apartheid government was left to struggle on their own”.

“Yes, access to services may have expanded, but access to opportunity did not.”

“The reality is that the vast majority of those that were marginalised in the past, remain condemned to a life without dignity, and [no] opportunity for upward mobility.”

Mashaba added:

As long as this remains the case, the promise of our Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on.

He said he wanted to revive the South African dream of 1994, and “share ActionSA’s vision for an inclusive and prosperous future for South Africa with you”.

“Imagine a future South Africa where our country is healed from its painful past. A South Africa defined by hope and prosperity. A country that inspires patriotism, that its people are proud to call their home.

“Imagine a South African nation where race, gender, sexuality or any other demographic factors are no longer an indication of the barriers people are likely to face in life. A nation where all citizens live in dignity, with equal opportunities for upward mobility.”

A country, he added, that has freed itself from corruption’s grip, and is led by an “ethical, competent and efficient government and civil service”.

“Imagine a caring government that believes that the best way out of poverty is through expanding access to quality education, removing historical barriers and unlocking economic opportunity.”

“A government that prioritises the implementation of innovative, decisive and just economic policies that enables opportunity and empowers businesses to create jobs. A government that has abandoned its obsession with equality of outcome in favour of ensuring true equality of opportunity.”

According to Mashaba, the envisioned South Africa led by ActionSA will also have South Africans feeling safe in their homes, everyone will be treated equally before the law and the government will understand that dealing with crime, violence, and abuse means addressing the underlying socio-economic causes.

He said:

In this South Africa, citizens are empowered to exercise the full extent of their Constitutional rights and freedoms.

“All South Africans have access to quality services and good healthcare, and live in safe and secure communities that care for each other in the spirit of ubuntu.”

“The South African dream I have laid out for you was born of the hopes and aspirations of a nation that has been constrained in its potential by a self-serving government that prioritises looting state resources over-empowering the people it was elected to serve.”

READ | Herman Mashaba: Decisive action – not ANC populism – is needed to jumpstart our failing economy

The party will embark on a national campaign in the coming months to share this dream with South Africans.

It will culminate in a policy conference later this year to find a “solutions-based alternative to the failed policies of a confused government”- “an alternative based on the voices of South Africans and policy experts, not just the views of politicians.”

Mashaba doesn’t have high hopes for Ramaphosa’s SONA on Thursday, saying it will be a “repeat [of] the same empty promises about creating jobs and ending load shedding”.

“But his words will be hollow and fail to inspire hope, just as the government has failed to inspire hope for the past two decades.”

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