Former public protector Thuli Madonsela wrote an opinion piece for City Press for Freedom Day weekend strongly suggesting that the poor in South Africa may be coming to realise that, 25 years into democracy, the continued pervasiveness of poverty may have more to do with the failures of the democratic state than the legacy challenges caused by colonialism and apartheid.
(Editor’s note: Madonsela did not, however, discount the negative legacy effects of apartheid in any way, as other websites reporting on this article have subsequently claimed.)
“Will the poor continue to accept explanations that their children go to a dilapidated mud school because of the apartheid legacy we inherited 25 years ago? Will communities accept that they have no doctors, hospitals and roads because of apartheid? What about those still waiting for land and, worse still, those whose land ended up being given to the new elite?”
She offered several other examples of how the South African government had been party to plundering resources that should have developed the state and provided services for the poor.
“The people will no longer accept glib excuses for nondelivery on the vision behind the struggle and constitutional promises,” she charged, adding that the rise of “political entrepreneurs” with “ultraleft and ultraright messages” were enjoying increasing support from both historically disadvantaged and advantaged groups mainly because South Africa’s expected democracy dividends were not being enjoyed as they should have been for years.
Madonsela, a former ANC member who quit the party in 2007, and is now a professor at Stellenbosch University, was also a co-author on the constitution that was signed into law in 1996.
In her City Press piece, she was critical of the changes to the Reconstruction and Development Plan that began after Thabo Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as both president of the ANC and the country.
She criticised the Jacob Zuma era too, saying it was only on the eve of Zuma’s departure that “social justice” suddenly seemed to matter to the ANC.
“An undefined ‘radical economic transformation’ became the rallying cry, as did a call for accelerated land redistribution despite the enabling laws having failed to be passed for years … [but] this was also the period when corruption, clientelism and evidence of state capture became rampant.”
She warned that voters would not be willing to wait for another 25 years for the promises of democracy to finally be met.
Madonsela challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to lead with “no excuses, for sustainable growth and development that leaves no one behind”.