Raymond Suttner discusses the state of the nation going forward with reference to the Freedom Charter, the performance of the current African National Congress leadership and what needs to be done to make South Africa better.
Witherden: Raymond, the Freedom Charters says that the people shall govern. How do you see the evolution of the ideas of governance and democracy within the ANC leading up to the advent of democracy in 1994?
Suttner: I don't think the ANC was very well prepared for undertaking government. Many of us were very busy making South Africa ungovernable and apartheid unworkable and organs of peoples power, which are a form of realisation of "the people shall govern".
But, I don't think that the ANC thought out what it meant to govern a country and what it meant to run a civil service.
Now, we are one of the few countries on the continent that has the economic base to support a civil service in the sense that Max Weber spoke about.
In a place like the DRC, they have to live on corruption, because they can't raise enough tax payers to pay the civil servants.
But we never thought out how to make a civil service into a democratic accountable one.
As a result, according to the model of Max Weber, it's very top-down. There is very little critical discussion. There is very little from the bottom upwards.
In terms of realisation of "the people shall govern", it has been seen in historic elections of 1994, which were preceded by a situation where it was not possible for the apartheid regime to make South Africa governable again.
At the same time, the ANC and other forces of resistance, were not able to defeat the "enemy" or the apartheid regime. It was not on its knees.
Now, this is a situation, which makes it possible to have a negotiated settlement. So, there were negotiations, which led to what is referred to as the democratic breakthrough in 1994 where elections were held.
Witherden: In recent years you have been critical of ANC leadership and President Jacob Zuma in particular. What are chief problems of the current administration and how can these be overcome?
Suttner: The problems associated with Zuma didn't arise because of Zuma's personality alone. There is a history. There is a situation where after 1994 mass participation, mass organisation was demobilised and there was no intention of involvement of the people.
Now, when the movement for Zuma to be elected arose, he was depicted as being someone very different from Thabo Mbeki and this would be the time when the people would be on the stage of history.
In fact, you have seen very little of that and what you have seen is a government which is characterised by attacks on the rule of law and legality, a government which is characterised by irregularities, patronage - now there had been patronage before, patronaged plus warlordism, lack of accountability. One reads repeatedly of lavish spending of public money.
But, it is not as if the media exposure is having any effects, because the same individuals or new individuals are reported in recent times as doing similar things.
You also have a situation where there is an attack on constitutional rights, gender rights and rights of freedom of sexual orientation.
Alongside this you have the President engaging in extensive sexual escapades.
Zuma brings the power of office and the power of wealth - some of it may well be ill-gotten wealth - and he is able to become the envy of other serial adulterers and womanisers in the ANC leadership.
There is also a number of other problems with this government, in the sense that it is paralysed by competing groupings who are not fighting over ideology, but fighting for positions or wealth.
In this situation, Zuma is very much an absent President.
My belief is that one should not have a negative anti-response. My belief is that one should try to build a coalition of forces, not a reconfiguration of existing opposition parties against the ANC, but one should try and build an emancipatory vision of what we would like to see.
It must derive from what we do not like in the present. It must be indigenous in its conception, like the Freedom Charter, derived from ordinary people's grievances.
Building on that, you can unite a range of people who do not like the attack on constitutionalism, the democratic setback, the attack on gender rights and would like to see even a range of other sectors like environmental protection, renewable energy. All of these factors could be brought together in a broad platform and underneath that platform you could have distinct organisations like the left party, environmental organisations, those related to energy and other factors.
These distinct organisations would not be the platform, but they could engage with one another and try to make that part of it, and build towards some form of organisation. But I don't want to forecast this, I'm not a sort of philosopher-king who has the answers, others must engage with it, it is an idea which I am advancing and some people I've spoken to and audiences I've spoken, to find it attractive.
Witherden: Raymond, you have spent your life demanding a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa. How far are we along the path to this vision?
Suttner: It's not like a roadmap where you can say we've got 60 miles to go. In fact, what I believe is that we have got the constitutional order that can be built on.
That doesn't mean that everything in the constitution is unchangeable, but some form of constitutionalism, accountability to the constitution is necessary, but it can be enriched and we need to work on what changes enlarge the realm of freedom, what changes restrict it, what increases inclusion of people, what entails exclusion?
If we build on that then we can take our vision of a democratic non-sexist emancipatory or libratory vision further.
But, my view, which is broader then before, is that the people who must be involved in this may come from the DA, they may come from business, they may come from trade unions, they may come from the ANC, and all of these people should be invited to build, to take us further along that road whose distance I do not know. In fact, it's never-ending. It's a road whose journey will never end, because we will always want to build our freedom and expand it and enhance it.
Click here to watch Part 1: Raymond Suttner speaks on the evolution of the African National Congress, covering the party's formative years, its resistance to apartheid, mass participation and its rise to government.
Click here to watch Part 2: Raymond Suttner discusses models of African National Congress leadership with regards to outstanding individual leaders and the notion of collective leadership.
Click here to watch Part 3: Raymond Suttner considers the "glorification of violence" under the current African National Congress leadership, as well as the party's decision to take up armed struggle in the 1960s.
Click here to watch Part 4: Raymond Suttner speaks on race, non-racialism, and the relevance of affirmative action and black economic-empowerment today.