RISE Mzansi leader Songezo Zibi stated on Friday that as important as economic policy solutions are, it must be recognised that a thriving economy cannot be built without a strong, ethical and capable government.
Speaking during the party’s maiden People’s Convention in Johannesburg, Zibi explained that unless South Africa had a government that would take care of public money, implement rules of good governance, and fight crime effectively, the economy would not grow and jobs would not be created.
RISE Mzansi is holding its first People’s Convention over the weekend to discuss the socio-economic challenges facing the country and how to address them.
RISE Mzansi believes that the country’s politics has failed to live up to those values, and, therefore, the party is taking forward the work that it says has been neglected for 30 years.
Zibi said that instead of feeding people who are dying of hunger and depression, the government is repaying loans on money that is being “stolen by African National Congress cadres and their friends”, including the infamous Gupta family.
“And you know what? They are still stealing public money today,” he added.
He noted that unemployment was higher than it was 20 years ago. He said there were more unemployed young people today than 20 years ago, and more unemployed graduates today than at any point in the country’s history.
He added that nearly half of all children who started school never finished owing to poverty, hunger, stunting, drug abuse and other problems.
“We all know our economy does not work for everyone, but we now have even bigger problems than before. We cannot build an economy on broken infrastructure, loadshedding and a failing railway system. We cannot build an economy on dams and reservoirs that have no water in them,” said Zibi.
He explained that South Africans could not start or grow businesses when criminals controlled the streets and extorted money from businesses and also stated that businesses could not remain open when electricity, water and other government services were so expensive.
He highlighted that the years of corruption, of buying a roll of toilet paper for R100, or a laptop for R1-million, had brought the economy to its knees.
“That stolen money could have built roads and bridges, installed high-speed Internet in communities, hired more police and paid them more. It could have brought better equipment for our army, hired younger soldiers and paid them fair salaries so they can protect our borders,” he said.
Zibi explained that bad governance by bad politicians and corrupt political parties was standing in the way of prosperity and economic justice.
“When we have our discussions over the weekend, we must pay particular focus on governance because it is needed to grow the economy. It is in our collective power to make change happen. There are millions of South Africans waiting for the message we will leave this venue with on Sunday. They want a strong message, and we must go and tell it with confidence,” he said.
He said that RISE Mzansi believed that non-racialism would only be realised when South Africa had economic justice, adding this was not just about black people and women owning the productive economy. It was also about spatial planning and investment that worked to reverse old spatial patterns that keep black people poor, he added.
Also speaking at RISE Mzansi’s event was GOOD secretary-general Brett Herron.
“While there is good reason for a degree of pessimism in South Afric in the present moment, I also find room for great hope,” Herron said.
He said that beyond the scar tissue of the fights of the past, a new generation that spoke of justice, of equity, of sustainability and of love in any form and without judgement was rising.
Herron noted that it was a generation that craved unity and a future that was worth fighting for.
“We have a responsibility to fight their fight for them, and fight it alongside them rather than from above them,” he said.