Speech by Flip Buys, chairperson of the Solidarity Movement, to the trade union Solidarity’s annual conference, 16 May 2018
The time has come to renew trust
16 May 2018
Mr President, council members, guests of honour, members of staff and members of the media
Today we are talking about a future for the youth. But then we have to make sure the future is not just a continuation of the current state the country is in. There must be a change because, currently, South Africa is not in a good place: In its politics everyone is fighting with everyone; the state is decaying bit by bit; the economy is almost not moving; unemployment and poverty remain high; crime is the order of the day; racism is rearing its ugly head; violent protests are destructive; corruption has become a contagious disease; ongoing mudslinging prevails on social media; and minority groups such as the Afrikaners are under tremendous pressure.
The solution lies in mutual recognition and respect among people and communities for that is what is essential for the peaceful, sustainable and prosperous existence of all of us. However, there is an important prerequisite for such a successful future – namely trust. My message today is that the time has come to renew mutual trust because, currently, our country is characterised by growing distrust, increasing disappointment and a rising anger over all that is going wrong. This problem – which I would call a crisis in trust – is a broader issue that goes beyond being a problem between black and white, or between different political groupings, trade unions or other groupings.
As a movement of 450 000 members or families, we want to, and we can make a meaningful contribution to improve trust and to contribute to a future in which we can all live permanently free, safe and prosperous. Everyone has a duty to ensure that our young people have a fine future and that is why it is our duty to build trust among us and in so doing to build confidence in the future.
Building confidence does not mean that you have to neglect your own interests – on the contrary. What it does mean is that you have to promote your own and the general interest by looking for solutions. It is true that we do not always have shared views but we do have shared interests such as a safe country; economic prosperity; the aspiration for a good job; a functioning state; and sound relations between people and communities. The key to this is to focus on what we agree on and to see to it that where we differ about matters in the country it does not divide us in such a way that we start to distrust and fight each other.
The weak leadership during the Zuma years played a decisive role in the weakening of unity and trust but if we allow his legacy to poison the country we will be kept hostage by the past and so we will give final victory to this dismal “leader” who caused the country to suffer. However, if the main reason for this crisis in trust that has set in over the past few years lay with that president, then the good news is that he was phased out and there is now a new leader who is in the process of establishing himself.
It is unfortunate that Mr Ramaphosa saw a bad start with the issue of expropriation without compensation which is polarising people instead of bringing them closer to joint solutions. To heal the division the president will have to show leadership by taking everyone’s fundamental interests into consideration. The time has come to work for the future of the next generation and not to divide the country in anticipation of the next election. Our youth deserves more than political slogans.
A country of those suffering injustice and the aggrieved?
I am making the strong assertion that it would appear as if our country is currently marked by growing distrust, increasing disappointment and mounting anger, which have all resulted in a crisis of trust. This applies to virtually all communities and is evident in the daily news which sometimes makes one despair about the future. In essence, too many people are too angry. The good news is that, generally speaking, we still have good personal relations but political relations should not deteriorate to such a point where it would be fouling sincere personal relations.
Let me mention a few examples:
Many black people are angry about poor or no service delivery and are disappointed by the economic fruit political liberation has born, which at times have created unattainable expectations. That is why we have too many devastating protests instead of grievances being channelled via democratic avenues;
Many of the poor and the unemployed believe government is failing them and that the “rich” (ordinary working people) are the cause of their misery;
Many of the white people are angry because they are being blamed for what had happened even before they were born, while others don’t want to take responsibility for what they are up to at the moment. It does not help either that government keeps on blaming the past for their poor governance in the present;
Citizens of all races feel that government is not protecting them from violent crime;
Young black people feel that white privilege is being perpetuated while white people feel that their relative prosperity comes notwithstanding their being disadvantaged and it is the result of hard, honest work;
Young white people feel they are being disadvantaged by race laws without ever having been advantaged, while young black people, who have not been disadvantaged, are now being advantaged;
Workers feel that they are getting almost nothing for their taxes, and they have to pay increasingly more for less public services which are increasingly deteriorating and getting worse, while their hard-earned money is often squandered;
Businessmen feel that government is making it increasingly hard for them to continue to do business successfully, and socialist trade unions are making job creation impossible;
Many Afrikaners are experiencing that government is singling them out for prejudice and that their fundamental interests are being undermined;
The socialists, again, feel aggrieved because they believe government should use state power to “redistribute” the hard-earned assets of the “rich,” where “redistribute” is the euphemism for “grabbing”;
There is too much mutual distrust between racial groups that is being incited by unscrupulous politicians who are not being reprimanded by the ANC. It certainly looks as if the EFF tail is wagging the ANC dog.
People no longer talk to one another but almost only about one another;
A small group of intolerant commentators (experts without knowledge) are waging a vendetta against AfriForum and Solidarity, abusing what has almost become a monopoly in the public media by shouting at us all the time and by comparing us to extremist groups as if the fire fighters should be considered in the same breath as the arsonists.
Naturally, this list could be longer or shorter depending on everyone’s personal views and experiences, and obviously there are many positives to mention too, but the point is those and other issues are creating a breach in trust between government and the various citizen groupings, and there is mounting disappointment among members of all communities about what is happening in the country. However, it is of little use to blame the past under apartheid or Zuma’s disastrous rule. The past is gone – we can and must do something about the future. Each one of us can start to improve relations right now simply by treating others in a Christian way and which is not based on the stereotypes one sees on TV or on social media.
The consequences of a breach of trust
There is a “contract” between any government and its citizens. In terms of this contract the citizens allow government to rule over them and they agree to obey the authorities and to pay taxes, provided that government honours its part of the contract by governing the country in a proper way, by appropriating tax in a responsible manner and by fulfilling its key functions such as safety in a proper manner. Government is no longer complying with its contractual obligation and that is causing the breach of trust with many of its citizens, black and white. ANC supporters do have channels to air their grievances within the party, but minority groups are democratically excluded from such channels and cannot address their crisis of trust via “normal” channels. The many talks over so many years between the ANC and government on the one hand and representatives of Afrikaans organisations on the other, which without exception have led to nothing, prove this. This crisis in trust is disadvantaging Afrikaners as a minority group and is also to the detriment of the country.
This crisis in trust gives rise to five types of responses:
Those who withdraw: Such people no longer trust government and live like privatised citizens who are looking only after their own interests;
Those who leave the country: Those are some of the highly-skilled and much needed citizens who have lost all confidence in the country (breach of trust) and not just in government;
The protesters: They are protesting against poor service delivery but nothing can be built up by breaking it down or by setting it on fire;
The survivors: They are just going with the flow trying to survive;
The constructive ones: They love the country and while they might not always like government they respond in a constructive way by doing what they can with what they have at their disposal right there where they are.
Proposal: Renew trust by means of a national dialogue
Canadian thinker Charles Taylor said that inter-group trust in multi-ethnical societies cannot be taken for granted as it is always a work in process. According to him, it is important to renew that trust on a regular basis as trust wanes and fades over time, resulting in negative consequences for the country and for all involved. Solidarity’s Executive Council yesterday resolved that it has become necessary to attempt to renew trust by means of dialogue and by concluding agreements with the authorities. It could take the form of a national dialogue. To ensure that it does not degenerate into purposeless idle talking once again, there are two preconditions for such dialogue:
The first is that mutual recognition of and respect for people, communities and human life are non-negotiable. Some of the ANC’s policies have given rise to major distrust among Afrikaners. I want to make it clear that we will go out of our way to rebuild trust but that we (like Van Zyl-Slabbert) do not consider it to be a democracy when two wolves and a sheep have to “democratically” decide what is on the menu for supper;
The second is that we should not merely listen to one another’s views but that some action be taken. We are tired of talking about problems such as unfair race laws, the decay of towns, violent crime and Afrikaans schools and universities that are under attack, without anything being done about those problems. It would appear as if the ANC has a total inability to look beyond its own narrow ideological and racial boundaries so as to consider the interests of all in the country. Such a dialogue with the ANC and government should therefore not just be a one-sided explanation of government policy but should result in an agreement or agreements, for example in the form of a follow-up settlement or a cultural accord that will be implemented and is not just shelved like all previous ones.
The alienation among many Afrikaners stems from our experience that government broke the constitutional agreement in terms of which majority rule was exchanged for minority protection. Expropriation can be “legitimised” by the courts, parliaments and laws but it does not make it “RIGHT”. In this regard, I am not just referring to the expropriation of land but of Afrikaans universities, people’s jobs, shareholding in businesses, schools and constitutional rights. It is our patriotic right and duty to take a stand against policies that are detrimental to the country or that rule against us or treat us like second class subjects instead of free and equal citizens.
We really do want the country to be successful because this is where our children and we live. We are keen to help make the country successful but then we should not be excluded, side-lined, or targeted.
A mainstream, 80% movement pursuing normality
I want to make it clear that we have never pretended to speak “on behalf of” Afrikaners. However, we believe that we are talking in the interest of almost everybody when, for example, we are championing property rights (or other human rights) because expropriation harms everyone in a country. We are a mainstream, “80%” movement comprising 450 000 people who are striving for normality. We are not representing the two extremes of the political spectrum. The Solidarity Movement does not believe in foreign, extremist, imported or outdated ideologies.
Broadly-speaking, our “80% framework of ideas is as follows:
We have a Christian democratic foundation (with a sense of calling);
A growing market economy;
Rule of law;
Sound race relations and collaborative relationships;
Federalism, in others words the recognition of independent communities instead of centralism;
Good employment and a productive, well-trained and well-paid workforce;
Mother tongue education and training for those who so choose;
The family as building block of society;
Afrikaans, our cultural way of life, history and heritage;
Social care for the vulnerable
Multiple identities such as Africans, Afrikaners, South Africans and Afrikaans speaking people.
Constitutional spaces and rights are not “rightist”; it is only normal to pursue normality.
The time for a new beginning has come
We are not fighting for a better past; we are not hanging on to unjust privileges but as a community we want to be part of the future. Our young people deserve better than having to feel unwelcome and being treated like second-class citizens in their own country. We are not asking for the impossible; we are only asking for free democratic space to give expression to our language and culture.
Why do have to resort to having to raise our issues abroad because of the closed doors we meet in South Africa? Why don’t we rather come to agreements on issues and then together seek international investment? Why must the North West Province be run into the ground despite the fact that in October last year AfriForum concluded an agreement with the premier to assist in the turning around of municipal services? Why do we allow criminals to terrorise us day and night and why don’t the police reach an agreement with AfriForum’s neighbourhood watch network to improve everyone’s safety countrywide? Why is the hand of cooperation we are extending not taken?
The ANC cannot solve the country’s problems all by itself and no one else can do so by itself. We would like to develop solutions for the problems our country and cultural community are facing and to do so in a constructive way. That is why we are extending a hand of friendship to the new president and government. It is an open hand; not a clenched fist but it is not the meek hand of a pleading beggar either. We respect government but we also have self-respect. We firmly believe in reconciliation but we reject its attenuation into assimilation into the majority. Why must minorities fight for that which majorities take for granted? If government is not concerned about us as a cultural community then we will accept responsibility for our own future. However, the time has come for a new beginning: Let’s start talking to one another and let’s work together for a new future for the country and all its people.
Chairperson: Solidarity Movement
Issued by Solidarity, 16 May 2018