THE national chairman of ActionSA, Michael Beaumont, is clearly intelligent and not unwilling to take the fight to his opponents. He has a good and reasoned understanding of South Africa's systemic problems and is quick to provide preliminary solutions.
Whatever our differences, he agrees with me that uMngeni's DA mayor, Chris Pappas, represents an idiom with favourable bona fides for a broad spectrum of South Africans.
I approached Beaumont about a few policy issues that I thought might be to the party's disadvantage in the lead-up to the 2024 election.
What is ActionSA's economic philosophy? I assume it is based on the ideas of the free market but nuanced enough to provide for the fact that many South Africans do not experience the empowerment that access to the labour market and the demanding requirements of a free-market economy would provide?
Our policy conference is in September 2023, and some of our policies are currently just a set of ideas that will eventually be outlined in more detail after the conference. However, our philosophy, or rather the set of ideas, is unequivocally grounded in the values and principles of the free-market system. This does not mean that we do not have a full understanding of the injustices of the past. Over 42% of South Africans cannot find employment. Poverty is endemic and social grants do not make up for the dire situation in which millions of South Africans find themselves.
Well, who is responsible for or accountable for poverty; surely both the state and the flaws in the free-market system?
We recognise the role and function of the state but also believe that a free-market system has a better capacity to address poverty than what the state's social approach can achieve. However, the state must have the capacity to fulfil its constitutional obligations, which is not the case in South Africa under the ANC.
Are poverty and unemployment solely attributable to the state?
Poverty and unemployment in South Africa are not the result of flaws in the free-market system but rather of poor political policies, inept bureaucratic management and the absence of the kind of free-market principles that encourage economic investment and the creation of employment and social opportunities. No free-market economy can thrive in the presence of a weakened and corrupt state that lacks an understanding of its constitutional mandate.
Be specific, how do you envision the role of the state under a government where ActionSA has proven influence?
Well, there will certainly need to be a complex network of social grants to address the alienation and poverty experienced by a majority of South Africans. Obviously, we have no choice but to acknowledge that we must ultimately reach a point where average South Africans can take care of themselves. The dependence of poor people on the state cannot be indefinite. Alongside that, there will need to be renewed emphasis on our well-known infrastructure problems, as well as the factors contributing to a discouraging investment climate. These are all responsibilities of an effective state that acts with integrity.
What about the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant? Will you discontinue it if the election results in 2024 allow it? The ANC claims opposition parties will discontinue this and other grants if they come into power. This is probably a significant reason why a substantial number of voters still support the ANC.
These grants, or at least the continued availability of the social relief grant, must be considered in the context of financial feasibility. Given the challenges posed by insufficient economic growth, the sustainability of these grants is likely not guaranteed.
Unfortunately, there are no short-term solutions. Alongside a healthy market economy, quality education and training as well as infrastructure development are undoubtedly South Africa's most viable propositions for alleviating poverty. The damage to the fabric of our economy and society is of such a nature that there can be no quick fixes.
It may not be a pleasant political reality, but it is certainly an unavoidable reality that we will have to pay an unaffordable price to reverse the destruction caused by the ANC government.
Your party performed well in 2021, and I believe you received 16% of the votes in Johannesburg. Since then, there seems to have been no measurable growth?
Local elections are not a proper measure of national support. We will be able to make a proper judgment of ActionSA's actual support after the 2024 election. Currently, we are diligently and systematically establishing a presence in all nine provinces. We have already established branches in over 25% of all voting districts across the country.
However, there is still much work to be done in almost all cities and towns in South Africa. For new parties, it is an ongoing struggle to market meaningful policies and a relevant political identity in a way that not only raises awareness of your party but also communicates the ideas and principles you stand for.
There is tremendous growth potential for opposition parties like ActionSA in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, even Limpopo. The ANC's corruption and poor governance create many opportunities for new and smaller parties to grow. Opposition parties have fertile ground to cultivate.
DA leader John Steenhuisen's proposed ‘moonshot pact' stumbled somewhere along the way, but not necessarily on the path to constructive cooperation?
The argument is not difficult. If the DA leader announces a moonshot pact and two weeks later the party's federal council in Cape Town responds in a way that undermines the credibility of the agreement, there is not much leeway for the other partners in the agreement. How is it possible that the DA can act in a way that allows the ANC and the EFF to take over Johannesburg while Mpho Phalatse's partners were negotiating a working agreement with each other?
It seems Steenhuisen couldn't obtain approval from federal chair Helen Zille for the negotiated agreement of the multiparty coalition. Regional or local coalitions are being evaluated and managed centrally from Cape Town?
The DA should act in the interest of all partners and the residents of Johannesburg, not in its own interest. The DA would rather see the ANC/EFF coalition take over Johannesburg than support the interests of its partners in the multi-party coalition. As a result, several party leaders who attended the multiparty coalition meeting last week have now made the point that the DA's moonshot pact is a political illusion.
In a country where xenophobia is an entrenched social problem, are your party's views and policies on foreigners a threat to human rights?
ActionSA is actually concerned about xenophobia, and therefore we do not target foreigners. It is about any political jurisdiction's obligation to protect its national borders. Social stability, proper regulation of social order, access to the labour market and the availability of social services all depend on proper border management. These are not principles unique to South Africa; they are universal principles, and they are about the supremacy of the law. It is the administrative failures of the current government that expose foreigners to xenophobia, political uncertainty, and social decay, not our efforts to advocate for more effective bureaucratic management of the country's borders.
You make a big fuss about South Africa needing proper border management, but we simply don't have the administrative or policing powers to enforce it.
Well, don't expect me to accept that South Africa lacks the ability to implement border management. A country or government that cannot enforce border control forfeits the right to a national jurisdiction. Your question implies that things should be left to chance, and that is simply nonsense.
I don't know, my question still seems valid to me.
Well, it is ridiculous to label ActionSA as xenophobic just because we insist on a rule of law that fulfils its obligations.
Okay, let's move on.
No! If the government had done its job, foreigners with legitimate claims to residency would have had valid documentation, and in the process their human rights would have been respected. The suffering and vulnerability of these people are due to the incompetence of bureaucrats and the ruling party. We cannot argue that South Africa's inadequate capacity to enforce border control is a necessary reality that we should accept. That would give everyone a free pass to our country. You should reconsider your operational definition of xenophobia.
Herman Mashaba expressed the idea that ActionSA will ‘bring back religion in schools'?
That is Herman's opinion but it is something that will be discussed during our policy conference. I'm sure there will be competing opinions. However, by far the majority of South Africans respect each other's religious preferences, and along with family values, religion is definitely part of the foundations of a healthy society.
Religion is not a guarantee of good family values.
No, it is not, but the state should give both narratives space to express themselves, regardless of how communities define them.
What is your opinion on the death penalty?
Instead of fixating on that issue, we should focus on policies that can address the problem of violent crime. We will also have to discuss it at the September policy conference, but for now it is a valid argument that our criminal justice system may not be trusted with something as complex and weighty as the death penalty. Furthermore, reintroducing the death penalty would require a 75% majority in the national legislature, as it assumes an amendment to the human rights chapter of our constitution. I doubt that it would be possible at all.
♦ VWB ♦
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