Monday, 30 December 2013

Kenny Kunene's Sunday Independent column

The column below appeared in the Sunday Independent of 29 December 2013, in a slightly altered form, and with the opinion of a little-known member of the ANC accompanying it. (

For the original text written by Kenny Kunene, please feel free to reference the text below.

A future more important than our pasts

When Gayton McKenzie and I became involved in creating the Patriotic Alliance, we obviously knew our pasts would be what all our opponents would use most strongly to try to attack us. 
We were prepared for the worst of it.
But those same pasts are exactly what has put us on the tongues of all South Africans. All the same, we’re not counting on it keeping us there. Our present and future deeds will do that, and for all the right reasons. Just as everyone in this country knows that we were once criminals, those same people know that for more than 10 years we have not been criminals. We have actively opposed crime, particularly all forms of gangsterism and have poured our money, energy, personal networks and time into initiatives to reduce crime. South Africa’s future will be one in which gangsterism and crime disappears not because we think that would be very nice, but because we will create a country in which doing crime is not among the few options available to so many of our young people to survive.
There is nothing worse than seeing your own life improve, while you leave your people behind you in the gutter. Sushi has long lost its flavour for me, when it is something the children from my old township might never be able to taste for themselves. To be clear, I am not ashamed of my success, my money or the flamboyant lifestyle I enjoyed over these last few years. It was my right to enjoy my success and there was nothing wrong with me or any of my friends having money. But there was definitely something wrong with all the millions in this country who had nothing and I just can’t look the other way any more. 
I can’t look the other way when presidents build castles for themselves on money meant for our people. When billions are “lost” each year, but should have uplifted the poor. When multibillion-rand deals are signed and simply go towards making a few rich men even richer. When the RDP house a mother once showed tears of gratitude for simply falls apart around her because it’s built so poorly. When gangsters kill each other for nothing more than a few corners from which to make our kids slaves to drugs — all while no one shows the political will to be accountable to those people who put them in power.
I can’t look the other way, when deep down I know what needs to be done to fix this country. You may be surprised to hear such a statement, but I say it not in arrogance but rather with the weight of all the heavy responsibility that statement brings. It would have been easy for me to just shrug and say “this is far bigger than me”, but I would have been lying. Millions of poor people look to me and to Gayton. Together, we are far bigger than any one man or two friends. I must try to make this vision real through something I believe in: the Patriotic Alliance.
It has been far too easy for our detractors to say we are nothing more than a gangster party. When Mzwandile Masina from the ANC Youth League says that he will write to the IEC to object to former prisoners going to Parliament, he is providing evidence that politicians in this country don’t read. After more than five years after your sentence, you can go to Parliament, although — for the record  — neither Gayton nor I intend going to Parliament, though the PA will win a substantial number of parliamentary seats next year. Our place remains in the party, forming alliances with ever more groups, to make them understand our vision to turn South Africa around.
So instead of focusing on the policies we are offering, our detractors focus on our past. They make out we are the first politicians to talk to gangsters. But at every election both the DA and the ANC have gone to speak to gang members to support their election campaigns. They know the gang leaders are trusted in communities more than politicians. Politicians have brought that on themselves and now want to blame the gangsters. They sneak to the gangsters’ houses at night. We go by day because we are all opposed to the culture of gangsterism. The PA doesn’t quietly, tacitly support gangsterim — as the other parties do. 
All the research into gangsterism shows that you only find gangsterism and vigilantism in communities where there is far too much violence — but no justice, no trust in the police, no trust in the government and no alternative forms of survival. In Khayelitsha you see necklacings. In Manenberg you see guns. The root cause of both is the same: complete and utter disinterest from the ruling DA to make a fundamental change in the way our people live.
The PA will not be treating symptoms, because gangsterism and crime is a symptom. We will treat causes. Poverty is a cause. Injustice is a cause. Lack of political will to transform our society is a cause. These are what turn children into gangsters. No child is born a gangster and no child should become one. All the former gangsters who support the PA do so because they are tired of war. They want lasting peace. They want a future for their children.
Everyone said that once Rashied Staggie came out of jail there would be war. But he has done everything he promised us. He has stayed away from gang activities. He has focused on his family.
No gang member is a leader of this party. But all South Africans are welcome to join this alliance, be they former criminals or future saints.
When the PA consulted with the community, we spoke to everyone, from floor cleaners to politicians who once crossed floors in Parliament. At these meetings in the Western Cape and in other areas across South Africa, people came out in their numbers. No one in the PA nominate himself or herself as a leader. We were elected from the floor at our inaugural conference.
There are far bigger issues in South Africa than the pasts of Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene. 
If you think we are missing something in our vision for this country then join this alliance and help us to make service delivery second nature to government, help us to truly empower all South Africa’s people, give them quality education, a corruption-free state with strong capacity, quality healthcare for all, booming industries, a land reform programme that delivers results and a banking system that serves the people instead of exploiting them. Help us to lower crime by raising equality.
Our critics must always remember what Amilcar Cabral says: ““Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”
This is what our Patriotic Alliance commits to give to our people: A guaranteed future for our children.

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