Two years in the making was the National Dialogue held at Hill on Empire on the 05th May 2017. An amalgamation of Foundations got together to discuss ways to resolve the many issues our country is facing.
What came from these discussions was the birth of the National Dialogue Foundations Initiative (NDFI). I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural national dialogue which was supported by influential figures and founders of these different foundations. In attendance was former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, F W de Klerk, members of parliament such as Inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, other figures such as former minister of finance Mr Jonas. The dialogue was pegged to be the first of many where individuals from different communities and different societal echelons can come together under the same roof to discuss issues that affect South Africans.
The three former presidents had a chance to render their speeches with F W de Klerk kicking off the conversation speaking on the effects of corruption and how this needs to be dealt with quickly in defence of our democracy. Mr. Motlanthe spoke of the great gap between the rich and the poor in the country and how it is seemingly increasing. Mr. Mbeki made a call to South Africans to begin to reimagine a new South Africa. He went on to say “the rose is sick” which was to say that the country is not well at all and our democracy is at risk of losing its value and in the process of losing the very people this democracy was fought for.
I was particularly taken by the entry of the EFF to the venue. They came with plaque cards citing F W de Klerk is a criminal and should not have such a platform to talk about defending democracy. One of them had written, “Charge de Klerk for murder!” This was a very interesting discussion point for South Africans because it then questioned how we as Africans can allow the ICC to want to arrest Presidents such as Al Bashir and yet allow de Klerk to roam freely on the streets of South Africa.
While many issues were brought to the table, two things stood out for me personally. One was the fact that many called for an economic CODESSA.While we had one during the transition from one governmental system to the current one, only politics were discussed. So the call was to the former presidents to organise an economic CODESSA. The second was the call for the involvement of youth. The dialogue was filled with many elders who seemed to be dealing with these issues in a way which was normal to their era. So a debate began on the involvement of youth since many issues involves the youth which make up more than 50% of the country’s population and who make up much of the percentage of citizens affected by unemployment. The organising committee had no youth and there was a call made for this to change.
From here, more dialogues across the country will be held. The NDFI has a goal of taking this dialogue to other major cities in the country, to schools and many rural spaces where a voice can be given to those who do not have one.
In my mind, this is a wonderful initiative. But I will be watching very closely how this will affect the country going forward and how having these dialogues help us reimagine a new South Africa and how we can realise a new South Africa.