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A coalition of foundations named after eminent South Africans and struggle stalwarts has backed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call during his recent inauguration for a national dialogue on SA’s socioeconomic crises.

Ramaphosa had in his inauguration called for the dialogue to chart a collective vision for the country’s future over the next three decades. SA’s many challenges include high unemployment, low economic growth, violent crime and a rising cost of living that has pushed many below the bread line. 

A joint statement by foundations bearing the names of struggle stalwarts Ahmed Kathrada, Chief Albert Luthuli, Desmond and Leah Tutu, Jakes Gerwel, Oliver and Adelaide Tambo, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Thabo Mbeki and the Umlambo Foundation, was read by Biko’s son, Nkosinathi Biko, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday. 

Biko said that over the past 15 years SA found itself on a “dangerous and uncertain path” that led it to the current governance paralysis. 

The parlous state of economic growth, widespread corruption, crime, poverty, growth inequality and unemployment “have earned our nation a dishonourable place on many global indices”.

The ticking time bomb must be disarmed, said Biko.

The announcement follows the May 29 election in which the ANC lost its majority for the first time since SA’s first democratic election in 1994 as voters expressed their disillusionment with the party’s governance failures.

Biko said it had become imperative for the “entire nation” to  extricate itself from the socioeconomic crises buffeting one of Africa’s largest and most industrialised economies. 

An urgent national intervention was required to restore legitimacy, credibility and enhancement of the SA project. 

The foundations are to engage civil society, children and youth organisations, unions, think-tanks, academia, and other grassroots formations to help resuscitate the soul of the nation.

Biko said the foundations would approach the government to ensure such a national dialogue was adequately resourced and supported. “A secretariat shall be set up to develop the national dialogue programme.” 

Former struggle stalwart Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said it was clear that “SA is in a political crisis”.

“For the first time in 30 years the electorate has decided not to give any political party a majority vote. This has presented an opportunity for citizens [and] communities to review the past years and to focus on what has gone wrong, and how that can be addressed,” said Fraser-Moleketi, a former minister in the Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki cabinets.

The election results “call upon all of us to reflect on the SA we want for the future and our children. There have been two previous occasions, quite seminal for the country, where there has been such reflection: the Congress of the People where a call was made that resulted in the formation of the Freedom Charter; and the second one [is] Codesa [Economic Convention for a Democratic SA]”. 

Fraser-Moleketi said constitutional commitments had materialised and there was still more work to be done. “We started with great enthusiasm and we made gains, but we’ve also lost some of those gains in recent years.” 

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said in a statement: “The UDM is satisfied with the intention to host a national dialogue, an action the UDM has been advocating for years, akin to Codesa, and we are pleased that former President Thabo Mbeki and President Cyril Ramaphosa have adopted the idea.” 

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