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Self-made entrepreneur and Action SA founder and president Herman Mashaba delivered a stirring keynote at the BizNews@10 conference, re-iterating a consistent message – his young political party was created to eject the ‘criminal’ ANC from power, and he will never serve in any coalition that includes them. Mashaba’s lessons from his entrepreneurship journey and running the country’s biggest city shaped his approach to life and politics. In short: work hard, trust God and fight evil – and you will win. As Mashaba believes Action SA will do in next year’s watershed national election. – Alec Hogg
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Edited transcript of Herman Mashaba’s keynote address to the BizNews 10th Anniversary conference.
Thank you, Alec, and congratulations on the ten years.
Good morning, fellow South Africans. I want to clarify from the beginning: South Africa is currently in an era of coalitions due to our political landscape. The voters have spoken, and I don’t anticipate anyone achieving an outright majority in 2024.
I hope this coalition environment continues for the next hundred years. Globally, it has been shown that a one-party system is not always beneficial for society. If ever the party I lead, Action SA, seeks a coalition with the ANC, I’ll step aside.
This political party I lead is not for my personal gains. I started it with the intent to democratically unseat the ANC from power. As I approach 64 years of age, I’ve lived more than half of my life under the oppressive apartheid regime. Many of today’s ANC leaders don’t share this history.
By the time 1994 came around, we had supported them. And here I am, born in poverty but determined since the age of 22 to ensure PW Botha wouldn’t control my life. I resolved to be a capitalist, turning away from potential criminal paths to liberate myself. Given where I stand today, why would I associate with what I consider a criminal enterprise? I managed to avoid the criminal world in my youth, and I won’t join one now.
If anyone feels they can reform the ANC and collaborate with them, count me out.
The only time I’d engage with the ANC would be out of sheer necessity. I declined today’s invitation from Deputy President Paul Mashatile to engage in discussions on how coalitions will work after the 2024 election. But I do believe in democratic discussions, so I sent my team as representatives.
My past experiences as the mayor of Johannesburg taught me to always be wary of the ANC’s true intentions.
Fellow South Africans, if we ever have to be part of a multi-party government involving the ANC, I’d rather step away. The depth of corruption in the ANC is unchangeable, and it breaks my heart to think of coalitions with them. I left a thriving business to challenge the ANC, only to find in 2019 that my party (the Democratic Alliance) and the ANC had plots against me, all because I stood against corruption. I was providing services to poor communities, and it broke my heart.
For some inexplicable reason, I feel as though someone in my family made a terrible mistake, and God decided I’m the one to pay, because doing this job is brutal, but at the same time, it’s a necessary job. I’m using my privileged position to do my best to ensure that I can save my country. That’s all I’m doing. I don’t get paid for this. It’s costing me a fortune.
Imagine starting this at the time when captains of industry believe in Mr. Phala Phala? (Cyril Ramaphosa). I raised my reservations and became very unpopular with captains of industry as to why I was against Mr. Phala Phala.
Mr. Phala Phala has demonstrated to us that Jacob Zuma was a Sunday school picnic. And for me, listening to Rob Hersov now, when captains of industry want to work with the ANC to repair this country, I don’t know where they live. I must be delusional. Because what they are going to find is corruption and deeply rooted deployment. I don’t know how they’re going to solve that. A miracle might happen. I wish you all the best. As long as what I’m seeing is left out of it.
I ran an organisation which I was forced by South Africans to start in order and I also resigned as the mayor of the city of Johannesburg two years ahead of time because I have a natural instinct to know certain things. It came to my attention that my party and the ANC were having secret meetings to try to remove me from power. This was due to my sin of calling them out.
When you run a municipality or government, you don’t provide services to only those who voted for you. I hate to live side by side with poverty. I know what poverty means. I got involved in government and politics so that we can address this issue of poverty. I was accused of being an ‘EFF mayor’ because of providing toilets to people. And then my party went to negotiate secretly with the ANC to have a motion of no confidence against me. It was obvious for the ANC, because at the time I was pursuing R35 billion of fraud and corruption by senior ANC people.
I saw what was happening and said, “I’m out of here.” Civil society then said to me, “Herman, start your own political party.” I said, “My goodness, what have I done? How do I start a political party?” Fortunately enough, my grandfather always taught me to use this little brain to navigate the challenges.
So here we are. We have quite a collection of political parties. Not a single analyst or professor gave us a chance. They said in the city of Johannesburg, if Action SA got three councillors, we would be lucky. Free and fair elections happened, and ActionSA got 44 councillors in the city of Johannesburg.
Since the local government elections in November 2021, Action SA has participated had eight or so by-elections, the last one three weeks ago where we dropped the ANC support from 37% to 24%. And people tell me ANC is growing?
We’re the only political party in this country capable of unseating the ANC, and we are unapologetic about this.
I’ve always made it clear to South Africans that I believe in a multiracial society. Racial division and employment equity will end as long as I have a say. I’m not going to allow God-given creations to be separated by another man. I believe in a free market economy. The way this country can survive is to allow business to do business and for government to create an enabling environment for them.
That is why I’m being very clear on the subject of BRICS and Russia.
Russia is a curse to South Africa. We don’t need BRICS. When Action SA comes into power, I’m very clear that South Africa will not be part of BRICS. Not that I will not do business with other countries, but Russia is a liability. They trained these ANC people to destroy; they taught them that way in exile, and that’s why they continue to do so.
I believe in a free market economy, but I also believe in social justice. I know what poverty is. I know what it’s like to go to school without shoes. So I believe in social justice, and I believe the only way that we can make it as a country is to have the rule of law.
That’s why yesterday I mobilized thousands of South Africans to go to the Minister of Police to give him a memorandum to ask why just under 500 police stations are completely dysfunctional. We have a minister of police running from one crisis to the other. I don’t know when he is ever in the office to provide political direction to the police and put in professional people.
We also need to bring back the Scorpions as a matter of urgency with less political intervention so that we can really deal with the rule of law in our country.
There’s just no way we’re going to make it in this country if we are not prepared to educate our people. Are you aware I’m a product of Bantu education? The kind of education that I received, and the kind of education that a child in Gugulethu today gets, is worse than what HF Verwoerd used to give us. Very sad – 80% of public schools are dysfunctional.
And it’s not a mistake; it’s a plan by the ANC government to keep black people poor. That’s why I became unpopular with the ANC for the last 20 years. they hate to deliver to blacks. I have always said the ANC wants to keep black people uneducated so that they can control them. That’s why they hated ‘clever blacks’. I’ve always made it very clear – I like clever people, black and white, because educating people is the only way we can grow our economy and bring prosperity to our country.
Action SA contested only six municipalities in the 2021 local government elections. Even so, are you aware we are the sixth biggest political party in the country?
We are working very hard around the clock. This work I’m doing now, which I don’t get paid for, and which costs me money, is a very brutal job. But I believe strongly that we are going to unseat the ANC come 2024. It is not going to happen by chance; it’s going to happen out of hard work mobilising civil society.
I’m excited, I’m nervous, but we will work hard to ensure that we remove this evil government. Otherwise, South Africa is going to become another failed state. And if it does, then all of us must take the responsibility. For those of you who believe that you are not political animals, you are making a big mistake. You’re failing your children, you’re failing your grandchildren. Politics is going to come into your bedroom whether you like it or not.
So for us, as Action SA, we are prepared to work really hard for our country. I’m sure that with the money I’ve got I can afford to go an live elsewhere in the world but I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to use my privileged position, given to me by this country, to ensure that future generations, my grandchildren, can live in their country and a world where they are judged not on the basis of the colour of their skin but on their character. And that’s what I’m working towards. Thank you very much.
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