Radio Islam International partnered with Jamiatul Ulama South Africa and South African Muslim Network to invite the top five political parties in South Africa to engage with the general public on 8th April in Durban. The panel discussion was broadcast live by Radio Islam.
This article will identify some of the issues that were raised by the moderator of the panel, Mawlana Sulaiman Rawat, and the responses of the panellists. I will omit the questions that were posed to the panel by the moderator and the audience and mention their responses only.
The ANC was represented by John Jefferies, the DA by Imran Keeka, the IFP by Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the EFF by Vusi Khoza and the NFP by Happy Khuzwayo.
John Jefferies admitted that the ANC had made mistakes. However, at the same time, the ANC has made tremendous strides:
- It has achieved some reformation and transformation including in education and health. It has been in the forefront in the fight against AIDS.
- It is committed to fighting corruption.
- It has undertaken to focus on land reform, national cohesion and economic growth. Our economy has grown. President Cyril Ramaphosa had a job summit recently.
- There is a global economic recession and the government cannot employ everybody. It has introduced minimum wages and social grants and it has attracted direct foreign investment.
- It will pay special attention to load shedding.
- While Jacob Zuma still appears at ANC rallies, the government has established the Zondo commission which will look into Zuma’s involvement in corruption.
- None of the top six ANC executive members or members on the party list has been found guilty of any crime. It is the branches that elect members.
- It is committed to downgrading the embassy in Israel and the ambassador has been recalled.
Imran Keeka claimed that the DA is the only party that can bring about change:
- The ANC is responsible for load shedding, corruption, lack of service delivery. The DA will eliminate corruption and deliver services to communities.
- The corruption and patronage discovered in DA-run municipalities were inherited from the ANC. Why are nine municipalities run by the ANC put under administration
- The DA saved cities from a deficit.
- The DA has created between 50% and 74% of jobs in the Western Cape.
- The DA will not prevent anyone from crossing the borders into South Africa. However, it will make it easier for immigrants to have proper documentation. There is corruption in the Home Affairs department and foreign nationals are being provided with permits in exchange for sexual “favours.”
- On the issue of Palestine, the party is committed to the two-state solution, the pre-1967 borders, lifting the siege on Gaza, dismantling illegal settlements, recognizing Jerusalem as a shared capital of the two states.
- The DA disagrees with the decision to downgrade the SA Embassy in Israel. It believes that SA should continue to engage with Israel to find a solution. Netanyahu will be allowed to enter the country if he arrived here. Though the ANC will downgrade the embassy, the consulate will remain and trade will continue.
- The DA did not object to the establishment of mosques in a number of towns as alleged. Keeka pointed out that the ANC wanted to demolish a mosque in Lenasia. He denied that the DA was the only party to object to the construction of the proposed mosque in Ballito and invited the public to view the relevant documents which would prove that the DA was being falsely accused.
- The DA saved cities from bankruptcy.
- Helen Zille must be condemned for her derogatory remarks about refugees from Eastern Cape coming to settle in the Western Cape.
Vusi Khoza of the EFF said that people have continued to suffer under the ANC. His party was based on the following seven principles:
- Expropriation of South Africa's land without compensation for equal redistribution.
- Nationalisation of Mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation.
- Building State and government capacity, which will lead to the abolishment of Tenders.
- Free quality education, healthcare, houses, and sanitation.
- Massive protected industrial development to create millions of sustainable jobs including Introduction of minimum wages in order to close the wage gap between the rich and the poor.
- Massive development of the African economy and advocating for a move from reconciliation to justice in the entire continent.
- Open, accountable, corrupt-free government and society without fear of victimisation by State agencies.
The EFF is convinced that the majority of Indians are racists. Judge Zac Yacoob had endorsed this claim and Julius Malema was simply echoing workers’ views:
- It is committed to establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
- Foreign investors would be attracted to South Africa when they learnt that all vacant land was in government hands because it will be cheaper and the tariffs will be lower. All land belongs to indigenous people and it has to be expropriated and equitably redistributed to correct the power imbalance.
- It will embark on massive industrialization. Everything that we need should be manufactured in the country. No products should be imported from Israel.
- Churches should be regulated because of corruption.
- All unused land should be occupied by those without proper housing.
- It will sever all ties with Israel.
- Everyone is free to cross our borders and enter our country as long as they have the relevant documents.
Mkhuleko Hlengwa of the IFP said that under the ANC the country has reached junk status and under both the ANC and DA there were service delivery problems. The IFP has established agricultural projects, provided running water and electricity. It compelled the MEC for Health to roll out ARVs when the ANL led government was in denial. Hlengwa promised that his party will:
- Consult widely.
- Pay attention to rural communities and traditional leaders.
- Focus on economic development and job creation to reduce unemployment.
- Due to the high crime rate and violence, to campaign for the death penalty to be reviewed.
- Investigate state-owned enterprises like DENEL, ESKOM, PRASA.
- Pay special attention to schools, clinics, water, electricity, housing.
- Not demand land expropriation because it has failed in other countries.
- Ensure peace and stability conducive to business.
The reason why Buthelezi has been party head for so long – despite the fact that he offered to step down - is that the party structures wanted him to remain. This is not against the constitution. However, he will be stepping down in July.
Happy Khuzwayo of the NFP admitted that there were internal conflicts and defections from the party, but said that this is normal – other parties also have conflicts and defectors. Despite this, the party is stable. It is open to form an alliance with other parties. She declared that her party:
- Supports expropriation without consultation.
- Will formalise the taxi industry.
- Will grow the economy.
- Will ensure that there are mobile clinics to serve rural communities.
- Will make it mandatory for South Africans to have a share in foreign investments in South Africa.
- Will demand a “life audit” for all public representatives.
The debate was lively and Mawlana Rawat handled it extremely well. The representatives basically spelt out their party’s position on the issues that were raised and refused to be drawn into giving their own opinions.
What was most disappointing was the poor turnout of Muslims at the event. Despite the fact that the organisers and the Radio station covering the event were Muslim, there were no more than a half dozen Muslims in the audience. Apparently, Lenasia had the same experience.
This begs the question: Why are Muslims reluctant to attend meetings where they can educate themselves about various parties’ policies and principles, ask questions on issues which are of concern to them all of which could influence their decisions on election day?
Prof. Suleman Dangor