The inaugurations of new historical epochs do not reveal themselves with sharp clarity in their immediate moment. Rather, they require unrelenting fidelity to the ‘newness’ they purport to occasion.
In his first State of the Nation (SONA) address, President Cyril Ramaphosa remarked that this moment South African history signifies a ‘new dawn’: bringing forth a renewed period of hopefulness, in the wake of a challenging stretch of recent history that has been marred by unscrupulous actions across sectors of our society.
2018 has thus far been characterised by the seemingly unremitting intersection of loss and legacy. As icons of our struggle pass on, we pay tribute to the twinned centenaries of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, confronted with a present that is in complex conversation with the dreams and visions of the past.
In November 2017, the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation initiated a plan to convene a gathering of significant South African leaders from across all sections of society, including the youth, to share ideas, build agreement and wherever possible develop action plans to ensure the potential of this next decade is met.
As we commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, we are reminded to urgently address the plight of youth, the future leaders of the nation, with respect to education, skills and employment – hence the urgency of the call to accelerate progress in building a more just, prosperous and equitable society.
It is an express objective of the Conference to bring together South Africans from a variety of sectors, noting that the state has a critical role to play in active partnership with the private sector, the trade unions and civil society. In this regard a group of key speakers, thought leaders and participants have been selected to participate in this crucial conference, in order to lend support to government programme’s led by President Ramaphosa’s plan to turn around the economy, create more jobs – especially for the youth – reduce inequality and hence improve the lives of its citizens. The Foundation will facilitate discussions with thought provoking questions and insights, as input to break-out working groups on themes that will drive South Africa’s future shared growth and prosperity.
Such a gathering, alone, is not a solution in itself. Rather, it seeks to inspire action, building on present initiatives and pursuing the attainment of a country that realises the aspirations of South Africans like Mandela and Sisulu.
It is vital that a level of consensus, both in terms of analysis of our factual situation, but also through a shared set of beliefs about the direction over the next few years, be developed to stabilize and shift the country on the path towards the attainment of our democratic goals.
The conference aims to conduct action-focused and constructive dialogue around the theme of ‘Inclusive Growth’. It is a well-known fact that South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, with unemployment at 27% and poverty at 55%. The lived experience of contemporary democracy is vastly uneven, with difference in the experience of citizenship defined according to historical dividing lines of race, class and gender, a life without basic necessities of life and a common human decency that is ensured by our Constitution.
The Foundation believes that achieving the collective vision of the attainment of a democratic, inclusive and successful political economy and society, that underscored the struggle for freedom, will require effort from all of us.
This Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation Initiative conference is an opportunity for various talented individuals to contribute towards a vision of a South African future that was birthed by the founders of our democracy, and that has been entrusted to us as inheritors of their legacy. As inheritors of this vision and we must ensure that the country we bequeath to our youth is significantly released from the structural impediments, historical divisions and challenges of leadership that haunt our present. It is then that we can truly say that 2018 inaugurated a new dawn.