South Africa needs a national agenda more urgently than a succession debate, writesMotsoko Pheko

To talk of the succession to the ANC presidency is to take a road to nowhere. To make the "succession" a big indaba is like arguing about the choice of drivers when there is not a new and reliable car to drive.

To talk of the succession to the ANC presidency is to take a road to nowhere. To make the "succession" a big indaba is like arguing about the choice of drivers when there is not a new and reliable car to drive.

Giving a thought to the national agenda, on the other hand, is like buying a strong, beautiful and reliable car and then finding a driver to drive it according to its specifications. South Africa needs a reliable car more than it needs drivers without a car. There is too much personalisation of the struggle, resulting in a simplistic way of looking at the political situation in this country.

What this country needs is a national agenda that can take it out of its economic inequalities and the social degradation of the black majority, in particular.

Africans must fight for ideas instead of individuals. The fate of this country must be in the hands of its people. That is why this nation must find a national agenda first and then the leadership to implement it. The destiny of a people must not depend on personalities but on a programme that results in the social emancipation of most of its population.

Professor Sheikh Anta Diop, a great African thinker, has observed that "in the concrete struggle the people cannot do without a vanguard corps that will direct its actions. But there must be pressure on leaders from people to implement the national agenda in full. There must be delivery!"

This is the best way to guarantee the effectiveness of the economic liberation of the people. That is why talk about the national agenda is more important than the present monotonous debate on "succession". It is political naivety to think that, after 13 years of parliamentary democracy, the solution to this country's problems can be found in who becomes the ANC's president.

The people of this country must not copy the US style of democracy. Democracy in the US is money crazy. Next year the US election will cost more than R14 billion.

The number of seats in parliament earned by a party heavily financed by the rich to drive the agenda of the rich is dangerous to the development and political stability of this country.

A country just coming out of colonialism and economic oppression must avoid superficial analysis of its political realities.

Democracy in an African country should not be about periodic elections and a number of political parties. Democracy must raise the standard of living of its people in terms of employment, decent housing, good healthcare, accessible education, equitable sharing of land and its wealth, and general eradication of poverty and crime premised on a sound national morality.

Furthermore, it must enable citizens to tangibly engage with and gain access to their leaders and to influence policies. The poor performance of local councillors illustrates the chasm between electoral aspirations and real government delivery.

This country is four times the size of Britain and Northern Ireland combined. It is richer. The paradox is that its wealth above and below the soil continues to enrich, not Africans, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa's detriment and impoverishment.

At present South Africa's wealth benefits a tiny minority. For millions of blacks, the overthrow of apartheid has not made much difference. Only a carefully thought-out national agenda can make a fundamental difference.

The leaders who are being touted as presidential successors believe in policies that have failed for the past 13 years. They are the authors of the privatisation of strategic state assets, which is destroying jobs and making the rich richer, and even selling water to the poor. These "successors" believe in a land policy that is not realistic and is not working. They pursue an education policy that makes acquisition of professions and skills unaffordable. They oppose free meaningful education for the poor.

Their mode of developing the country has turned the rural areas and townships into cesspools of poverty, disease and high levels of crime. They preach moral regeneration but walk the path of moral degeneration, backed by repugnant laws that they pass in parliament because of their temporary majority.

For more than 13 years they have illegally imprisoned former freedom fighters against apartheid. Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. How does talk of "succession" help this situation?

The debate in South Africa must be about a pro-poor, pro-development and pro-black agenda. What must be done for the people, especially, for the more than 50 percent of them who live in dire poverty amidst the enormous wealth of this country.

The national agenda in post-colonial South Africa demands something in the nature of an economic revolution. Blacks have been held back in economic development and cast in the quagmire of poverty for far too long.

There is an urgent need for a national agenda that creates a society in which men and women will have no anxiety for jobs, food, decent homes, quality healthcare and free education. Education is the most prudent investment.

lMotsoko Pheko is a former president of the PAC