Songezo Zibi: Don’t be a cry baby, John

Songezo Zibi: Don’t be a cry baby, John

Songezo Zibi of Rise Mzansi is telling John Steenhuisen, the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), not to be a “cry baby” over his decision to challenge the DA in the Western Cape. “This is not personal,” he says. Zibi has also assured the business sector that there is no need to fear land expropriation and BEE. In an interview with BizNews, he explains the party’s stance on land expropriation, stating that his position aligns with South Africa’s constitution, which allows for land expropriation with compensation, similar to cases involving mines or dams. He dismisses claims of supporting a land grab. Zibi dissects the party’s BEE policies and differentiates between the cronyism practiced by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and Rise Mzansi’s aim to empower those who have been left out. His party is aiming for at least 12 to 20 Parliamentary seats. Zibi also comments on criticism of his support for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, stating that Rise Mzansi cares about the lives of all humans, whether they are Israeli, Palestinian, or Ukrainian. – Linda van Tilburg

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Summary of the interview

Songezo Zibi, leader of the rising political party Rise Mzansi, appeared on BizNews to discuss the party’s approach to the upcoming May elections. Zibi highlighted good governance and strong leadership as crucial to tackling South Africa’s economic woes. He delved into Rise Mzansi’s stances on land expropriation, emphasizing adherence to the constitution with fair compensation. Zibi also addressed Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), advocating for empowering those most marginalized, like school dropouts and the under-trained. He stressed the importance of fostering new entrepreneurs rather than simply enriching a select few.

The interview explored Zibi’s foreign policy views, particularly regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. He positioned Rise Mzansi as prioritizing human rights and international law, condemning violence against civilians on both sides. Zibi advocated for using the International Court of Justice as the proper forum for resolving such conflicts. He lamented the current “orgy of self-righteousness” that prevents constructive dialogue.

Zibi concluded by expressing his passion for effective leadership and governance. He identified corruption within state-owned enterprises as a major impediment to economic growth. He emphasised Rise Mzansi’s plans to invest in infrastructure and tackle the looming debt crisis. When asked about potential role models, Zibi named both Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela. He admired Obama’s ability to navigate the US through economic and social crisis, and Mandela’s unifying leadership grounded in principle and honesty. The interview wrapped up with Zibi thanking the host and expressing his optimism for the campaign.

Read the full transcript of the interview below ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Linda van Tilburg (00:05.087)

I am Linda van Tilburg for Biznews. Rise Mzansi is one of the new political parties that emerged in the past year in South Africa under the leadership of Songezo Zibi. It’s now about a year old and we’ve spoken exactly almost a year ago with Songezo and now we want to hear what he hopes to achieve in the May elections and what policies the party plans to pursue. So, Zongezo Zibi, thanks so much for joining us.

Songezo Zibi (00:33.582)

Thank you very much for having me on.

Linda van Tilburg (00:37.119)

Well, it’s been a year, as I said, since we spoke to you. Before we get into the policies that businessmen want to hear about. What kind of progress have you made in the past year?

Songezo Zibi (00:46.83)

, I was talking to a friend yesterday and he was remarking that he can’t believe that it’s been a whole year. At the same time, he can’t believe that it’s only been a year, given how much we’ve been able to do over the last 12 months. It’s going to be 12 months on the 19th of April and we’ve grown beyond our own expectations. We do what we call signing up registered supporters. In other words, it’s somebody who’s registered who was listening to our message and has decided that they’re going to vote for us in the next election. That becomes your base of voters because we’re a new political organisation. Other parties already have members. And by the time we get to the election, we’ll have about 500,000 of those people, which equates to about 12   assured seats in the National Assembly. We believe that we’re good for 20 seats if we don’t make any major mistakes in our campaign.

Linda van Tilburg (01:47.647)

So, you’re trying to win voters and obviously it’s the business community and there’s been quite substantial support from the business community you are reported to have attracted the highest funding from the business community among political parties. How vital is the support of this sector for your party?

Songezo Zibi (02:06.208)

So, by the way, we’ve received support from various people, including High Net Worth individuals, but actually the business community generally does not give to political parties. It’s generally high net worth individuals. There was a quarter in which our declaration was the highest of the new political parties, but the biggest receivers of funding by far are the ANC and the Democratic Alliance by multiples, by the way. But, the support we’ve received has enabled us to make the progress that we have and we are very grateful for it.

Linda van Tilburg (02:41.727)

Well, I think the policy that attracted the most attention is your view on land expropriation and particularly within the business community. So, can you elaborate on the policy and say whether it will include provisions for compensation?

Songezo Zibi (02:58.126)

Yes, when we launched Rise Mzansi, we released a document, it’s very detailed, it’s still on our website. It’s called the Our Politics Document, if somebody goes on our website. One of the first principles of Rise Mzansi’s very foundations, is the Constitution. It’s chapter two of the Constitution. Chapter two of our constitution is the Bill of Rights. Entrenched in the Bill of Rights are property rights. Our Constitution, however, also allows for expropriation of land for a public purpose. I’ve used this example many times. I used to work in the mining industry when minerals are discovered under a mine.,that mine is either sold by the farmer to the mining company or in instances where it is necessary it is expropriated. We do so with dams. We do so with the Gautrain that we’ve got in South Africa. My point was and is is not necessary to amend the constitution as the ANC and the EFF are proposing years ago. The only reason we have not had meaningful land justice is because they simply have not taken it seriously over the years. It is time to use our same constitution to expropriate land when necessary and that comes with appropriate compensation without doubt because it is inherent in this same constitution that we have.

On cI have been actively misrepresented in what I actually believe is deliberate disinformation, because I believe John [Steenhuisen] can read and he can read English, it’s his first language. So I really have no doubt that they fully understand what we’ve said and I don’t think anyone in the business community or as an individual should worry. My own family knows the experience of being arbitrarily deprived of land by a state that is acting unconstitutional. It is wild to suggest that I would advocate for the same.

Linda van Tilburg (04:57.535)

Yeah, so I think the allegations was a land grab, so definitely not a land grab.

Songezo Zibi (05:02.542)

No, definitely not a land grab. We’ve got a plan. So at RiseMzansi, we treat various issues as interconnected. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is that we believe that we should do spatial planning first. You take account of the historical need for land. You take account of population growth. You take account of urbanisation. You make a determination about what land you are going to need, where and for what purpose. Therefore you make a determination on where land may need to be expropriated because you now have a purpose for expropriating that land. We’ve made this clear many times. The reason we have informal settlements and this illegal allocation of land in rural areas and so on, is because there’s no special planning. If you don’t do special planning, you can’t say why you want to expropriate land where you need to expropriate land. So, this plan is really logical and anybody who’s reading it honestly will see no problem with it.

Linda van Tilburg (06:08.927)

The other policy I think that businessmen want to know about is how do you feel about BEE?

Songezo Zibi (06:14.51)

I think people should differentiate between cronyism as ANC has practiced it because they have run possibly the longest lasting and the biggest racketeering scam that this country has ever seen through what they have called BEE. Now it is important that we have frank discussions in South Africa. It is imperative that black people, that women of all races and other marginalized groups, have a meaningful stake in South Africa’s economic productivity and ownership of economic assets and jobs and so on. It is absolutely crucial. You can’t reverse a policy of racial discrimination without accounting for racial metrics in what you are measuring, right? Because if you don’t ask those questions, you also have the fear of populism that people are so afraid of. So, you can’t deny something and want to address it at the same time. But that said, our point is the people that we must seek to empower most urgently are those who are not even able to set a foot in the door. What do we mean by that? It’s the 48 % of kids who never finish school. It is the rest of the kids who finish matric but get no further training. You can’t be economically empowered if you can’t finish school. If after you leave school you get no training and therefore you cannot get the job.  For most people, over 90 % of people, the first entry into the economy is through a job. You gain experience and so on and eventually, you become an entrepreneur or you own a business and that kind of thing and what we’re suggesting as Rise Mzansi, you place the immediate focus on where people are feeling the pain the most and you escalate your interventions according to where you want to be in the economy. There are other changes that can be made.

For instance, we do not believe that government money should be used to enable one or two people, want to be billionaires, to buy a small stake in another company. Unions have provident funds. They are the pension funds for that. They must enter into those kinds of arrangements. Most of these are investments by black workers in any case. Let them get into those arrangements, get into the boardrooms of large companies for which their own members work and help to influence the decisions of those companies. As far as government funds are concerned, use that money for the marginalized so that they can get a foot in the door and one day become billionaires.

Read more: Rise Mzansi manifesto: A promising start marred by the troubling resurgence of racial policies – Hermann Pretorius

Linda van Tilburg (08:54.367)

Yes well, you just talked about the issue that a couple of people got rich, the tenderpreneurs, became richer and richer, and it hasn’t filtered down to the people at the bottom, because that’s why people are poor, that’s why people don’t have jobs. So how do you ensure it does filter down to the people on the ground?

Songezo Zibi (09:11.374)

There is a very successful philosopher, he was a minister as well, Roberto Mangaberia Unger and he’s got a simple philosophy. He’s Brazilian and he was part of Lula’s first government, the current Brazilian president. He says, what you need to do is to democratise the markets. What does that mean? You enable a larger number of entrants that are more diversely owned, that are more creative in terms of the products they bring into the economy and so on to enter the established markets so that you begin to change the shape of an economy. What does this mean? That means young entrepreneurs in technology, in services and other things, you need to see potential in them eventually becoming an Adrian Gore or a Laurie Dippenaar or somebody like that, right? Or a Mark Shuttlesworth. That is why we place so much focus on the development of young entrepreneurs, people with talent, with work experience, with ideas. That’s what public funds should do, which is what the Americans have done with what is now we understand to be Silicon Valley. Some of these developments, such as the internet itself, with the US Defence Department. But the development into the economy was significant.

Linda van Tilburg (10:35.583)

Well, you mentioned John’s name earlier, which is of course John Steenhuise. There seems to be a bit of an argument between the two of you because you expressed your intention to unseat the DA in the Western Cape, prompting criticism from John. So why target the opposition party instead of the ANC?

Songezo Zibi (10:53.166)

There are two governing parties in South Africa. One is the African National Congress. The other one is the Democratic Alliance. It is silly and entitled for any of the two parties to say for any reason that where they are the incumbent, there should be no competition. I remember Angie Motshekga some years ago said that opposition parties are unnecessary. Why do we need opposition parties?

They impede the work of government that it’s doing. They just oppose everything. I don’t know if you remember that. John is saying the same thing. The reality is that in a democracy, it’s not personal, in a democracy, there are sins that come with incumbency and that is certain sections of the population are going to be unhappy with you because they feel that your services are too slow. They’re not good enough. You don’t care about them and so on. It is…stunning for John or anyone to say, well, tough. Those people must not be represented. Otherwise in the next local government elections, , there should be no opposition. Everybody who’s an incumbent should remain an incumbent because it’s unfair. He shouldn’t be a Cry Baby, and this is not personal.

Linda van Tilburg (12:08.479)

So, would you be prepared to sit in a coalition with the DA at some stage and tell John it’s like a rugby match?, we scrummed and it was rough and yeah.

Songezo Zibi (12:16.43)

Yes, we have said that so many times. We have said this idea that in an open democracy such as ours, everybody needs to agree with you and not compete with you before the election,  it’s silly, nobody does. We’ve got several countries that we can use as an example that have had coalition governments for years. Let’s take Belgium and Germany, which I know very well. Each of the parties go and box it out within the rules in the election and they fight to maximize their percentage of the electorate. Then after that, they take off their t-shirts and they put on their suits and ties and they sit in a room and they say, okay, guys, bring me your top five. I’ll bring my top five and we’ll talk about how we can address your top four maybe and if we do that, we address 80 % of the needs of the electorate, and you do that in the interest of the country.

Linda van Tilburg (13:12.223)

What if the ANC comes to you and said we need a smaller party?

Songezo Zibi (13:15.31)

Well, by the way, there are conditions to all of these political parties. Some are more likely than others to accept these rules. So, for instance, the current president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, is mired in the Phala Phala scandal. There can be no excuses. That has to be investigated properly, impartially and if he needs to be prosecuted, he must. Paul Mashatile has got problems of his own. And Gwede Mantashe has got problems of his own. Let me just put it this way. We will not enter into a coalition with anyone where the quid pro quo is that some of our senior officials must be exempt, otherwise the coalition is going to collapse. I think the facts tell us that the ANC may fall into that category. Therefore, it might be really difficult to go into an arrangement with the ANC. But having said that, it is important for viewers and listeners of this show to understand that none of us know how the election is going to turn out. It is easy to make all of these assertions and so on. What really is important is principles, right? To say, this is what we’ll put on the table and I’ve just outlined it. The others is agreement on certain key portfolios. We have to have the right Finance Minister. We have to have the right Minister of Justice, the right Minister of Police. We can’t have tainted people in these roles and that sort of thing. They have to be highly capable and credible.

That’s how you’re going to recover South Africa. And if we are comfortable that those conditions can be met by a lot of the parties involved, then we are in. Otherwise, we are happy to be in parliament and do the work of oversight and not be in a government.

Linda van Tilburg (14:55.999)

What is your position on foreign policy, specifically at the moment, tthe Israel -Gaza problem?

Songezo Zibi (15:04.046)

So, I think generally, so that people understand the context to this, we believe there are three main drivers of foreign policy for South Africa. The first is to advance our economic interest. This is not in order of importance, it’s just the top three. The second is to advance a culture of human rights across the world. The third is to build culture and business and other relationships between the South African people and the peoples of those countries, which means we build relationships that transcend the government that is in power and the people can continue to relate on that basis. So that’s very important. We see the situation between Israel and Palestine as a human rights issue. One, secondly, it is an international law issue. What does that mean? That means we care first and foremost about the lives and well-being of human beings, whether they Israeli or Palestinian and anywhere those human beings are brought into harm’s way, especially in an unjustifiable manner, then we would condemn it. What does this mean in practice? It means that the attack by Hamas on the 7th of October is clearly a violation of human rights. You don’t go and attack civilians in that way and it is okay in any definition of war in terms of international law. Similarly, though, you also do not want to see dead bloodied babies being pulled out of rubble in Gaza? You do not want to see that. What is tragic about this is that everybody wants to be a saint. It’s either or. It is not possible for some people to condemn both because in terms of human rights law, they are they are not acceptable. The second thing is, we’ve been criticised about saying that the International Court of Justice was the right forum. Of course, we believe in international law. If anyone has an accusation against any country, they need to approach the appropriate forum, make their case, quit with the insults and so on. Prepare your case, take it to the right forum, argue your case rationally in front of the world’s eyes and let that forum decide.

Songezo Zibi (17:26.414)

There is nothing wrong with that. Ukraine did with Russia just last year or year before, and the ICJ ruled against Russia. This is the kind of thing you want to advance in international law. But in this orgy of self-righteousness that we’ve seen from people, if you say something that people don’t like, you’re a bad guy. I think we need to reflect, especially as people who like to invoke the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, that we really need to reflect on our ability to listen to and see and hear one another and try and do the right thing.

Linda van Tilburg (18:06.591)

And finally, what other policies do you feel passionate about?

Songezo Zibi (18:10.254)

There is one thing that business people will understand because this is a platform in which we are. What do investors buy into? Investors buy into three things. They buy into your strategy. They look at your leadership to see if it can implement that strategy. So, is a strategy good enough? Is a leadership good enough to implement that strategy? And will that strategy give me the capital growth and cash flows that I’m looking for? Three things.

It’s no different with politics. The number one thing that we’ve put on our manifesto is leadership and governance. Many of South Africa’s economic problems arise out of poor governance, arise out of corruption. You look at Eskom, I don’t have to go into detail who haven’t had chief executive and FD for a long time until recently. You look at Transnet, similarly and there’s three percentage points, GDP growth locked up between them according to the Reserve Bank. 

If we didn’t have those bottlenecks, we’d be at 4 % GDP growth, which is astronomical in terms of what we’ve achieved over the last three months. The other one is what is crime. We’ve had a crime problem. Fifth is infrastructure and how we intend to invest in infrastructure., and finally is how that leadership is able to address the looming debt crisis that we have and fiscal crisis that we potentially have in the future. And so we set out to address those issues because we believe that anything else almost doesn’t matter, frankly.. We can talk ad nauseam about smart ideas we have about digitizing driver’s licenses and car licenses and this kind of thing. If you don’t have the people,  won’t work.

Linda van Tilburg (19:55.583)

So, just finally, if you are president Songezo Zibi in a coalition or whatever, whose footsteps would you like to walk in?

Songezo Zibi (20:04.974)

There are so many, I mean you mean in politics.

Linda van Tilburg (20:09.439)

Yes, maybe a Nelson Mandela?

Songezo Zibi (20:11.246)

No, I mean, there are multiple, and I would like really, I mean, if that were to happen, and even though I don’t think so it’s a very long shot, that there really are two leaders for me that stand out for different reasons. One is Barack Obama. He took over the US. It’s not because of the speech. He took over the US in 2009. It was in the depth of an economic and social crisis, because of the global financial crisis. By the time he left office, it was a net producer of jobs, economic growth was up. And,,, and he left office without a taint of scandal. The second is Madiba because of his ability to unify and stick to principle and do the right thing, while speaking honestly about many things. You know, the thing about Madiba is people choose whatever version of him…that suits their purpose at a particular time. But Madiba could be remarkably frank, brutally so, but he was doing it with love. He was doing it with love. He didn’t do it out of malice or hate and  I think that’s a good attribute in a leader.

Linda van Tilburg (21:24.063)

Well, thank you so much for talking to us and good luck with the campaign.

Songezo Zibi (21:26.446)

Thank you so much and thanks for having me on.

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