Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Social Justice Coalition marches against the Arms Deal

Below is a call by the Social Justice Coalition to protest against the stifling of the Arms Deal investigations and the pervasive criminality in South Africa. Both of these issues have had a substantially negative effect on the welfare of our people and are reason alone to take to the streets. The march will take place tomorrow evening at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town. Be there if you care:

We, the people, live in fear. Fear of guns. Fear of knives. Fear of those who carry them. Fear follows us to school in the morning. Fear follows us home from the train at night. Fear stands in the shadows as we walk to the clinic. Fear is behind us in the queue at the bank. Fear waits for us in the street after collecting our pensions. We all fear crime. We are poor, we are rich, we women and men and children. We are refugees and immigrants. We are Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews. We are atheists and Buddhists. We are straight, gay and lesbian. This fear is amongst us all.

Our Constitution guarantees the rights to life, freedom, dignity, safety and security, as well as, open and accountable government. We know that we will not be safe and secure until there is social justice for all. We will not have social justice if we are not safe and secure.

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving safety and security is fact that our Cabinet in the past acted unlawfully on the arms deal, our former President protected a Commissioner of Police who by his own admission was a friend of criminals who bought him presents. Our Executive who believes they are accountable only to themselves. We need political leaders who are held to account and put the people first. The arms deal is an example of waste, corruption and a cover-up by the whole Cabinet under President Mbeki.

Why did our leaders spend over R50 billion on arms deals to buy warships and jets and bullets to protect us from attack when the real threat is poverty and inequality? Did they do this because it makes politicians rich? Did they do this because they made secret deals with foreign arms companies? How could they do this when they don’t understand the real fear we live in? In a case on the Road Accident Fund, the Constitutional Court said:

Corruption and maladministration are inconsistent with the rule of law and the fundamental values of our Constitution. They undermine the constitutional commitment to human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. They are the antithesis of the open, accountable, democratic government required by the Constitution. If allowed to go unchecked and unpunished they will pose a serious threat to our democratic State.

We ask President Kgalema Mothlanthe to lead us:
  • No more secrets. To know all the secrets behind the billion rand arms deal. It is time for an independent judicial commission of enquiry to investigate and reveal the truth. There can be no real rule of law unless government is open about the arms deal.
  • One law for all people. The arms companies from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden who corrupted our leaders and public servants and who stole our money must all be prosecuted in a court. The rich and powerful must face justice if they have stolen from the people. Our Constitution must be used to protect us from these people.
  • No immunity for arms companies. The companies who paid these bribes must also appear in court and their bosses must also go to jail if found guilty. For too long have they corrupted our people across the African continent.
  • An end to arms deals that steal from the people. Our nation must be able to protect itself – but not at the cost of social justice. No more arms deals until we have social justice and safety and security for all.
  • Safety and Security for all on the basis of social justice – this means the rights to decent housing, safe transport and streets, safe schools and playgrounds, safe clinics and homes.

I stand in awe of the SJC's organisational ability. Yet more proof that grassroots civil society is just way cooler than anything that party politics has to offer. Can anybody tell me if the Coalition is active in Johannesburg?

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