The following speech was delivered by the DA Parliamentary Leader, Mmusi Maimane MP, at the Blue, The Network event in London on the 23 March 2015, hosted by the DA Abroad UK.
Ladies and gentlemen
I am humbled that so many of you have come here this evening; it is good to know that the DA has healthy structures abroad, and that your interest in South African remains strong.
I must also thank the DA Abroad team for the effort they have put into making this event possible. I know a lot of work has been done behind the scenes and I appreciate that sincerely.
Over the weekend I had the honour of being able to attend and address the Homecoming Revolution, an organisation that seeks to match South Africans currently living abroad with work opportunities back home in an effort to have them return to South Africa.
It is initiatives like this that make me optimistic about the future of South Africa.
I know that it is all too easy to read the headlines about crime, corruption and unemployment, and become demoralised about where South African is heading.
I will not attempt to deny the many challenges facing us back home, for they are well documented. But we must guard against allowing our focus on the challenges to detract from recognising the potential that South Africa can offer.
My intent today is not to provide an extensive critique of the ANC, nor a message of despair. Today I would rather like to share the Democratic Alliance’s (DA)s message of hope and opportunity for a better South Africa.
To provide context to this, however, it is important to note the core differences between their ideology, and that of the DA.
The ANC government, specifically under the lacklustre leadership of President Zuma, has become characterised by corruption and crony capitalism.
Over the past 5 years we have witnessed many of our democratic institutions – including Parliament, the voice of the people – being undermined by an increasingly self-serving majority that has put the needs of protecting the President above serving the needs of the people who elected them.
In communities across South Africa we have witnessed the collapse of service delivery, while a small group of politically connected individuals become wealthy on the back of the poor. I have visited these communities and the stories I hear are the same everywhere.
The ANC of today has lost the moral high ground it possessed under President Mandela.
Fortunately, this is becoming increasingly evident to South Africans. To invoke the words of former British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, “the wind of change is blowing.”
In the 2014 elections the DA gained over a million votes, while the ANC had its poorest showing in an election since 1994.
The DA is currently in the process of revising our value offering, and will be launching this after our Congress in May in the run-up to the local government elections next year.
The basis underlying this revision is the need to reflect that the DA is no longer a party merely of opposition, but increasingly one of a government in waiting.
For the first time next year, strategic metros in the Eastern Cape – the heartland of the ANC – and Gauteng – our economic capital – are in very much in play and may well be won by the DA.
I do not say this flippantly. Many doubted that the DA would ever govern the City of Cape Town. Yet after establishing a DA-led, multi-party government in the wake of the 2006 local government elections, the DA went on to secure an overwhelming majority in 2011. On the provincial level the DA has increased its support from 53.8% in 2009 to 61.5% in 2014.
While the ANC has resorted to sometimes desperate measures to paint the DA as an uncaring party of the wealthy minority, the people of the Western Cape have rejected that story and overwhelmingly affirmed their belief in DA as a government for the people.
This is the message that we want to spread in metros such as Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela bay. If we win these metros we will use them as a base for winning those provinces in 2019, and from there the blue wave will spread until it breaks on the steps of Union Buildings.
It is for that reason that instead of focusing on the failings of the ANC, we would like to paint a picture of what an open opportunity society would look like were the DA to win in the 2019 national elections.
At the core of our vision – and my vision – is a society characterised by freedom, fairness and opportunity.
Central to this society is an acceptance that while we have come a long way since Apartheid, our society is still marked by inequality that largely manifests along racial lines.
While the DA remains a fundamentally liberal party that seeks to empower the individual to unlock their potential, we have to recognise the need for redress and fairness in order to make sure that those who were excluded under Apartheid, do not remain excluded in the future.
We need to break the cycle of poverty that is perpetuated by inadequate access to quality education and economic resources.
In the DA’s vision for the future we often juxtapose the story of two individuals, one born into a wealthy family in an affluent suburb, and one born into a poor family in a previously disadvantaged community.
In the South Africa of today, these circumstances of birth still play a significant role in determining the fate of those two children.
Through access to better schools, better health care, better nutrition, and a safer environment, the child born in the affluent neighbourhood has a far greater chance of achieving success in life.
In contrast to this, the child born in a community such as Protea South in Soweto has their opportunities severely limited by the circumstances of their birth. Without access to quality education, they will probably not be able to pursue tertiary education. This will leave them ill prepared for a job market where supply far exceeds demand.
This is not a society that the DA can condone and it is incumbent upon us to do everything in our power to change it.
We need to shrug off the yoke of Apartheid once and for all, so that all citizens can enjoy the rights and freedoms provided by our Constitution.
In our vision, regardless of where you are born, and under which circumstances, you will have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your dreams. It must not matter where children are born, and whether they are black or white.
Those of you have been following the South African press will have noted that the discourse on race in South Africa is still pervasive.
This debate is about the desire on the one hand to move forward and leave the issue of race behind us, and the acknowledgement on the other hand that race is still a major determinant of opportunity in South Africa.
The DA’s vision for the future is one where race – and other circumstances of birth – is no longer the primary determinant of individual success, but rather hard work and ambition. This vision does not seek to ignore race, but rather to embrace non-racialism and ensure equal opportunity for all.
This necessitates a government that is capable of providing quality access to basic services for all South Africans, and growing the economy to decrease both unemployment and inequality.
Central to this is solid economic policy; the only way out of poverty is through job creation.
Social grants will always provide an invaluable safety net to the most vulnerable in our society, but the growing number of those that rely on them is simply not sustainable.
The ANC is of the opinion that the state must sit at the centre of the economy, and work to provide jobs to the millions of South Africans that that do not have work – currently 36.1% of the labour force.
But we have seen with state owned enterprises such as Eskom, Telkom and SAA that state intervention is not the solution.
In the same way that we have been calling on government to break the Eskom monopoly and unbundle the national distribution grid from the electricity provider, we need government to step back from the economic interference that serves as a constraint to our prosperity.
That is why a DA government would take the position of minimalist approach to economic intervention, and rather place the private sector at the centre of the economy.
Government needs to play the role of cutting red tape, facilitating foreign investment through relaxing exchange controls, and assisting the establishment and expansion of small businesses.
Through growing the economy we will decrease unemployment and broaden the tax base. This will not only decrease the number of those who rely on social grants, but also increase the amount available to those who really need them.
Moreover, it will restore the image of Destination South Africa, and reverse the outflow of capital and investment that we have witnessed in the past years.
South Africa has struggled to achieve sound economic growth after the global economic crisis, with growth for the coming year projected to come in at less than 2%. In contrast to this, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2014 averaged out to 4.5%.
This is understandable in the context of a President who seeks to promote South African as destination for economic investment at the World Economic Forum in Davos one week, and then speak about limiting foreign land-ownership in his State of the Nation Address not long after.
Policy matters a great deal when it comes to the economy, but the ideologically inconsistent ANC has failed to provide clear and coherent leadership. The ANC frequently finds itself pandering to the electorate with populist rhetoric about land redistribution and then having to “clarify” their stance to investors and land owners.
The DA, however, does not suffer from this from of ideological incoherence.
In our Alternative Budget presented in February, we showed how a DA government would stimulate the economy by reducing wasteful and fruitless expenditure, and cutting the amount of money spent on the bloated bureaucracy.
This would negate the need to raise taxes and levies that impact most harshly on the poor.
A government cannot address a budget deficit by raising taxes when the reason for that deficit is corruption and the maladministration of public funds.
The DA has shown in the Western Cape how policies aimed at addressing these issues can make a major difference to the lives of citizens.
In the Western Cape, 99% of households have access to piped water, 93.4% have access to electricity and 90.5% have access to flush toilets. This is the highest access in the country.
Economically, the province has the lowest broad unemployment rate in South Africa – 24.5%. This is more than 10% below the national rate.
We have further spent R45 million in current financial year to assist new business development, and our “Cut Red Tape Hotline” for businesses has resolved 2856 complaints since 2012.
In the past 5 months we have rolled out 52 public WI-FI hotspots, with 51,000 unique users, to make sure that broadband connectivity is not reserved for the well off.
On education, we have ensured that the inequality between poorer schools and more affluent schools is being addressed. This has resulted in the average pass rate in Khayelitsha schools going up from 53.6% to 76.1% in last 5 years.
Yet it is not enough to claim victory in the Western Cape.
The citizens of the other 8 provinces deserves better than a government that does not deliver.
They deserve the same opportunities that the DA is working so hard to provide to the citizens of the Western Cape.
But I can stand here to and assure you in good conscience that our vision for South Africa is not a pipe dream.
The time will come, sooner or later, when the DA is in government.
The time will come when all South Africans will be able to share in the great potential of our country, and have access to opportunities regardless of the colour of their skin or where they were born.
I look forward to that day as I have two young children and want them to grow up in the South Africa that President Nelson Mandela dreamed of, and that the DA is now fighting for.
Together we can build a better future.
Together we can reclaim our destiny, and that of our children.
Together we can unlock the untapped potential of a democratic South Africa.
I thank you.