The following speech was presented by Ludre Stevens, DA Abroad Chairperson at The South African Breakfast Indaba in London on the 14 July 2011.
Before I dive into what the DA can do for business and what business can do for the DA, let me first tell you a little of recent electoral gains we made in May’s local government elections. The DA’s results were very pleasing. In 1994 the DA only had 1.7% of the votes, but with the recent elections it was increased to 24% across South Africa, up from 16.3% in the 2006. In other words, that’s 1 in every 4 votes! We almost won Nelson Mandela Bay, increased our share in Johannesburg to 34% and won the City of Cape Town. The DA now governs 24 municipalities, 14 with an outright majority, in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng. I mention this results not only to demonstrate that the DA is a force to take into account, but also to show that the DA is not just an opposition party, but a party that governs, not only the Western Cape, but cities and municipalities across the country. And we keep increasing our votes, because of one simple fact: fulfilling premises and service delivery.
So what do these election result means for the business community in South Africa, and what can the DA do in general for the business environment? The answer is twofold: from a Big Picture perspective and from a “man on the street” perspective.
But just to be clear, remember the DA is a political party and not a chamber of business or public enterprise. Our job is not to participate in the economy or do business in it, but rather our job is to ensure that that economy has the right tools and policies to operate effectively and fairly. So the big picture and “man on the street” view is not about what business opportunity the DA can give you, as that’s not what we do or should be doing, but rather how we can make sure you have what you need to do business.
From the big picture perspective, the DA aims to help, and does so, on a national level where we are in parliament, and on a local level, where we are in government or opposition in the local council, to ensure corruption is eradicated. Corruption is not a unique thing to SA, but is an age-old malady that plagues human society where there is no transparency or balance of power. So the electoral gains of the Democratic Alliance two months ago and in 2006, and intended in 2014, improve the balance of power in South Africa, which directly helps curb corruption and other monopoly issues.
On a more “man on the street”, local level, the DA is a party of service delivery, as proven by our real world track record in the cities, municipalities and province where we govern. That is also our strong point, as local communities see the neighbors in DA areas getting their services and them wanting it too. This is good for business as it means you have the services and support you need to run your business effectively.
But apart from the government benefits, the DA’s vision of an Open opportunity Society is the key fundamental which drives the party. And part of that is keeping the government and parliament answerable to the people of South Africa. This means that the MPs of the DA party’s doors are open to anyone who has a concern or complaint about wrongs and undelivered promises, so that these questions can be raised in parliament. These MPs are the direct representatives of us in parliament and there to probe anything that needs to be.
But, as with anything, this is a two-way street. The DA can only do its work in Parliament and municipalities if it has MPs and Councillors elected. The can only get elected if we vote. And South Africans living overseas are able to vote now, and through the DA Abroad we are lobbying the SA Government and IEC to also make it possible to register to vote conveniently overseas. So the DA will fight for and built you healthy business environment, but it is up to you to vote.
So, to summarise, what can the DA do for you in business?
1. Big picture: ensures a healthy and fair business environment
2. Fight corruption and cronyism
3. Delivery the services you need in your place of business
4. Give you a powerful tool to address wrongs, through access to our MPs.
I know you are all thinking “but we are here in the UK and not in SA”, well that’s where the DA Abroad comes in. We are the DA’s overseas supporters and lobbying network. Again our aim is not to “do and be in business”, but rather we are here to be that contact with SA if it’s needed, and also to take back any issues we face here. I know there has been lots of grumbling about the Visa requirements for visiting South Africans now and similar issues, and I am sure some of these must affect your business. Again the DA Abroad can help get these issues raised in South Africa, to the Home office, ask the question what the government is doing about this etc. The DA and DA Abroad are here for you to use us for your Big Picture and Man on the Street issues.