Introductory letter by DA Leader, Helen Zille

Dear Voter

This election is a contest between two political philosophies, each of which will take our country in a fundamentally different direction. These diametrically opposing options can be described, in summary, as the “open, opportunity driven society for all” versus the “closed, crony society for some”.

The Democratic Alliance believes in the open, opportunity society for all. It is a belief that shapes everything we say and do.

In such a society, everybody has the opportunities and the space to shape their own lives, improve their skills and follow their dreams. The government’s key role is to expand and promote equal opportunities for all. People are not held back by arbitrary criteria such as gender, religion, or colour, or the prejudice of those in power.

In the open, opportunity society, outcomes are linked to opportunity, effort and ability, not special favours dispensed by a ruling clique in the ruling party. When the government is doing its job as the Constitution intended, real opportunities are extended to more and more people. Opportunity is not a zero-sum game where some progress at the expense of others. In a functional open society, everyone can have real opportunities. And the more people use their opportunities, the more they create for others.

In the closed, crony society, the prospects of each individual are determined by his links and access to the small leadership network in the ruling party. The leadership promotes and protects the network (inside and outside the party)and the network, in return, protects and promotes the leadership. It is a closed circle based on reinforcing mutual interests. Mutual enrichment soon becomes the primary focus. This inevitably results in corruption and power abuse.

Merit and competence are entirely incidental in this kind of system. The people with prospects are those loyalists who can be relied upon to extend and entrench the network’s control over all levers of power both inside the party, and throughout society, and follow its instructions.

The difference between the open, opportunity society and the closed, crony society is the difference between success and failure in an emerging democracy.

We have the clearest example of the ultimate failed state – the closed, crony society of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe – right on our doorstep. We must make the conscious choice to move in the opposite direction.

The DA is the only party in South Africa that promotes the open opportunity society in principle and – in those municipalities we govern across the country – practice.

When I make these points people often say to me: we are not interested in political philosophy. What are you going to do about poverty? I reply that a strong foundation in political philosophy is essential to develop policies that have positive practical outcomes. Our policies offer South Africans the best chance we have of overcoming poverty and ensuring progress. A closed, crony government results in steady decline. The simple truth is that corrupt leaders make poor people poorer. Their promises are irrelevant and unattainable.

The DA’s vision is reflected in our manifesto, which is based on a package of carefully costed and mutually reinforcing policies that set out practical steps to attain our vision of an open, opportunity society for all. Our manifesto addresses our top five policy priorities: reducing poverty; improving the quality of education; healthcare; fighting crime and corruption; and protecting and defending the Constitution.

Creating opportunity is the focus of all our policies, because we believe that the only way to reduce poverty is by expanding opportunity through sustained job-creating economic growth, a significantly improved education system, a highly functional criminal justice system and effi cient delivery of basic services.

Of course, we believe in alleviating poverty through an appropriate social safety net of state grants, too. That is why we support a Basic Income Grant.

But we tie opportunity to responsibility, because individuals have the responsibility to use their opportunities to improve their lives and become the best they can be.

People cannot use their opportunities unless they are educated, healthy and safe.

At the moment, our schools are poorly resourced – often, the state cannot even deliver textbooks on time – and millions of learners leave school illiterate and innumerate because of poorly managed and sub-standard teaching.

To improve the quality of education, the DA will set performance targets for teachers and schools, and reward good performance. We will focus on making dysfunctional schools work better by establishing task teams and implementing a mentoring programme. To ensure that pupils from poor families have access to quality education, we will introduce a per-child preschool state subsidy (weighted according to parental income) and encourage a national network of community-based early childhood education centres.

Our public hospitals are in a state of decay: they are badly managed, queues are long, medicine cabinets are empty, and there is an exodus of doctors and nurses from the public health care sector.

The DA will build a system of hospitals and clinics that delivers prompt, quality service to all our citizens by ensuring that every hospital is capably managed, by bringing the private sector into state hospitals, and by running a full-throttle campaign to train and recruit more doctors and nurses.

Crime is out of control because most criminals are confident they will get away with it. They know that most criminals are never caught, and even when they are, the conviction rate in court is only 11%. Criminals get away with crime because our criminal justice system is dysfunctional at every level.

It cannot prevent crime, apprehend criminals, gather evidence, prosecute and convict them successfully, secure them in prisons or rehabilitate them there.

The DA will:

  • increase the total number of police officers on the beat,
  • improve detection rates
  • reduce court backlogs, and
  • ensure that criminals serve the time they deserve.

For the DA, “life means life”. We will also make prisoners work, both to equip them with skills they can use outside prison and to allow them partly to atone for their crimes.

Finally, the DA wants to protect and defend the Constitution, and to put power back where it belongs – in the hands of citizens. We believe that the open, opportunity society for all can only come into being on the basis of democratic, transparent and accountable governance.

Although the Constitution provides for such governance in principle, we need to make it work in practice. That is why the DA proposes the direct election of the President, Premiers and Mayors, and a mixed proportional representation (PR)- constituency electoral system to elect MPs and MPLs. This would create a direct link between voters and their public representatives to increase accountability.

The DA can and will deliver on the promises in our manifesto. We are a party of government, and our track record in local government proves that we match our words with deeds.

This time, we can win. But we need your vote to do it. So vote for the open, opportunity society for all, and vote to win.

Best wishes

Helen Zille