Vavi's predictions are spot on
Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
9 June 2012
Fellow DA members, delegates and friends.
It is a great honour to be here today, in Polokwane, the heart of the great province of Limpopo.
This congress provides the DA an opportunity to unite behind a common purpose: how we will, peacefully through the ballot box, remove this failing provincial government and offer fresh hope and a new vision to the people of our beloved country.
We have heard, my colleague Lindiwe Mazibuko, describe the chronic failures of this proud and bountiful province. People talk about failed states in other parts of the world. Tragically, we do not have to look that far: we just have to look at Limpopo.
There is a new word in politics which I want to introduce to you today. It is called ineptocracy. This word is likely to be used as often, in our political discourse, as the word tenderpreneurs, a word that is also associated with this province.
A tenderpreneur is a person who gets rich, not through delivering a skill or service, but because of their political connections. It is a tragedy that Limpopo has become the tenderpreneur capital of South Africa.
So what is “ineptocracy”? In a recent article, an analyst called David Hill defined ineptocracy as follows:
“Much like inheriting a billion pounds only to die broke or forfeiting a three goal half-time lead; ineptocracy is one’s failure to succeed from a position of strength.”
“A political example of ineptocracy would be South Africa’s ruling party the ANC; who after 18 years of leading one of the most fertile and resource rich countries in the world hasn’t developed any sustainable solutions to generating wealth for its people beyond affirmative action, land redistribution and the nationalisation of assets.”
Many people agree with this tragic assessment. It could, and should, have been so different. We in the DA know that the only way to beat poverty is through sustained, high rates of job-creating economic growth. But the ANC has failed to implement policies that will ensure growth in this resource rich land.
All they have been doing is fight over what there is already, and who can get their hands on it first, or snatch it from someone else. That is why the conflict in the ANC keeps getting worse. It is a conflict about power. But it is not about power for power’s sake. It is a conflict about power for money’s sake.
The best way to describe the ANC’s economic policy is “Comrade Capitalism”. And “comrade capitalism” combines both “tenderpreneurship” and “ineptocracy”. It is a tragedy for South Africa. And it is a very specific tragedy for Limpopo.
One of the best things about South Africans is that we are an optimistic people. This is an excellent quality because it helps us keep going when times are bad and achieve our dreams.
But the downside of optimism is that we sometimes end up fooling ourselves. We can be masters at self-delusion. There are, for example, still people out there who believe the ANC can save Limpopo, from the consequences of ANC mis-rule.
While short-term interventions by the national government may have limited impact, for example rescuing the Province from total bankruptcy, we all know that this is just postponing the inevitable collapse.
It is time to step up to the plate and place this province on a sustainable road to recovery. And to do this we have to understand what went wrong in the first place.
It is important to ask ourselves why things went so badly wrong for the ANC, here in Polokwane – so wrong that they will never recover from it.
When history is one day accurately written, the year 2007 and the place Polokwane will be recorded as the point of no return in the decline of a once mighty party.
The trigger was a leadership contest so vicious, that it created wounds from which that party will never recover.
Indeed, it is hard to call it a leadership election because the ANC was not looking for leadership. They wanted the lack of it, so that they could be free to mobilise around their own interests and take the fastest route to the feeding trough.
They forgot about the voters.
We, in the DA must never be too arrogant to learn from the mistakes of others. Because it is true, that those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.”
Therefore, I listened with interest when someone from deep inside the ranks of the ANC’s tripartite alliance analysed their problems recently. That person was Zwelinzima Vavi, and he was warning the ANC about the rapid growth of the DA. Here is the headline in the newspaper. It reads: “DA closing in on ANC, says Vavi.”
And now I am quoting from the article: “COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has warned the ANC and trade unions that without a ‘new ethos’ in the ruling alliance, the opposition DA could mount a serious challenge to the ANC’s power in 2019.”
Vavi is not the first person to reach this conclusion. In fact, we have been predicting this for a long time. But the key difference, when Vavi says this, is that he is warning them from inside the ANC.
Vavi was not reading a speech from a script when he said that. He was speaking from the heart, and he was telling the truth. He said too many ANC leaders had become distanced from those bearing the brunt of the jobs crisis and the failing health and education systems. He called on the ANC to stop scoring the “own goals” through which it lost control of both the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape to the DA.
Vavi said the DA was showing increased confidence. It had been able to march on COSATU headquarters involving some 3,000 unemployed African youths (I have news for Zwelinzima it was more like 5,000), but you can understand why he is too worried to give the accurate number.
He has also warned that the next time around, the DA will march with 6,000 members and that eventually the DA will win. And the people who listened to Vavi when he said that knew he was speaking the truth.
Having lost the Western Cape, Vavi warned that the ANC had held on to Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Bay) in 2011 by the slimmest of margins. “Already the DA has 5% of people in the townships, something unheard of in the past,” he said.
But perhaps the most important part of his speech was his diagnosis of the problem. He said: “We (in the tripartite alliance) are defocussed completely. We fight for positions. Our focus is on positions. Not on the people.”
That is what happened to the ANC at Polokwane 2007. It de-focussed. It switched away from the politics of the people to the internal politics of the party – a fight for positions and money.
And the congress where that switch happened for the world to witness is still just called “Polokwane”. It was tragic that the ANC’s 2007 elective conference here turned this City into a synonym for delusion and deception. We must turn this around today.
South Africa as a whole has paid a huge price for “Polokwane 2007”.
Just look at what is happening to the South African Police Services. The circus we are seeing today, with the leaders of the SAPS at war with each other, while crime continues to spiral out of control, can be traced back to the ANC’s elective conference here.
Because the truth is, if Jacob Zuma had lost that election, in all likelihood he would have been in jail today, while Jackie Selebi would have remained the Police Commissioner.
In a democracy, the only solution for unaccountable, “unfocused” leadership is voters who are prepared to change their minds and vote for another party.
That is why we are here in Polokwane today – to say it can mean the opposite for the DA than it did for the ANC.
For us, it must be a place of re-invigoration and propel us with renewed energy to achieve our goal. The big question is this: Can we stay focused on the voters and not see politics as an internal contestation for positions? Can we choose direction over disintegration?
The answer depends upon whether we are prepared to follow the hard and difficult road in politics. The correct road, as always in life, is the difficult one.
Having divided itself to the point of paralysis, the ANC must now follow the path of least resistance, the easy road of dividing South Africans on the basis of race.
The ANC has nothing else left.
It has lost the moral high ground; it has abandoned former President Nelson Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation; it is no longer associated with non-racialism; it has abandoned the constitution, and it gave up on delivery a long time ago.
Its brand is corruption, cronyism, comrade capitalism, conflict, division and racism. And that is what it is inflicting on South Africa.
The ANC has only one strategy left: it must keep South Africans divided on the basis of race, and hating each other. This is an extremely dangerous tactic which will destroy the future of every South African. But it is the only way the ANC can stay in power.
In the DA, we acknowledge the pain of the past and the enormous hurt and harm racial oppression inflicted on our country. We will never forget the past. That is why one of our slogans says “Honour your Past”. But it also says: “Own our Future.”
Because it is through facing, and sharing the deep pain of the past that we can take hands to heal the present and build a shared future of prosperity and opportunity for all South Africans. We owe this to our children.
That is why we also say that the “DA Unites”, even as the “ANC Divides.” Achieving unity of purpose and a shared commitment to the values of the constitution is a challenge in a divided society, but a challenge we must rise to, if we want to save South Africa.
We will do so if we remain focused on our voters. And on our historic mission to build one of the world’s great democracies.