Let’s make what we learnt in 2018 count in 2019

Issued by Mmusi Maimane – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
12 Dec 2018 in News

Note to Editors: the following remarks were delivered today by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, during an address to the Team One SA campaign staff at the party’s national headquarters in Gauteng, Nkululeko House.

Fellow Democrats,

With 2018 fast drawing to a close, it gives me great pleasure to address you here in our beautiful new Gauteng home and campaign headquarters, Nkululeko House.

Let me start by thanking you for your efforts this year. The work done by our professional staff, our activists and our public representatives is what sets the DA apart. No other party has a professional machine and a ground force quite like ours.

No other party engages voters like we do. No other party has daily conversations with ordinary South Africans about their challenges and frustrations, but also their hopes and dreams, the way the DA does.

We’re the only party that takes our country’s constituency system seriously by having weekly meetings in most communities.

And all of that is down to our relentless blue wave – our army of staff, activists and public reps who spend every single day spreading our message of One South Africa for All to every corner of the country.

I know you rarely get the acknowledgement you deserve, but you truly are the engine that keeps our party moving forward. Thank you. You have my deepest appreciation.

As we now prepare to take a short break before hitting the campaign trail with renewed intensity in January, I want to briefly reflect on the year we’ve had, before looking ahead to the election.

I don’t need to tell you that 2018 was a tough year for the DA. Over the past twelve months our party’s resolve was tested in every way imaginable.

But we were not alone in dealing with adversity. Parties like the DA are facing strong headwinds throughout the world as populists rise up. Just look at what Macron is facing in France. Look at Brexit.

It is becoming increasingly hard to run a non-racial, inclusive movement when the world is becoming more and more racialised by populists. There is a reason why people like Trump and Bolsonaro of Brazil exist. There is a reason why the EFF exists here, and why the ANC has chosen to follow them.

The forces of populism are trying to unstitch our 1994 Constitutional arrangement, and it has fallen to the DA to fight against this attack. And it is hard.

We need to recognise this moment in history, and recognise that the DA is not alone. But over and above this global trend, we’ve had our own unique battles to fight this year.

From the three-year drought in the Western Cape, which finally broke when the rains came in the autumn, to the drawn-out process to install trusted, credible and corruption-free leadership in the City of Cape Town, we have faced challenge after challenge this year.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, we fought hard to keep the new ANC/EFF/UDM coalition of corruption away from the Metro’s budget and contracts. Our setback there is temporary. I assure you, NMB will have a DA government again.

Elsewhere, in Johannesburg and Tshwane, we continue to face daily challenges in keeping our fragile coalitions and cooperation agreements intact. But our mayors have done an outstanding job in these cities to dramatically improve service delivery and clean up the mess left by the ANC.

Yes, 2018 has been hard on the DA. But we weathered the storm like no other party could. And from this adversity, we have grown stronger and more resolute than ever before.

Cape Town survived the drought and kept the taps open thanks to a herculean effort by the City, the Province and millions of residents who did what no other city in the world has done.

What happened in the City of Cape Town and the replacement of the Mayor was an extremely tough chapter for the DA, but it was something we had to do.

If we were to be true to our manifesto and our promise to root out corruption and improve service delivery, then we had no choice but to act. Even if this meant taking on someone with a “good brand” and popular support. We had to put the people of Cape Town first.

Today a new Cape Town Mayor leads both a united DA caucus and a Metro council that continues to set the benchmark in good governance.

For the first time in decades Johannesburg and Tshwane have responsive, accountable governments. And the networks of corruption that were put in place in these cities over years of ANC government are finally coming down, piece by piece. Now we wait for the NPA to act on the many corruption charges delivered to them.

It was a year in which we continued to fight for South Africans, inside and outside of Parliament. And an important highlight has been the progress we have made in securing ownership of land for the Gwatyu community in the Eastern Cape.

2018 was also the year of our Federal Congress, and it was an historic one because it was at this gathering that we confirmed the value of diversity in our party.

This sparked an important debate in the DA about the concept of B-BBEE and the meaning of a non-racial South Africa. Some tried to paint us as a party divided, but this was not the case. We were simply having a crucial conversation about the future.

That’s what we do in the DA. We don’t shy away from a contestation of ideas. We air our issues, we debate them and we reach consensus.

2018 may have been a tough year for the DA, but it was a year in which we came of age as a party. We demonstrated that we could handle setbacks, that we could survive internal contestation and debates, and that we could emerge united and stronger than before.

By remaining true to our core values, we took the best our opponents could throw at us, and we emerged standing.

But more importantly, we took plenty of justified criticism from the public and the media this year, and we responded in true DA fashion: with introspection and a resolve to do better.

We learnt that it’s often not enough to just be right – we must also be clear in our actions and communication. We learnt that, in future, we must take the public into our confidence sooner and speak with more clarity on such complex and emotive issues.

Yes, we could have dealt with this better, and we have certainly learnt some tough lessons.

But I also know that no other party in South Africa would have taken on and handled these issues the way the DA did, and I am incredibly proud of the role each and every one of you played.

We have now drawn a line under 2018, which means we can focus all our attention on the mammoth task of next year’s elections.

My fellow Democrats,

The next six months will be a crucial period in our country’s history. It will certainly be the most important election campaign any of you have ever worked on.

When we return in the New Year, we’ll have to hit the ground running. January will see both our registration campaign as well as our policy launch, followed by four months of intense campaigning.

At stake is far more than just a good result for the DA. Our country’s very future depends on the outcome.

If South Africa is to succeed, the DA will have to do well. And the reason for this is that we carry, in our DA values and in our DA policies, the hope for a better South Africa.

Any future political realignment to save South Africa will have to take place around the non-negotiable values that we hold dear as a party: Constitutionalism, The Rule of Law, A Market Economy, Non-Racialism, A Capable State and a Zero Tolerance for Corruption.

Each of these is essential, and no other party is fighting for them. And so it will have to be the Democratic Alliance that forms the core of such a political realignment.

You and I, along with our colleagues in the provinces, our colleagues in the various DA caucuses and our fellow Democrats who volunteer their time as activists in communities across our country, have six months left to make a case for the South Africa we want to see.

During this time we will have to take our message to every community in every city, town and village. We will have to reach and speak to every single South African, whether face-to-face, in a town hall meeting or on a phone call.

And when we do this, we need to paint a very clear, very compelling picture of the South Africa we want to build.

I sketched such a South Africa three and a half years ago, shortly after being elected DA Leader in 2015.

In a speech in Soweto I spoke of the DA’s vision for a South Africa under a caring government – a government inspired by the extraordinary potential of ordinary South Africans.

In this vision of our country, people felt safe in their communities because they had a highly trained, well-equipped and motivated police force on their side.

In this vision, corruption had all but disappeared because government had adopted an absolute zero-tolerance approach with harsh sentences.

In this vision, we all stood equal before the law, whether you were the president of the nation or any other citizen. Our justice system worked, and it worked for all.

I spoke of a society that had made big strides in reversing the spatial and structural inequalities of Apartheid.

I spoke of a vastly improved education system, which played an integral part in a steadily growing economy – growth on par with the top performing nations in Africa.

I spoke of our country as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the millions of jobs created in this modern economy of ours.

I pictured opportunities for all, but also an extensive social safety net for those unable to take advantage of these opportunities.

I sketched a trimmed-down government that was lean, efficient and citizen-oriented.

In this country I spoke of, South Africa was a beacon of hope and humanity on the continent, with a foreign policy that placed human rights above all.

Today, three years on, I still believe in every word I said back then. I still have the same vision of the same prosperous, safe and inclusive South Africa.

But I also know that we have made no further progress towards becoming that country since then. If anything, we have fallen further behind.

The number of unemployed South Africans is now fast approaching 10 million, and we have the highest youth unemployment rate in the entire world. Half our people live below the poverty line.

And, on our current trajectory, we have very little prospect of recovery.

Our economy has dipped in and out of recession this year, our national debt is an anchor that is dragging us back and the massive liability that is Eskom threatens to sink us completely.

We are heading in the wrong direction, and our government cannot turn us around.

Regardless of new dawns and new presidents, they are incapable of managing the problems our country faces. They simply do not have the solutions we need.

While we need to free up our economy and make it possible for businesses large and small to create millions of jobs, the ANC is pushing for tighter control and more ownership by the state.

While we need to reform our labour regime to make investment attractive and feasible, the ANC relies heavily on the unions for support and cannot stand up to them.

While we need a government that unites us across races, religions and languages, the ANC is increasingly using our differences to divide us and turn us against one another.

While we need to act firmly against the scourge of patronage and corruption, the ANC’s sole reason for seeking power today is the accumulation of wealth.

While we need protection of our constitutionally-enshrined rights, such as the right to own property, the ANC is trampling on these rights as they go in search of quick populist wins.

Fellow Democrats,

What our country needs to recover will not come from within the ANC, no matter who occupies the top office.

If we are to realise our vision for South Africa, it will be through the values and the policies of a DA-led government.

Swapping factions within the ANC will not be enough. The only way we will succeed is by swapping governments.

As we build towards the election, we need to make this clear to South Africans.

We need to explain that their choice is between South Africa’s current trajectory under the ANC, and an entirely new road under a DA government.

Their choice is between the ANC and EFF’s coalition of corruption, and the DA’s record of clean, accountable government that speeds up service delivery for all our people.

Their choice is between the zero percent growth of an out-dated, state-led ANC, and the high-growth that is only possible through the DA’s market economy and business-friendly approach.

Their choice is between the spiralling unemployment of the ANC, and the proven track record in job creation where the DA governs, where half of all new jobs last year were added in the Western Cape.

Their choice is between the division and mistrust of the ANC’s nationalism, and a DA government that believes our diversity is our biggest asset.

That is the choice that we need to paint over the coming months.

I know it is a huge and daunting task, but I believe we can do it. And the reason I believe this is because we, in the DA, know exactly what we are fighting against.

We understand who and what our enemy is.

This enemy was not Jacob Zuma. And it was not the Guptas, or any of the other parasites that fed off the state at the expense of poor South Africans.

These people, along with all the remnants of their network that still remain in office today, are simply symptoms of a government gone wrong.

Our real enemy, which stands in the way of our progress, is the poverty that still denies millions of South Africans a life of dignity and independence, 24 years into our democracy.

Our enemy is the unemployment that keeps almost 10 million South Africans locked out of the economy and opportunities.

Our enemy is the unfair society of insiders and outsiders created by decades of ANC patronage.

Our enemy is a stalled economy, weighed down by state-heavy policies that belong in a time-gone-by.

Our enemy is the corruption that steals our country’s future. Not the corruption of one president or one family, but a system of corruption that continues to poison our towns and cities, our government departments and our State-Owned Enterprises.

Our enemy is the crime that makes good people prisoners in their own homes, and terrifies them in their own streets.

These are our enemies, and as long as they exist, our fight is far from over.

That is why we will go out there, every day until voters go to the polls in May, and tell South Africans about the country we hope to build with them.

That is why our election campaign message speaks about the things that matter most to ordinary South Africans:

A clean government that fights corruption at every level, and sends those found guilty to jail for 15 years.

A police service that is well-trained, well equipped and staffed by motivated individuals, so that South Africans can take back their streets and their neighbourhoods from criminals.

A system whereby jobs can be accessed fairly by all, and not just those on the inside. Where you won’t be expected to prove your party membership or sleep with someone in order to get work.

A country with secure borders and a clean and efficient Home Affairs, so that all those who want come here legally can do so easily, and those who want to enter illegally are kept out.

And a government committed to radically speed up the roll-out of basic services to all communities across South Africa.

That is the South Africa we must speak about, every day, everywhere.

A South Africa with opportunities for all her people.

A South Africa that once again becomes the beating economic heart of our continent.

A South Africa of the 21st Century with a modern, innovative economy.

A South Africa that looks ahead, towards the future, instead backwards at its past.

But above all, one united South Africa that works for all her people.

Thank you.