This weekend, the DA’s Federal Council – its highest decision-making body between congresses – will meet to deliberate on the changes required to position the party for future growth. Just as South Africa needs to implement reforms if it is to grow its economy and prosper, so the DA needs to change if it is to grow.
The DA has set out on a course to become the national government in South Africa – this is no secret. This project is as urgent and necessary as ever and we will pursue it, however difficult that may be. We have absolutely no intention of retreating and becoming a regional party and it is in no-one’s interest that we do so. To this end, the party will be deliberating this weekend on the recommendations flowing from a broad review of its leadership, policy, structures and operations.
Change is not always easy, but it is always necessary if an organisation is to remain robust and forward-looking. The DA needs to fully embrace any changes that will position it for growth and as the party that champions inclusive economic growth.
The only way to empower the citizens of this country and extend opportunity to all is if we change the rules of the game to enable more economic productivity in South Africa. This requires us at the very least to: free up the labour market, especially for small, medium and micro enterprises; privatise or close most state-owned enterprises; open our energy market to competition from independent producers; and walk away from investment-killing policies such as expropriation without compensation, national minimum wage, national health insurance, prescribed assets and the mining charter.
South Africa will not achieve broad prosperity unless we reform our economy to get it focused on growth. These reforms are simply not being implemented by the ANC and anyone who still thinks they will be is sadly naïve. So, it falls to the DA to drive South Africa’s reform agenda. Thus, it is imperative that the DA grows to become a key player in national government.
Therefore, however challenging it may be, the DA needs to win the trust of the majority of South Africans. We cannot content ourselves with being the voice of minorities; we must broaden our appeal to attract more black South Africans too.
One of the ways to win trust is to govern with excellence and integrity. Where the DA governs, we have racked up considerable governing successes, not just in the Western Cape, but also in Johannesburg, where Overall Household Satisfaction Index increased from 61 in 2017 to 73 in 2019. We’ve cut the destructive patronage system that entrenched itself during 22 years of ANC government in the metro and doubled the amount of investment facilitated this year compared with last year.
But we must redouble our efforts to continuously show governance improvement. To this end, we are strengthening our governance unit and giving it the most authoritative leadership possible, in the form of James Selfe, who is vacating the Federal Council chair position after nineteen years of remarkable service.
As such, we will also be electing a new chairperson of Federal Council this weekend. In making this choice, the focus must be about building the DA of the future and reversing the losses from 2019. These we must use as a catalyst to bounce back higher than ever before.
The DA is trying to achieve something extraordinary. In a country with a centuries-old history of competing nationalisms, we are trying to bring very different people and very different groups together around shared principles that transcend group identity.
These principles are a commitment to the Constitution, to a market-driven economy, and to capable state that delivers to all citizens, especially the poor. We do not believe South Africa will prosper without these three key elements.
This is not an easy project. When you’re operating in the political centre, you have adversaries and potential supporters on all sides. The DA faces the unique challenge of needing to make an emotional connection with a wide range of voters of vastly differing worldview and backgrounds. Add to that the challenge of internal diversity and its ever-present need to “find each other”, and it becomes remarkable that the DA managed unchecked growth for as long as it did.
Growing pains were inevitable. And if our minor slide backwards leads us to make the necessary adjustments to get us back on course, then history will show it was a better outcome than a minor increase would have been.
The DA is changing for the future. We are trying to achieve the extraordinary. I don’t know if any other party has succeeded in achieving this anywhere in the world at any time. And it remains to be seen whether we can succeed here in South Africa. But I know we must never give up the fight.