South Africa’s binary choice in 2024

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – DA Leader
17 Feb 2023 in News

Every South African voter needs to hear the key message I sought to convey in my SONA 2023 reply speech this week. I summarise it here for those who don’t have time to read or watch the full speech.

Five disastrous years

If Jacob Zuma presided over “nine wasted years”, President Ramaphosa has presided over five disastrous years. Five years on, it is clear his “New Dawn” was an empty promise. South Africa has gone backwards on every important metric of social wellbeing.

  • Murder has gone up from 58 to 78 people murdered per day.
  • Unemployment has gone up from 37% to 43%.
  • Number of days under load-shedding has gone up from 6 in 2018 to 157 in 2022.

This decline is the inevitable consequence of the ANC’s approach to running the country, which is to centralise power in a bloated, all-powerful state. This they have achieved by deploying loyal cadres into every area of the state so as to control “all levers of power”.

Cadre deployment has produced a corrupt, incapable state that cannot deliver on its basic mandate – an extractive, patronage-driven system that benefits a connected elite at the expense of the rest. Over the past 20 years, the DA has warned about the folly of cadre deployment. Now the consequences are there for all to see: stage-6 load shedding, trains that don’t run, hospitals that can’t treat the sick, schools that can’t teach children to read, a police service that can’t keep people safe.

Crossing the Rubicon

SONA 2023 was President Ramaphosa’s last chance to lead South Africa “across the Rubicon” onto a fundamentally different, better path of open markets, merit-based public appointments, independent institutions and accountable government – in short, liberal democracy. By SONA 2024, it will be too late to bring real change before the general election later that year.

Instead, he chose to double down on the socialist approach, adding yet another ministry to his super-presidency and declaring a state of disaster, putting even more power in the unaccountable state.

But we South Africans can take ourselves “across the Rubicon”. It is for precisely a moment such as this, when a leader fails a nation, that we have a democracy. If we want to get this country onto a fundamentally different, better path before load-shedding and economic decline make it impossible to recover, now is the time to use our democracy.

Time for pragmatism

The DA offers South Africa a realistic, credible way across the Rubicon. We are the only party with the size, systems, policies, national footprint and track record of good governance to take on the ANC. It makes pragmatic sense to get behind the DA in 2024.

Coalition era

The collapse of Eskom and ongoing stage-6 load shedding has been catalytic for South Africa. It has collapsed support for the ANC, from 57% in 2019 to reach as low as 37% recently, according to a recent nationwide poll.

With load shedding set to continue for at least the next two years, and with accelerating decline on all fronts, there is no way the ANC will regain its majority. Therefore, South Africa will enter an era of coalitions at the national level next year after the 2024 national election.

Closing the gap

That same recent poll has the DA at 27%, meaning we are just 10 percentage points behind the ANC. And we will close that gap still further over the next 15 months. In fact, we have already overtaken the ANC as the biggest party in urban South Africa.

Yellow or Blue

These numbers make it clear that from 2024, the national government will be governed by either an ANC-led coalition or a DA-led coalition. Realistically, these are the only two possible outcomes.

This means we will either stay on the ANC’s path to a failed state, or we will start to make progress, just as there is already progress where the DA governs with a full majority or in small, stable coalitions – in Cape Town, the Western Cape, uMngeni in KZN, Kouga in the Eastern Cape, and Midvaal in Gauteng.

Power to the ANC cadres and we stay on the same road to a failed state. Or power to the people and we start rebuilding this country. ANC-led socialist kleptocracy or DA-led liberal democracy. Yellow or Blue. That’s the clear binary choice facing South Africa.