The following remarks were delivered by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP, in Johannesburg today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In as little as 14 weeks from today, it will be the day before South Africa’s seventh democratic election.
Thirty years after our country made its transition to democracy, the 2024 general election is set to be South Africa’s next great transition.
1994 was a transition to rescue South Africa from exclusion and conflict.
2024 will be a transition to rescue South Africa from corruption and state collapse.
The scale of change that this year’s election will bring, is unlike anything we have witnessed since 1994.
For the first time, the ANC will lose its national majority.
For the first time, the ANC will lose its majority in multiple provinces.
For the first time, the DA has a pathway to enter provincial and national government beyond the borders of the Western Cape – while also winning our flagship province with a bigger outright majority.
In April last year, I announced from the floor of the DA’s Federal Congress that my party would commit itself to forming a “Moonshot Pact” with like-minded opposition parties.
I vividly remember how, at the time, many commentators rushed to write-off this initiative.
Many claimed that it would never get off the ground, because opposition leaders did not have it in them to work together.
Nearly a year later, and the sceptics have been comprehensively proven wrong.
Now known as the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa, this group of eleven parties have put in many long hours of work to forge the relationships we need to form a new government.
Just last week, the Charter held its first joint registration event where youth activists from all of the different parties came together to show South Africans that we can win when we are united.
The Charter has also already adopted a series of joint policy approaches, and we plan to ramp up our activities as the election approaches.
This level of inter-party cooperation is unprecedented in the history of South African democracy.
That parties as diverse as the DA, IFP, FF+, ActionSA, ISANCO, the UIM and others have been working together for nearly a full year even before the election, serves to illustrate one crucial point.
It shows that, in this election: we are serious.
We are serious about offering voters a credible alternative that can win.
We are serious about defeating the ANC and keeping the EFF and other radicals out of government.
Above all, we are serious about rescuing South Africa.
Because, like all of you, we know that time is running out.
But no party that wants to form the anchor for a new government-in-waiting could claim to be truly serious without a plan.
Without a Blueprint.
That is why today is radically different from the DA’s pre-SONA events many of you would have attended in previous years.
I am not here today to tell you about the state of South Africa.
We all know the dire state our country is in.
I’m also not here to tell you what Cyril Ramaphosa will say at SONA, because we all know that he will only deflect, distract, and make empty promises.
I’m here to tell you about the DA’s Blueprint to rescue South Africa.
And the truth is that, never before has South Africa needed this Blueprint more than it does now.
Just this past week, we saw another example that Cyril Ramaphosa has long since chosen cadres over country.
The President has publicly told us that he refuses to act against the Deputy President he appointed, despite alarming evidence of systemic corruption and capture perpetrated by Paul Mashatile.
It is worth emphasising this point.
The position of Deputy President is a political appointment, made solely at the discretion of President Ramaphosa.
It is therefore just another cowardly excuse for President Ramaphosa to pretend that he can’t act without SAPS telling him what to do.
Thabo Mbeki removed Jacob Zuma as Deputy President on the basis of allegations made in the Shabir Shaik matter.
It seems that Cyril Ramaphosa simply lacks the courage to do the same.
And he cannot claim that he didn’t know.
The DA provided him with a full rundown of the allegations against Mashatile last week.
Just yesterday, Netwerk24 reported that Mashatile’s sons were awarded three tenders by the Gauteng infrastructure department.
This isn’t something that happened in the past.
Those three tenders run until 2025, which means taxpayer money is being funnelled to the Mashatiles as we speak.
It is simply untenable that the President is determine to turn a blind eye to the corruption happening across the hallway from his office in the Union Buildings.
Every single day that Paul Mashatile remains in the office that he is so patently unfit for, is directly attributable to Cyril Ramaphosa.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work of the brave journalists at News24 and Netwerk24 who put together so many pieces of this corrupt puzzle.
Just imagine what an outrage it would have been if the work of Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate scandal was simply ignored.
Why should it be any different when it comes to the work of Cowan, Karrim and Wessels on “Mashatile Unmasked?”
That is why the DA will not rest until Mashatile is held accountable, and we will soon announce further action in this regard.
This whole sordid affair confirms that the DA’s task after the election is simply this: to fix what the ANC has broken.
On 17 February, the DA will launch our manifesto in Pretoria.
That entire manifesto will be anchored in one critical fact: that the road to rescuing South Africa, runs through Parliament.
Beyond the corruption, the mismanagement and the economic decline, a defining failure of the Ramaphosa administration is that the outgoing President never grasped the importance of Parliament.
He seemed to be under the impression that, by simply saying something, it would happen.
Saying there should be bullet trains, does not magically make it so.
Saying loadshedding must end, does not magically make it so.
Only the hard work of legislative reform makes change possible.
With this in mind, and given my own years of experience on the parliamentary benches, I am proud to share with you today the Blueprint for the DA’s first 100 days in national government.
This Blueprint will amount to the most comprehensive legislative reform agenda since 1994.
Within the first 100 days in office, the DA will introduce legislation aimed at rescuing our country from five key sources of state collapse.
These reforms will be aimed at the five following priority areas:
1. Fixing the institution of Parliament itself, in order to turn it into the engine room of reform;
2. Ending loadshedding by embracing privatisation;
3. Abolishing cadre deployment in favour of merit-based appointments and a capable state;
4. Halving the rate of violent crime, including murder, attempted murder and gender-based violence; and
5. Growing the economy while protecting social grants.
Out of all the political parties in South Africa, the DA is probably the one with the greatest appreciation for the true role of Parliament.
Many of us have spent our lives on those benches.
It is heart-breaking to witness what this once-proud institution has been reduced to.
The House from which history was made when FW de Klerk announced the end of apartheid, the house from which Nelson Mandela outlined a new vision, is now burnt to ashes.
In addition to prioritising the physical reconstruction of Parliament so that all South Africans can again be proud of the people’s House, the DA last year published a comprehensive plan to make Parliament work again for the people.
We will do this by creating a committee to oversee the Presidency, increasing the frequency of presidential questions, and introducing penalties when members of the executive fail to answer questions.
Based on the model we use in the Western Cape legislature, we will also reintroduce interpellations, which are snap debates that force Ministers to account.
Finally, even with the DA in government, we will empower opposition MPs to serve as committee chairs.
Because we are serious about oversight and accountability.
The DA will take all of these steps within our first 100 days in government, as they would give expression to the recommendations of the State Capture Commission.
Also within the first 100 days, we will table legislation to rapidly increase private electricity generation and transmission.
It is time for South Africa to stop beating around the bush.
We live in a failing state that cannot even fix potholes.
That same state is never going to end loadshedding.
It is time to embrace privatisation, especially when it comes to electricity.
In government, the DA would reintroduce our bill to create an Independent Transmission System and Market Operator.
This entity will be mandated to urgently establish a fully private market for the trading and distribution of electricity.
In the first budget tabled by a new multi-party government, the DA will push for the introduction of an expanded R75 000 tax rebate to further encourage private households to install solar energy.
The DA’s Blueprint will also see us abolish cadre deployment from the face of this country.
Within our first 100 days in office, we will introduce legislation that outlaws cadre deployment.
By expanding on our End Cadre Deployment Bill, we will make it a criminal offence for any politician to interfere in appointment processes, and remove powers of appointment, promotion and dismissal from politicians.
Instead, the DA will fundamentally reform the Public Service Commission to become an independent custodian of the public sector, with a mandate to ensure that all appointments are based strictly on merit and skill.
We also eagerly look forward to the outcome of our court challenges to expose the ANC’s complete cadre deployment records and to declare this evil practice unconstitutional.
Success in these court cases will pave the way for us to wipe cadre deployment corruption from the face of South Africa.
Our fourth priority is crime.
Within 100 days, our Blueprint will see the introduction of the Scorpions 2.0 through a constitutional amendment.
This will create an independent anti-crime and anti-corruption institution in Chapter 9 of the Constitution.
We must learn the lesson from the demise of the original Scorpions by making it impossible for Parliament to abolish this entity without a two-thirds majority.
At the same time, we will introduce a Devolution Bill to devolve policing powers to competent provincial and local governments.
This will not only bring policing closer to the people.
But, as the DA has already demonstrated with our LEAP project in the Western Cape, devolved local policing will also reduce violent crime by empowering well-run local governments to hire skilled, competent, and properly trained and equipped officers.
At the same time, the abolition of cadre deployment will finally compel all government entities – including the SAPS – to hire police officers exclusively on the basis of merit and skill.
Finally, within 100 days, the DA will start preparations to introduce a new budget.
Frankly, we might as well ignore what the President says at SONA, and the budget that the current Finance Minister delivers later this month.
We all know that they are going to make desperate populist promises that the government cannot afford to keep.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the budget deficit has grown to 6%, the highest level in two years.
Years of SOE bailouts, unaffordable wage increases and wasteful spending have brought us to a point where the President will blow populist hot air about bullet trains and smart cities at SONA, to a country that stopped believing him a long time ago.
The real SONA and budget to watch, are the ones that follow after a new government assumes office.
After the election, this new government will immediately prepare to introduce a new budget to reflect its new priorities.
The DA will use this new budget to begin to fundamentally restructure our economy.
Unlike the ANC, we understand that social development is intricately linked to economic growth.
That is why our first budget will contain no tax increases, no bracket creep, and will start to reduce the unaffordable wage and debt bills that suffocate the economy.
I also want to make it clear that the DA will bury the ANC’s job-killing policies that come straight out of the socialist playbook, including expropriation without compensation, the nationalisation of mines, farms, industry and the Reserve Bank, as well as the madness of the NHI.
On the NHI, I want to take a moment to applaud Business Unity South Africa and Business for SA for the principled stand they have taken against the NHI.
The DA fully supports the call by business leaders for Ramaphosa not to sign the unconstitutional NHI Bill, and to instead refer it back to Parliament.
The process that led to this Bill completely ignored public input and the Bill itself is riddled with unconstitutional clauses.
I do, however, have some bad news in this regard.
On the 14th of December last year, the DA wrote to Ramaphosa with this exact request, imploring him to refer the NHI Bill back to Parliament.
We made the point that, given the flaws in the Bill, it was, in fact, his constitutional duty to do so.
Nearly a month later, on the 11th of January this year, we finally received a response.
Not from the President, but from his Parliamentary Counsellor, Gerhard Koornhof.
Without even so much as addressing the substance of our request, Koornhof simply wrote the following back, and I quote:
“You are kindly reminded that the DA participated in the Parliamentary process related to this Bill. The Bill was thereafter approved by both Houses, in a Parliamentary process in which the DA participated.”
I think we can take that as a no.
But more seriously: That the President sees fit to send such a politically-motivated response to our request, which in no way deals with the substantive issue on the unconstitutionality of this Bill, simply demonstrates that the ANC is putting our health sector at risk purely for political reasons.
Ramaphosa’s apparent determination to ram this Bill through apparently to stick it to the DA, would be a violation of his constitutional duty to this country.
We therefore also welcome the announcement by business leaders that they are considering legal action against Ramaphosa if he persist along this route.
Should Ramaphosa choose to ram through this mad piece of legislation, the DA will immediately take him to court to protect our health system, secure the jobs of our doctors and nurses, and prevent the large-scale capital flight that is guaranteed to follow the ANC’s gutting of our health system.
We should not underestimate the immediate positive impact that a new DA-aligned budget, which redirects priorities away from destructive policies towards job-creation, will have on our economy.
For the first time in three decades, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, investors and hard-working South Africans will see a budget that respects them.
For too long, the ANC has viewed economic growth with suspicion, and the people who create jobs as the enemy.
With the DA in government, investor sentiment will soar and our new budget will kickstart economic growth and job creation.
The immediate stimulus of a jobs-friendly new budget will be followed by the introduction of the DA’s Responsible Spending Bill and our Social Impact Bill.
The former will introduce a debt rule that limits the amount of debt any government can add to the fiscus.
The latter will replace the corruption of race-based BEE with means-tested empowerment that benefits the 30 million people who still live in desperate poverty and who are struggling with the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation.
At the same time, the DA recognises that the biggest threat facing the 30 million South Africans who live in poverty, is the prospect of money running out to fund social grants.
Decades of ANC corruption, looting and economic mismanagement has come to pose an existential threat to social grants.
Only a government anchored by the DA and built upon our track record of job creation and prudent financial management, can protect the sustainability of social grants well into the future.
A Parliament that works for the people.
A private electricity market to end loadshedding.
A capable state free from cadre deployment and corruption.
An independent crime-busting entity and stronger local policing.
A budget that creates jobs and protects social grants.
That is the DA’s Blueprint to rescue South Africa within 100 days of taking office.
And it will improve the daily lives of every South African.
Instead of a burnt-down Parliament, a failing state riddled with cadre deployment, world-record unemployment, uncontrolled violent crime and a dying economy, this can be the new state of our nation just weeks from today.
For the first time ever, this new future is within reach as the ANC collapses.
The DA is committed to serving as the anchor tenant for a new multi-party government, and to carrying this Blueprint into coalition negotiations.
Because we are serious about winning so that we can rescue South Africa.
At the end of the day, the simple truth is this.
South Africa’s next government will either be a coalition of corruption with the ANC and EFF at its heart, which will seal this country’s fate.
Or it will be a Multi-Party Charter government with the DA at its heart, which will implement the most comprehensive legislative reform agenda seen in a generation.
When you strip away the noise, those are the stakes in 2024.
And, in this election, the stakes are just too high for any voter who wants to rescue South Africa, to stay at home.
I want to send a message to every South African who is struggling to make ends meet.
Help is on the way.
Very soon, you will finally have a government that is on your side.
A government that works for you every day, to improve your lives.
Not to improve the lives of politicians, but to improve your life.
That is my commitment to you.
To get up every single morning, and to fight for you.