The saying: “actions speak louder than words” is particularly true when applied to politics. This can be a great disadvantage for opposition parties, since words, in the form of promises and untested policies, are usually all they have to convince citizens to give them a chance to govern.
However, South African voters are able to make an informed decision, thanks to the fact that the Western Cape has been governed by the Democratic Alliance since 2009, under the passionate leadership of Premier Helen Zille.
It is a very worthwhile exercise to compare President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address with Premier Zille’s State of the Province address delivered last Friday. This comparison reveals a lot about the difference between the ANC’s and the DA’s approach to government, and how those impact people’s daily lived experience throughout the country.
The first and most obvious difference is that my colleague, Premier Zille, did not need truckloads of razor wire to protect her from the people she serves. There were no road closures, over-the-top security, or indeed any security measures at all.
The second big difference is that while the President used tough global conditions to excuse the ANC’s poor performance, the picture where the DA governs is a very positive one – and we are subject to the same global conditions. The fact is, where the DA governs, things are going in the right direction, because we focus on what can be done. Which is a lot.
The key difference is that DA governments, whether they be in a province or in a town, are all united around one, clear long-term vision and committed to one action plan to achieve it.
And every DA government is founded on one overriding value: that politicians are there to serve the people, not the other way around.
This is why the DA government in the Western Cape has a strong focus on job creation. Because job creation is what people care about most. Our approach to job creation reflects our position that government’s role is to remove the constraints and create the conditions that will enable growth. And this is exactly what the DA government in the Western Cape is doing.
There are now 310 000 more jobs in the Western Cape than there were in 2009 when the DA took over from the ANC. In the past 3 years, unemployment has dropped from 24.8% to 19%. Yesterday, the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey was released by StatsSA. It showed that the Western Cape now has the lowest unemployment rate in South Africa, the lowest number of ‘discouraged’ work seekers (those who have given up looking for work), and the greatest number of new jobs created. Employment in the Western Cape has grown by a massive 9%. That’s not us saying it – the national statistics prove the difference a DA government makes.
And these outstanding results have been achieved using only three of five key levers that the DA has identified for job creation, namely: infrastructure provision, skills building, labour legislation reform, SMME (small, medium and micro enterprises) promotion and direct tax incentives. Of these five levers, labour legislation reform and tax incentives are national powers, so beyond the provincial government’s ability to control.
But the DA provincial government has done everything possible to provide infrastructure, grow skills and support SMME’s. Programmes such as Broadband for Business, SMME Support and the Red Tape Reduction Unit have produced a business confidence index that is 33% higher for the Western Cape than the national average. Development in the province is double the national rate and almost 9 times higher than the Gauteng rate.
Compare this to the President’s reaffirmed commitment to “create”100 black industrialists. The real intent here is to keep looking after the small circle of well-connected, super-rich ANC cronies. This will not improve the life of a single one of our 8.3 million jobless citizens.
Along with the jobless, young people are another group that the ANC is neglecting. In his speech, Zuma did not make any reference to basic education at all, even though school children comprise over 20% of our population. This is probably because our education system is crumbling, on the back of SADTU’s continued stranglehold, a situation that the ANC is unwilling to address.
And the ANC is continuing to neglect higher education while blocking the rollout of a nationwide internship system that could give a million young people free on-the-job training.
This is in stark contrast to the DA government in the Western Cape, for whom young people, particularly those marginalized by our apartheid past, are a top priority group. DA policies in the Western Cape underscore our determination to give these young people hope for the future – hope that they can reach their full potential in life.
And the 2015 matric results are hard evidence that we are succeeding. The pass rate was 84.7%, the highest in the country, with all who passed qualifying for higher education, and half for university. We managed to keep a larger share of kids at school till matric than any other province, and our retention rate of 67% was up on 2014.
Our pass rates for maths and science were the highest of all the provinces, and our pass rate in schools serving our disadvantaged communities (quintiles 1-3) is over 70%, and rising every year.
These outstanding results are thanks to pro-poor, pro-youth initiatives, such as an extensive school nutrition programme, broadband rollout to schools to facilitate e-Learning, after-school programmes, subsidized transport or hostel accommodation for rural learners who live far from schools, and financial assistance with school fees where necessary.
Beyond that, we are prioritising technical and vocational training colleges, internships, and a reduction in harm caused by alcohol abuse, so that our children can grow up in strong, safe communities and access natural pathways into the workplace.
The Premier is the first to admit that we still have a long way to go in fixing our past. But we are owning our future and moving in the right direction all the time. Through actions rather than words, the DA has proved that a capable, caring government can deliver rising employment levels and consistent improvements in education.
These are wonderful achievements, which prove what can be done in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria if voters elect us to govern there too. In this year’s Local Government Elections, you have the opportunity to bring this change to your municipality. I hope you will use it.