The following speech was delivered by Mmusi Maimane on Saturday at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg, at the launch of the DA’s Local Government Elections Manifesto.
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Fellow South Africans,
I stand before you today as a son of Dobsonville, Soweto. I am proud of my roots. I will never forget where I come from.
I stand before you as the Leader of a movement for change. When I look out at all of you, I see the future of our country in all its glorious diversity, and I want to thank you for coming all this way. You are the people that make our movement. As we gather here, we must also pass our condolences to the families of those ANC activists whose funeral is also today.
But most of all, I stand before you today as a proud patriot, full of hope for this great country of ours.
You see, I believe in the power of every person to change their lives, when things are not going well.
Look at us. See how far we’ve come as a nation.
We fought the evils of Apartheid and colonial oppression.
Our founding father, Nelson Mandela, brought us together to build a shared future for every South African – black and white.
We have a Constitution that guarantees that every person be treated with dignity and equality.
A Constitution that guarantees that every person be given the power to improve their lives.
A Constitution that commits to heal the divisions of the past and free the potential of each person.
We must treasure this Constitution. It is the rock on which we must build our free and fair society. If we protect it, it will protect us.
It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing this week of one of the greatest defenders of our Constitution. Our colleague Dene Smuts devoted her life to crafting and protecting this crucial document. We owe it to her memory to continue her work.
We must never, ever under-estimate how far we have come, and what it took to get us here.
And we must never go back to a time when some people’s lives were valued more highly than others.
Fellow South Africans, Apartheid may be dead and buried, but we live with its legacy today.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the quality of education our children receive.
Our poorest schoolchildren are being neglected, and the gap between the performance of poor children and rich children is widening every day.
While the matric pass rate in the richest schools has remained unchanged at over 90%, the pass rate of schools in the poorest areas has dropped by almost 10% in the past two years.
And half of our children don’t even make it to matric, let alone pass. It is painful to say this but, two decades after the birth of our democracy, Bantu Education is alive and well.
This is why young black people are falling behind when it comes to skills and jobs.
This is why, in 2016, the face of poverty is still black.
And this is why it is true when we say: The ANC governs as if black lives don’t matter.
As I travel around SA, I see broken roads, broken lights, broken pipes, broken promises and broken dreams.
If you don’t believe me, come with me to eGcuwa (Butterworth) in the Eastern Cape, where the local government spends millions on officials and politicians rather than on service delivery to the people.
Here you will see people whose lives have come to a stop. There is no development and there are no job opportunities.
Come with me to Mogalakwena in Limpopo where you will see a municipality torn apart by ANC factions at war. They’re too busy fighting to think about the needs of the people, and so service delivery has ground to a halt.
Or just go to down to Zandspruit, not far from here, and see for yourself. There you will see rubbish dumps right next to schools and clinics. You will see raw sewage running through the streets.
I love the people of Zandspruit – that is the ward where I first stood for election as a councillor. The terrible conditions I saw there is what convinced me to choose a new political party and to fight for change.
But if you go there at night, you will see nothing, because Zandspruit residents have no electricity. All they have is a local government that stopped caring about them a long time ago.
This is what poverty looks like in South Africa.
Today, millions of black South Africans are still shut out of our economy. They remain in poverty. They are the face of poverty.
This is something we must never accept. Because, if freedom means anything, it means a fair chance for every South African to move forward in life.
We must never forget the damage that Apartheid did. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that the last decade has been a missed opportunity to redress the legacy of our unequal past.
1994 brought the promise of change. And, yes, we made some progress. But in recent years we have started to go backwards.
We have seen an increase in corruption, starting at the very top.
We have a President who was found by the Constitutional Court to have broken the Constitution and the law. .
We have an economy in decline because of government mismanagement.
Jobs are being lost every day as companies take their investments elsewhere.
Our education system for poor children is in decline.
And the poor continue to go without access to basic services.
This government has had 22 years to move us forwards. And now, it feels as if we are moving backwards.
Fellow South Africans, I believe that every generation has its own struggle. And it is up to every generation to fight for their freedom.
Our parents struggled for political freedom. They sacrificed so much just so that we could have the right to elect a government of our choice.
All those people, and all those lives, for a simple ‘X’ on a ballot paper.
You see, they understood the power of that ‘X’. And they knew that it would give us, their children, the power to change our own lives.
Never again would we be left powerless.
So it is now up to us, a new generation of young South Africans, to use our political freedom to achieve economic liberation.
We need to use the power of our vote to bring about real change. Change that moves South Africa forward again.
When we take power, it will not be through the barrel of a gun. It will be the result of millions of South Africans coming together and casting their votes for change.
On 3 August, when we go to the polls, we have an opportunity to choose new ward councillors, and an opportunity to put a different party in charge of our towns and cities.
Fellow South Africans, local governments are the engines of change. Cities should be at the forefront of breaking down the Apartheid spacial legacy.
Well-run cities and towns create jobs. Companies invest in places where there is decent infrastructure. Where the roads are maintained, where potholes are fixed quickly, and where streetlights work.
They invest where people feel safe, where public spaces are clean, and where there is reliable access to water, electricity, transport and broadband internet.
Water and sanitation, electricity, refuse collection, firefighting, housing and public transport are crucial for individuals to succeed. And your local municipality is responsible for delivering them.
I was walking in East London last week when I bumped into a group of school children at 10h00 in the morning.
I asked them why they were not at school. They replied that the school sent them home because there was no water. .
The fact is, when towns and cities don’t work, South Africa cannot work.
And when you look at the state of cities and towns across the country, you can see why South Africa is moving backwards.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, over 20,000 households still use bucket toilets. This despite the ANC’s promise in 2006 to get rid of all bucket toilets in the metro.
Johannesburg is responsible for half our country’s wasted and lost electricity.
And when it comes to looking after taxpayers’ money, the City of Tshwane is considered South Africa’s worst-managed metro.
Over the past five years an organisation called Ratings Africa has been analysing South Africa’s big municipalities, ranking them according to their financial management.
Of all our Metros, the ANC-run Tshwane and Johannesburg are right at the bottom of the list, with scores of just 24 and 37 out of a hundred.
At the top of this list you’ll find the DA-run City of Cape Town with a score of 75 out of a hundred.
Fellow South Africans,
You do get the government you vote for.
That’s why we need change that cuts corruption.
Two months ago an independent research group released a report on the performance of all 234 municipalities in South Africa. And they found that the 20 worst municipalities in the country were all ANC-run.
In these municipalities, only three out of five residents have access to piped water, only half the households have electricity, and only one in ten households have their rubbish removed.
On the other end of the scale, nine out of the ten best municipalities in South Africa are run by the DA.
The most honourable thing to do in a democracy, is to govern well for all the people. Those who are selling out the struggle are those who steal the money from you – the people.
That’s how the DA managed to increase the matric pass rate in the 21 high schools in Khayelitsha by a massive 20% in just five years.
That’s how the DA is able to offer more free basic services to the poor than anywhere else in the country, as part of delivering an overwhelmingly pro-poor government.
Fellow South Africans,
The DA’s Manifesto for Election 2016 is our blueprint for turning South Africa’s metros and municipalities into thriving hubs of opportunity.
Our manifesto recognises that jobs are created by small businesses and not by government. The DA will bring jobs to your area by attracting, and supporting, new small businesses.
This begins with fixing the basics: making your area clean and safe, with good affordable transport, high-speed internet, and stable electricity and water supply.
This has been the DA’s recipe for success in Midvaal, the only DA-run municipality in Gauteng.
It is no coincidence that Midvaal has the lowest unemployment rate in the province at only 12%. The average unemployment rate for Gauteng sits at 27%.
The DA has achieved this by making it easier for businesses to start up and survive in Midvaal. We have simplified by-laws and procedures, and we have cut the turnaround time for land use applications.
Investors look for places with stability and efficiency, and Midvaal has attracted many well-known companies like Heineken, Nampak and Everite.
And Midvaal is not a lone example. The DA-run Western Cape also has the lowest unemployment rate out of all nine provinces, dropping from 25% to 19% in the past three years. We run the best expanded public works programme in the country, with the highest number of jobs.
Where the DA governs, jobs get created.
We will also make under-utilised public buildings and facilities available to small businesses at cheap rentals.
In short, we will become a partner to entrepreneurs, not an obstacle.
When it comes to transforming cities into vibrant business hubs, one of the biggest game changers is affordable and reliable public transport.
If you elect the DA to govern your municipality, we will invest heavily in public transport because we know how important it is to connect South Africans to opportunities to work, learn and play.
The DA has changed the face of public transport in Cape Town by rolling out the MyCiti Bus Rapid Transit system.
Since its launch in 2010, MyCiti has recorded 32.5 million passengers – school children, workers, pensioners and tourists. This world-class bus service is used by young and old, rich and poor.
In DA-run George, the Go George Bus Rapid Transit system has connected eight poorer outlying communities to central George, giving rural residents better access to jobs and education.
If you elect the DA to govern your municipality, we will bring bus and taxi transport systems to where they are most needed – in under-serviced communities.
If you elect the DA in your metro, we will make public transport easier by introducing a single ‘Smart’ ticket system so that commuters use just one ticket, be it for buses or taxis.
The DA will look to provide registered work-seekers with free transport within metros, to make it easier for them to find a job.
We will fight to give metros control over train services, so that we can run them better and make public transport truly integrated. Everyone knows that Metrorail needs the DA to make it work properly for our people.
The DA difference also means giving more families a home to call their own.
We know that no single housing solution can meet the massive need in South Africa, which is why the DA works with many different partners to fight the battle on many fronts.
If you elect the DA to govern your municipality, we will work hard to place housing developments close to education, close to work places, close to recreation facilities and close to public transport.
The DA will work hard to speed up the delivery of title deeds in your municipality so that more South Africans can own the properties where they live.
Many people were excluded from home ownership.
In the past three years, the DA-run City of Cape Town has given 15 000 title deeds to make the poor the real owners of their own homes. This is more than any other metro in the country.
And if you elect the DA to govern your municipality, we will work hard to speed up the rollout of basic services.
Because basic services – the provision of water, sanitation and electricity – is the coal face of local government.
It is the most fundamental job of a municipality. Nothing gives a clearer indication of a government’s commitment than the way it rolls out these crucial services to its people.
And where the DA governs we lead the way in basic service delivery for the poor.
By bringing water, electricity and sanitation to more people than anywhere else, by keeping communities clean and by fixing potholes faster than anywhere else, the DA is adding real value to people’s lives.
We repair traffic lights and street lights is just 48 hours. To repair potholes it is just 24 hours!
We spent R3 billion on major road upgrades last year. The cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay together didn’t even spend one sixth of this amount.
We fixed more than twice the number of potholes last year than the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay put together.
This is what good clean local governance is all about. This is the DA difference.
We want the opportunity to deliver in other places too, but for this to happen we need to be in government. We need people to vote for us.
If you elect a DA local government on 3 August, we will bring the DA difference to your city, to your town, and to your community.
My fellow South Africans,
The election on August 3rd is a local government election. But it is also so much more than that. It is a referendum on the future of our country.
The election is an opportunity to send a message to President Zuma and the ANC that we are sick and tired of their empty promises.
It’s an opportunity to say: We South Africans deserve an honest government. A government that keeps its promises. A government that is held accountable for its actions.
This election is a first step towards a new tomorrow for our country. Because the more votes we get at this election, the more we can change the direction of our country.
Change that stops corruption.
Change that delivers better services.
Change that brings jobs.
But it is up to you, the voters. You have to make that change. Change that moves South Africa forward again.
This is your power in a democracy: the power to change things. The power to make things better than they are. The power to hire and fire politicians. You are the boss – not the Guptas!
Let’s all use our power this year. Let’s fire a government that has stopped caring, and let’s hire the only one that can do the job.
For the sake of our country and our future, let’s vote for change in the 2016 Local Government Election.
Let’s build a South Africa for all, a nation that prospers together. Let’s honour the sacrifices of those who paid for our freedoms by building a new tomorrow, a movement that is non-racial, a movement that will bring the change we need in this country.
We prosper together.
I love this country and its people, and we must and we will do everything we can to bring change for jobs, for basic services and to end corruption.
See you on the streets, in the houses, in communities as we march towards the elections.
I thank you.