Happy 2018! I hope the festive season was fun and restful, and that you are starting the year with batteries recharged and ready to tackle the challenges of 2018.
The road ahead is by no means laid out; we have to chart it and build it. So I’d like to start the year by suggesting something of a roadmap.
In December, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as President of the ANC. I congratulate him and wish him well. We have to build a capable state in a South Africa that works for all. He was undoubtedly the better candidate. But we must not be lulled into a false sense of security by his promises of great reform. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The ANC remains a deeply divided, ideologically confused, undemocratic and corrupt organisation and it is far from clear that Ramaphosa will be able to undertake the critical reforms SA needs if we are to turn our economy around and start improving life in SA. Time will tell, and we will be watching closely.
Ramaphosa’s election may turn out to be the powder coating that fools South Africans into hanging onto their liberation movement long after it has outworn its usefulness. And that would simply set our nation back even further. So this is no time for us South Africans to drop our guard. We must be united and relentless in demanding the following key steps, each of which is absolutely non-negotiable.
With extraordinary urgency, Zuma must be removed and the structure he has built around him to enable state capture dismantled. That means appointing competent, independent individuals to head up the NPA, SAPS, SARS and the departments of Finance, Public Enterprises, Mineral Resources and State Security.
And then if nothing else, three crucial areas of policy reform have got to be tackled urgently.
First, South Africa needs SOE reform to stop the cash haemorrhage. This means putting capable, independent individuals in charge, focusing on strategic companies and selling or closing non-strategic ones. Eskom in particular requires urgent intervention to ensure a continuous supply of power at prices that enable our economy to compete effectively.
Second, we need a much more flexible regulatory regime for small and medium businesses, to unlock their massive job creation potential. Our unemployment rate of 36% is completely unnatural, and is the direct result of labour and other legislation that excludes new entrants and deters new job creation. Opening jobs and opportunities to young people must be a top priority.
Third, we have to insist that the needs of schoolchildren are placed ahead of the demands of SADTU. Right now, 4 out of 5 nine year olds cannot read with meaning in any language, setting them up for disaster at every further stage in life. This is a tragedy and a crisis and we owe it to all South Africa’s children to make this a central electoral issue.
Finally, we should expect that corruption is tackled in every sphere of government and past acts of corruption are aired and punished. This includes but is by no means limited to the inquiry into state capture.
Failure to act on any of these fronts should constitute a serious red flag, pointing to a government unable or unwilling to deliver on the pressing needs of ordinary South Africans, 55% of whom still live in poverty. We must judge Ramaphosa’s team on this scorecard, and make it clear we are doing so.
The DA will work hard this year to fight for these and other such reforms. We will continue seeking to unite South Africans on these issues, and around shared values of Constitutionalism, non-racialism, job-creating economic growth, zero tolerance of corruption, and a capable state.
Our role is to fight for the outsiders – the poor and marginalized and the young, who are locked out of the economy and unable to access the opportunities they need to get ahead in life. Our mission is to offer South Africa a compelling alternative: a new beginning beyond the hegemony of SA’s aging liberation movement. We aspire to a South Africa that is free, fair and filled with opportunity; a modern and forward looking country that is globally integrated and prosperous.
In government, the DA’s crucial focus will be on bringing jobs and opportunities – especially to young people. We will continue our strong drive to improve educational outcomes, which has once again placed the Western Cape top in the country in terms of the “real matric pass rate”, which takes retention rates into account. We retained 64% of learners in the system between Grade 10 and the NSC exam, which is 22 percentage points higher than the Free State, which had the lowest retention rate in the country. And yet still, 83% of Western Cape learners passed the 2017 NSC exam.
The DA is facing two significant governing challenges right now: the Western Cape drought, and the allegations surrounding Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. In both of these, please be assured we are acting according to our values.
In the De Lille matter, we will hold ourselves to the same standard that we hold the ANC. We do not tolerate cutting legal corners or playing fast and loose with the law. We have followed due process and insisted that our Councillors in Cape Town institute an independent investigation by Bowman Gilfillan. That report, along with another DA internal report, has found cause for serious concern in Cape Town. Cape Town is the jewel in the DA’s governance crown, and we will act with integrity to demonstrate to voters that good, clean governance is not negotiable in the DA. We will assess the facts and take a decision on the matter on Sunday this week, at a special meeting of our Federal Executive, the highest decision-making body in the DA.
In response to the severe water crisis, the City of Cape Town has gone to great lengths to reduce water use while increasing supply. Seven projects to increase water supply are at an advanced stage and will start providing additional water in the coming months. These include groundwater extraction, waste water treatment and desalination. A further twelve projects are in the pipeline. World Bank consultants deem the City’s supply plan to be excellent and one of the most detailed they have ever seen. In addition to this, the City is working on a long term strategy to adapt to a low rainfall environment, and a critical water shortages disaster plan.
But ultimately, responding to the Cape drought is a group effort, as is building the road ahead for South Africa in 2018. Each of us has a part to play, and my hope is that we can unite and work together to give our kids a brighter future.