The national and provincial elections of 2019 boil down to a choice for voters between liberation movement governance and coalition governance. In the 2016 local government elections, people rejected the former in favour of the latter in the three large metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
Almost two years later, their decision has been clearly vindicated. The parties of the coalitions governing those metros (DA, Cope, ACDP, FF+ and IFP) have shown conclusively that coalition government can start to move South Africa forward again.
This is no longer a matter for speculation. South Africans now have real, measurable evidence that parties with widely differing ideologies can come together and work together to bring the change South Africa needs. This is not to say it has been plain sailing. It hasn’t. We’ve had to find each other over and over again. We’ve had to climb the steep curve of learning to compromise and accept that no single party has a monopoly on good ideas. We couldn’t always move as quickly as we would have liked.
But the fact is, the centre has held. The common principles that brought us together have been a stronger glue than the differing ideologies that pull us apart. We all share the same vision of a safe, prosperous society. And so we are all committed to the same objectives: to fight corruption and crime; to create the conditions conducive to job creation; and to deliver services to all, focusing particularly on the poorest households.
Last month, these governments together passed more than R100 billion in budgets for the 2018/19 financial year. All three budgets reflect the coalitions’ commitment to directing public money to the people who need it most – the poor and vulnerable. All three prioritise basic service delivery over luxuries. All three reflect the critical importance of building and maintaining water, energy and transport infrastructure.
Since taking over in August 2016, all three coalition governments have governed in an open, transparent and people-oriented manner. All have managed to significantly improve the financial position of their metros while turning the tide on decaying infrastructure. All have started rolling back decades of neglect, making measurable improvements in service and housing delivery – improvements that I have written about in recent newsletters.
The coalitions in Johannesburg, Tshwane and NMB show what can be achieved when people set aside personal differences in a common effort to make South Africa work. Being in coalition moves political parties to put pragmatism over ideology and the country’s interests ahead of group interests.
By contrast, liberation movement governance has brought us a corrupt, enriched elite, mounting poverty, unemployment and inequality, decaying infrastructure and divisive politics that threaten to destabilise the country and to rob us of our freedoms.
Coalition government is the antidote to the poison of identity politics, in which different groups pull apart in a fight to get more resources for themselves at the expense of other groups. Coalitions drive people towards the centre. And while the ideas and the conversations of the centre don’t occupy the media’s attention the way those on the radical, populist edges do, it is in the centre where you’ll find the ideas that work.
The DA is committed to the centre ground, where people who may differ vastly in culture, colour and creed can come together around shared values, attitudes and conduct and work together towards a common goal, in which the state works for the people and not the other way around.
And we are committed to emerging as the largest party in both Gauteng and the Northern Cape in 2019, so that we can form coalition governments there and start moving those provinces forward again.