SPECIAL BOKAMOSO | South Africa doesn’t need a different driver. We need a new bus

The following Alternative State of the Nation Address was delivered by DA Leader Mmusi Maimane this morning in Cape Town.

Ladies and gentlemen

Members of the diplomatic corps

Members of the press

Fellow South Africans

If we are to reflect, honestly, on the state of our nation, we have to decide on the benchmark we’re going to use.

Do we allow our expectations to be lowered by decades of failure and disappointment? Do we simply accept this as our new normal and judge our progress against this standard?

Or do we take a big step back and compare our current South Africa to the one we could have been – the one we all thought possible 25 years ago? Because this would make for an entirely different assessment.

I know what my answer is. The South Africa we have become today is nothing like the one we once dreamt of, and I cannot accept this.

I remember when we were united by a vision of a country that worked, in both senses of the word. A country that functioned like a normal society – fair, tolerant and peaceful – but also a country with dignified work for all its people.

A country that protected the rights and freedoms of all South Africans.

Thirteen years ago I made a decision to dedicate my life to public service precisely because, by then, we had made almost no progress towards becoming this united, inclusive country.

A massive gap had opened up between the economic insiders and outsiders in our society.

Some had ended up on the inside – they had jobs, went to good schools, knew the right people, had the right party connections. And others were stranded on the outside with no hope of getting in.

It seemed to me that there was a deliberate effort to put up walls to protect the insiders and keep the rest out. Everything felt stacked against poor South Africans, and I could see no attempt nor will from our government to rectify this.

There was this profound injustice that remained in our society despite more than a decade of democracy and political freedom.

Today that gap is even wider, and there is no indication of it closing. We are a country split in two. That is the state of our nation.

Four out of ten South Africans can’t find work, and we have the highest youth unemployment in the whole world.

We also have the highest inequality in the world. Half our people live below the poverty line, and 17 million social grants are all that stand between them and extreme hunger and suffering.

Some of our communities experience rates of violent crime that put them on par with war zones, and we have among the highest murder and rape stats in the world.

And although we sit at the very top of all these terrible lists, these aren’t even the things we are best known for as a country. That honour belongs to the endemic and systemic corruption that has infected every single aspect of our life here.

Thanks to more than two decades of looting at every level and sphere of government, this is how we are known throughout the world.

If we want to gauge the real state of our nation, we need to hold this South Africa up against the dream we once had for our country.

We need to recognise that things are getting progressively worse for us, and we have to acknowledge that the reason they’re getting worse is the ANC.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we are to take our democratic duty seriously, then this year’s election has to be a referendum on the ANC.

Not an expression of hope for a better version of the ANC, but a referendum on the party’s achievements and failures during its time in office, and particularly its performance over the past term.

Anything less would be a dereliction of our duty in our hard-won democracy.

I was reminded last week of the value of democratic freedom when I met with opposition MPs from Zimbabwe. Their harrowing stories of the brutal clampdown by Mnangagwa’s government on the people of Zimbabwe were hard to listen to.

Forty years of democracy was not meant to turn out like this for them, and I pray for a peaceful resolution to their crisis.

There are many lessons we can learn from our neighbours north of the Limpopo, but the most pertinent is that it is extremely naïve to place blind faith in a new leader of a failed governing party.

Zimbabweans are fast discovering that Zanu-PF is still Zanu-PF, with or without Robert Mugabe.

This may seem obvious from the outside – or in hindsight – but it’s never an easy lesson to learn. The struggle for freedom is such a dominant part of our history, that our identities have become intertwined with liberation movements. For many people, it is all they know.

So now we have a country that emerged from 40 years of National Party rule and went straight into 25 years of ANC rule. As a nation, we struggle to step out of the shadow of one-party rule.

The failure to imagine a future that lies beyond the liberation movement has been the undoing of countless nations throughout Africa. And if the history of Africa has taught us one thing, it is that liberation movements never make good governments.

Their goal – their very reason for being – is to fight oppression and effect liberation, and not to build a new country. The ANC is simply unable to build one South Africa for all.

This is the lesson that we must learn before we head down the same road as our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters: Swapping out leaders to save a party is only ever in the interest of the party, not the country.

I respect Cyril Ramaphosa as a person. But whatever individual qualities he might have means little, because he leads a party that has demonstrated, over and over again, that it cannot act in the interest of South Africa.

Tomorrow he will sketch out his version of the state of our nation in Parliament. This will no doubt be a carefully crafted narrative that tries to separate him from everything he and his colleagues did to our country just the other day.

Be wary when he talks of concepts like renewal and unity, because he means unity of the ANC, not our country. In fact, the unity of the ANC comes at the expense of South Africa.

Ramaphosa’s ANC wasn’t recently parachuted in to save South Africa from an entirely different ANC. He was there, side by side with Zuma, throughout the “lost years”.

All those implicated in the State Capture saga and all those who took money from Bosasa are still there in his cabinet, and in the ANC’s NEC and Top 6.

The Zondo Commission has shown to the world how Bosasa has been an ongoing enrichment project for the ANC for the past two decades, and how our people were sold out for a braai pack and some beer.

The list of beneficiaries of this criminal scheme stretches all the way to the top of the party. It includes ANC heavyweights like Gwede Mantashe, Nomvula Mokonyane, Dudu Myeni and Vincent Smith.

The worst part is that we have known all of this for years. James Selfe raised it all the way back in 2010. Journalists have been writing about it. The SIU compiled a comprehensive report at the time, and nothing happened.

But this is not surprising when the President himself sees nothing wrong with his son’s ongoing business with Bosasa.

If Bosasa confirmed one thing, it is that there is no possibility of renewal in the ANC.

There can be no renewal when corruption charges against Duduzane Zuma are dropped by the NPA.

There can be no renewal when Nomvula Mokonyana remains a cabinet minister, despite the mountain of evidence against her.

There can be no renewal when Bathabile Dlamini remains a minister, or when Jacob Zuma himself is welcomed back with cake and champagne.

There can be no renewal when those who belong in jail are sent to Parliament instead.

“Thuma Mina” is not some magic word that washes away all sins past and present.

I know it is tempting to want to believe the hype. As a country, we are long overdue some good news. But if we want to move forward, we are going to have to remove the blinkers from our eyes and see this for what it is.

We have to be sober and honest in our analysis. And we must be prepared to use the opportunity afforded by an election to take the necessary action.

What we need is a governing movement, not another Big Man to rescue us.

Renewal in the ANC is not possible because rot has already spread everywhere in the party, and from there throughout the State. Which is why it can no longer manage the real problems our country faces.

The window period for a clean amputation has long since come and gone. Now it would mean cutting out most of the party.

But here’s the crux of the matter: Even if it were possible to cut out the rot in the ANC, it would still not be enough.

You see, our ANC problem goes beyond their systemic corruption. It is bigger than that – it’s a problem of vision, policy and action.

They’re a backward-looking party, stuck in the past. Their vision for South Africa comes from a time before the Berlin Wall fell, and they cling to a worldview shaped during the cold war.

Their guiding document – the National Democratic Revolution – was written for an age that no longer exists.

They see themselves as the arch-patriarch in this family of ours. They alone must own things, they alone must control the economy, they alone can provide jobs and they alone know what’s best for everyone.

They pit themselves against the world of business in everything they do, as if they were always destined to be enemies. They don’t seem to understand where and how jobs are created.

While the rest of the world has moved on, our government is like that Japanese soldier stranded on a remote Pacific island for decades after World War II had ended – still fighting an enemy that does not exist.

The ANC has now brought us to the edge of the cliff.

They have given us the single biggest threat to our economy: Eskom, with its massive debt of R400bn and counting.

They have given us almost 10 million unemployed South Africans.

They have given us systemic corruption that will take years, if not decades, to eradicate from the State.

And they won’t do anything about it. Even when they promise to take action, we know by now that they simply can’t do it.

The ANC is a broken bus – dangerous and unroadworthy – hurtling down the road with all of us on board. What they now have in Cyril Ramaphosa is just another driver of the same doomed bus.

On our current trajectory as mapped out by the ANC, we are heading for disaster, regardless of who sits in the driver’s seat. And this is something that is of concern throughout the world.

This much was confirmed by a joint memo to Ramaphosa’s investment envoy last year from ambassadors of five nations which, together, represent the bulk of our foreign investment.

Their red flag for our economy went beyond the usual concerns around corruption. More important were issues of policy and regulatory uncertainty. They spoke of shifting policy goalposts and of the negative impact on investment by threats to property rights.

To put their concern into perspective, consider that investments from those five countries combined are responsible for between 1.5 million and 2.3 million jobs in South Africa. This is what we are risking by not heeding their advice.

Just imagine cities like Port Elizabeth and East London without Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz. They would be ghost towns.

The authors of this memo know that the solution to our massive unemployment problem is increased investment and trade. And they wouldn’t have written that memo if they thought we were on the right track.

What they said in that memo is true, but the reality is that everything we need to do in order to open our doors for investment stands in direct opposition to ANC vision and policy.

This is why all Ramaphosa’s talk of cleansing and renewal in the party is a red herring. Even if he could somehow find the moral fortitude and the internal support to have his senior colleagues charged and prosecuted, it would not reverse our economic slide.

Our staggering unemployment numbers would continue to rise. The World Bank’s latest prediction of GDP growth at around 1.4% is less than half of what we’d need to start making inroads.

We would still find ourselves hurtling down the road in the wrong direction. That’s why we don’t need a new driver of the old bus. We need to switch buses.

And when deciding which bus to board, there is only one thing that matters: Your track record. Everything else is insignificant.

We’re in the middle of manifesto season right now, and some of the material recently released by parties makes for amusing reading. In a library you’d find these manifestos in the fiction section, and particularly amongst the other fantasy books.

It’s easy to make promises you know you’ll never be expected to keep. These manifestos guaranteeing everyone high paying jobs, houses, university degrees and all sorts of other nice things were never meant to be honoured.

It’s nothing but cheap populism and empty promises, and parties should be called out on it.

The alternative, of course, is to ask people to judge you on your track record rather than on your promises. And let’s be honest, there’s only one party than can do this, and that’s the DA. 

Thirteen years in the City of Cape Town, ten years in the Western Cape and the past two years in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay have given us a chance to demonstrate the DA difference, and not just talk about it.

And the results – the ones that really matter when it comes to closing the gap between economic insiders and outsiders – speak for themselves.

After a decade of DA government, the Western Cape today has by far the lowest unemployment rate in the country. This is thanks to an obsessive focus on attracting investment, growing tourism and supporting an agriculture sector hard hit by three years of drought.

And I’d like to single out Alan Winde for the exceptional work the province’s Ministry of Economic Opportunities has done in recent years in this regard. Under his leadership, the Western Cape was truly open for business.

Over the past year, more than half the jobs created in South Africa came from the Western Cape – a province with less than an eighth of the country’s population. And while we are proud of this achievement, we are under no illusion about the scale of the task. We know there is still a long way to go.

It’s not only on jobs that the DA-run Western Cape leads the rest. On almost every single measure of good governance there is clear blue water between it and all the other provinces.

More young people stay in school and finish matric in the Western Cape than anywhere else.

People live longer in the Western Cape than elsewhere.

More people have access to basic services in the Western Cape than in other provinces, and we work very hard at speeding up the delivery of these services.

But we are also honest in our commitments to communities. We tell people what we can and what we can’t do, and we keep them informed as we move forward.

There is also no provincial government that does more to keep its people safe. Given the limited power that provinces have over policing, our increase in the resources of the Metro Police, our new rail safety unit and our efforts to fight gangs and drugs have had a profound impact on the lives of people in the Western Cape.

Which is why we say: Give provinces real power over policing through a provincial police force, because they are best placed to serve their communities.

If there is one thing the DA has shown in recent years, it is our resilience in government. With no help from national government – and by harnessing the incredible power of our communities – we managed to defeat Day Zero in Cape Town and keep the taps running.

And it is not only in the Western Cape that we have set our government apart from the rest. In the short time we have led governments in the Metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay we have made huge strides in cleaning out the rot and prioritising service delivery.

The recent Adjustment Budget in Johannesburg saw an additional R700 million being allocated towards service delivery projects. This followed extensive consultation with residents on how this budget should be prioritised.

This money will now be spent on various electrification projects, road upgrades, council flat upgrades and public lighting projects, to name just a few.

That’s the DA difference, and it all comes down to a government that serves the people and respects the sanctity of public money.

Consider that the Western Cape government got 83% clean audits in the last Auditor General’s report. The next best province was Gauteng, way back on 52%. And it went sharply downhill for the rest of the provinces from there.

That’s why I say, judge us by our track record. Because everything else is just noise.

When I say the DA has not only a vision for a better future for our country, but also a plan to realise this vision, our track record in government confirms that this is true.

When I say we know how to unlock the potential in our economy and attract investment in order to create jobs, that’s not just talk. Our track record says we can do it.

Our track record says we don’t tolerate corruption and mismanagement of public funds.

Our track record says the 15 million people who live under DA governments are better off than those who live under ANC governments.

And we want to expand this so that we govern for many more. I believe we can lead governments in both Gauteng and the Northern Cape, and we can solidify our position in the metros, as well as reclaiming Nelson Mandela Bay.

Already our efforts to bring renewal to the inner city of Johannesburg and to attract investment to Tshwane are bearing fruit.

And there is much more that we would like to do for the people where we govern, like a provincial rail system and a provincial police force.

Later this month we will be launching our own election manifesto. And when you read through that document I want you to keep this in mind. Compare our offer to the offers made by those with no track record to speak of.

And then ask yourself: Who would you trust to build One South Africa for All?

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’ll be the first to admit that governing in coalitions and in minority governments in the metros has not been easy. But it is the way forward for us.

We are now in the era of coalition governments and for the foreseeable future this will be the case, including in national government.

It is possible for such coalition governments to succeed if they can agree on putting the interests of the people first, and if they have a plan to work from.

Armed with a DA blueprint, I have no doubt that a national government can turn the tide on unemployment and bring millions of economic outsiders into our economy.

Right at the top of this DA blueprint will be the one thing the ANC cannot deliver: Policy certainty. This will include guaranteeing private property rights and guaranteeing the independence of the Reserve Bank.

Compare this with the constant contradictions from the ANC on crucial issues like land expropriation, the Reserve Bank and prescribed assets. No investor can make decisions in such a climate.

We will make job creation the core focus of everything we do and we will offer special incentives to investors who meet a minimum jobs threshold.

As part of this focus on opening opportunities for young people, we will introduce a voluntary national civilian service year. Those who don’t qualify for tertiary education will have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in either healthcare, education or policing.

A crucial part of our plan is to help more South Africans to start and run their own businesses, because this is where the fight against unemployment will be won or lost. By making it easier to keep the doors to a small business open, we can go a long way towards helping put a job in every home.

We also understand the important role that cities play in generating GDP throughout the world, and we will place city-led growth at the forefront of our plan.

We will prioritise infrastructure that will help increase trade – areas such as roads, rail and air freight facilities – and we will look to reduce tariffs and charges at our ports and airports.

Our full manifesto will deal in detail with this plan to help create jobs, as well as crucial issues such as the management of our SOE’s, fiscal stability, economic redress, land reform and social development.

At the heart of this manifesto lies our plan to build the South Africa we once all thought possible, but have since lost sight of.

This is a South Africa where the walls between the insiders and the outsiders finally come down, and we can begin to deliver the economic freedom that so many people have been waiting for.

It is a plan rooted in reality, and not pie-in-the-sky fantasy as you will find in the manifestos of others.

It is a plan that draws on the skills and creativity of all our people. A plan that taps into the vast job-creating potential of entrepreneurs and small business owners, rather than treating them like the enemy.

It is a plan that flings South Africa’s doors open to the world and says: We are now open for business.

But most importantly, it is a plan that offers South Africans a fresh start, free from an ANC that once served its purpose as a liberation movement, but just could not step up to the plate as a government.

It is a plan that rekindles the hope for a united South Africa – not fractured by our diversity, but in fact strengthened by it.

It represents a brand new bus, heading off towards a bright new future, and not just a lick of paint and a different driver.

Because that is what our people deserve – the chance to finally build our dream country: One South Africa that works for all its people.

Thank you.

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