My Fellow South Africans,
Today, twenty-five years ago, was the most significant date in the history of our country. Millions of South Africans, with the simple mark of a cross on a ballot paper, joined billions of people across the world who participate in their democracies and elect their governments.
In eleven days’ time we have the chance to exercise this fundamental right once more. And in preparation of this, it is important that we look back at the past 25 years and see what lessons there are to learn.
Over the course of these 25 years of ANC government, life has become harder for poor South Africans. Far more South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and many more South Africans now live below the poverty line. More South Africans live in homes without a single income and have to survive off small grants and remittances. More children drop out of school before matric. More South Africans are victims of crime, and particularly violent crime. And everything from transport and food to electricity and petrol costs way, way more, even accounting for inflation.
Twenty-five years of ANC rule has been devastating for our country and its people. But it’s also been disastrous for the ANC itself. The former liberation movement that once promised South Africans “a better life for all” bears no resemblance today to the one that was once headed up by Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.
The ANC has gone from movement to monument. What used to be a movement for liberation has now become a monument to a bygone era – somewhere we merely reflect on the past.
But this is the natural life cycle of all liberation movements. They are born, they struggle for freedom, they are rewarded with a period in government and then, after failing to make this transition, they die. Throughout Africa we have seen this countless times – liberation movements that sink under the weight of their own corruption and greed, eventually making way for the next phase of a nation’s democracy.
Take Zambia as an example. For nearly two decades Kenneth Kaunda outlawed rival political parties, and the people of Zambia had to make do with a one-party state and what seemed to be a president-for-life. When this was finally changed in the early 90’s, Kaunda’s United National Independence Party quickly disintegrated. For over a decade now it has failed to win a single seat in their country’s parliament.
With their primary task long completed, and unable to transition into a real governing party, all liberation movements meet this fate. The ANC is no exception. What we’re seeing now is the final kicks of a party that has fallen from grace in every single respect, barely kept alive by a thin veneer of credibility lent by a charming president.
Like other liberation movements on the continent, they go along with the conventions of democracy, but they never really buy into them. They pretend to honour the Constitution, because that’s what you do, but they’re not committed to it. They go along with elections because this is what a democracy requires, but they see the results as a foregone conclusion. They pretend to advocate for a free and independent media, but they view the public broadcaster as a party mouthpiece and they expect flattering coverage in the press.
Many people, who notice these tendencies and see where the party is heading, say that any opposition to the liberation movement must come from within the movement itself. That it must somehow cleanse and heal itself, as we supposedly saw in Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF, and now with the ANC. But this is nothing other than factionalism. It just describes a new group’s turn to eat.
The transformation of liberation movements is often quite dramatic. Many of the ANC leaders of 25 years ago would have been appalled at what the party has become today. In 1994 they had a crop of credible leaders – un-tempted at that stage and thus untainted. They valued free and fair elections, and seemed to understand that power lay in the will of the people.
In contrast with this, the ANC of today has resorted to racial mobilisation and fear-mongering in order to delay the inevitable electoral defeat. We are told that there will be chaos in South Africa if the people were to vote them out. Do you know who else said this? Kenneth Kaunda. In his desperation to prevent his country from adopting a multi-party system, he said that such a move would certainly lead to chaos. Of course it didn’t. It only led to the demise of his party and the end of his reign.
That is the power of a democracy. Elections aren’t only about giving a mandate to a government, they’re also about removing this mandate.
It is not in South Africa’s interest at all to give the party that has failed us for 25 years a stronger mandate, regardless of what some commentators may write. If we truly want to reform our politics – and thereby reform our country – the best thing we can do is to bring the ANC below 50%.
The City of Cape Town didn’t turn its fortunes around by increasing the ANC’s mandate back in 2006. It was only by pushing them below 50% and putting together a brand new coalition government that the complex web of patronage and corruption could finally be broken and real, meaningful reforms could be introduced.
That’s where we stand with our country right now. We need a fresh start. And this cannot possibly come from within the ANC. It has to come from outside, or else we’re only talking about the swapping of factions.
We need to reform our politics.
For centuries we have been subjected to one form of nationalism or another. There was English Nationalism under the British colonial government. Then came Afrikaner Nationalism under the Apartheid government. And now we have African Nationalism under the ANC.
That’s not who we are or what we want to be as a nation. And so we must all work at building a strong centre that rejects nationalism. We must build this centre around ideas and values and a shared vision for our future. And we must tell those who want to drag us back into separate corners of racial solidarity that we are done with that for good. Our past was divided, but our future is united, non-racial and inclusive.
While they are still stuck in that past, we have already moved on to the next chapter in our country’s history. We have moved on from freedom fighting, and our project now is freedom protecting.
We also need to reform our institutions.
It is the job of an elected government to protect our institutions, but this ANC government did the exact opposite. Jacob Zuma’s biggest crime wasn’t the money he stole, but the institutions he destroyed.
From the Public Protector and SARS to the IEC and an independent SABC – these are the things that make a democracy work. Our reform must start with the abolishment of all forms of party cadre deployment, and must ensure the appointment of only qualified, independent candidates to leadership roles at these institutions.
We need reform of our state.
We need to place certain crucial services under the control of those best placed to deliver them to the people.
This means taking passenger rail services out of the hands of national government and handing it over to provincial government. It also means creating a provincial Police Service that will be far more responsive to the needs of the communities in that province.
We need to reform our society.
The stories we read about and see every day in the news are heart-breaking. Teachers and parents beating the children left in their care. Pastors abusing the people in their congregations. Communities held hostage by drug dealers and terrorised by gangs.
We need to fix – and in some cases rebuild – our society into one that cares, nurtures and protects one another. We need to build homes that work, and families that take responsibility. We need to create communities where families can live together, near work opportunities, so that the system of migrant labour doesn’t rip our families apart.
But, above all, we need to reform our economy.
The ANC government’s idea of sweeping state control and state-led growth belongs in a time long gone. We must step into the future with an economy geared for the future. The private sector is not the enemy. They are, in fact, the heroes of job creation, and we must treat them as valued partners in this critical task.
It is the role of government to free them up in order to create the millions of new jobs we need. We need to decentralise and demonopolise our economy. We need to place a far greater focus on the role of small businesses in job creation, and we must place our cities at the forefront of our economic growth.
It has become clear that the economic reforms we need cannot come from an ANC government stuck in the past and committed to a worldview long abandoned by the rest of the world. And so it will fall to the DA to spearhead these reforms so that we can put a job in every home.
And we will start with the Parliamentary Act we are launching here today: the Jobs Act. This Act will focus on two key areas critical to our economic recovery: Foreign investment and SMMEs.
The Act provides for special tax incentives and property allowances for foreign companies that meet certain socio-economic empowerment goals. We will also legislate a wide range of incentives for foreign companies, which will include key areas such as industrial projects, enterprise investment, critical infrastructure, research & development, agri-businesses and film and TV production.
In short, foreign investors will know that, under a DA government, South Africa will be open for business. They will find here an investment environment that is flexible and mutually beneficial.
The Act also addresses many concerns that foreign investors have around the resolution of disputes here in South Africa, and will give them far more peace of mind about bringing their money here.
As far as SMMEs are concerned, this Jobs Act will protect and support this crucial sector of our economy by ensuring greater flexibility in the labour market through minimum wage exemption for businesses that fall into certain classifications. This will keep the doors open to thousands of small businesses and protect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of employees.
The Act also looks at doing away with all unnecessary red tape that small businesses still have to comply with, as well as the creation of a special forum for dispute resolution specifically for SMMEs.
This Jobs Act will go a long way towards making South Africa not only a far more attractive and safe investment destination, but also a much easier place to start and run a small business.
That, fellow South Africans, is how we start to reform our country. That is how we begin to undo 25 years of ANC government and rebuild South Africa into the modern, prosperous and inclusive nation we all want it to be.
But first we need to put a government in place that is willing to make these calls. A government that looks to the future, not the past. And this is where you come in.
On 8 May, you have one important job to do: Go out and vote for a government that you know will make a difference. Not one that tries to divide us into separate corners. Not one that steals from poor South Africans. Not one that only has plans and policies from a bygone era.
Vote for a government of honest, capable and caring men and women. A government that has already shown it has what it takes to build One South Africa for All.