Why a change of guard in the DA is good for SA

Written by Steuart Pennington

While the DA was holding its National Convention to elect new leadership I was travelling in the Western Cape.

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Whether you are asking for directions at de Hoop or checking out the penguins at the Boulders, or just simply driving on the roads you have an overriding sense of a well- managed province.

The Western Cape works.

If the level of service delivery protests across the country are anything to go by (averaging two per day currently) then it seems proper, efficient, fair and competent government is what South Africans most want.

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How we improve national, provincial and local government and management across the board seems to be the BIG challenge facing SA at present.

It’s what the electorate yearns for…..
but for some reason does not vote for.

Grand policy debates, shenanigans in Parliament, overseas visits, departmental scandals seem, in a way, to be secondary as ordinary people just want the opportunity of decent work and a better life. Against this background the change of guard in the DA gives hope. Why? Two reasons.

First, our previous five elections have been bedevilled by our inability to move from a ‘loyalty’ based vote to an ‘issues’ based vote. The stumbling block has been the ‘whiteness’ of the DA, be it perceived, real, current or historical. There has been anxiety that a vote for the DA may mean going back to the past, may mean the withdrawal of benefits realised under the ANC, e.g. housing, grants, free electricity, food at schools etc.

Misplaced as these views may be they have formed part of our election/voting psyche.

The changed DA guard has a real opportunity, because of its delivery record in the Western Cape, of persuading the electorate to think differently, confront the issues and give their party a chance.

Mmusi Maimane is well positioned to do this, he is fluent in seven (7) of our official languages, in touch with the electorate and hopefully able to penetrate the blind ‘loyalty’ vote. Why? Because he leads a party that has a credible track record of delivery and he is the only opposition party leader with these credentials. If 8 -12% of the electorate shift during next year’s local government elections that will be significant, actually – massive!

Second, the DA’s restated values are compelling. Many South Africans yearn for a coherent vision. We thought the NDP was the beginning of that except that the NDP Vision was woolly, unintelligible, and stupidly long – some 1,400 words drafted as a complicated compromise by people whose feet are somewhere other than on the ground.

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FREEDOM, FAIRNESS, OPPORTUNITY resonates whether or not you support the DA.


“Because it is these values that connect us to each other, and to our voters. Dit is hierdie waardes wat ons tot mekaar, en tot ons kiesers, verbind. When we speak of concepts like Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity — Inkululeko, ukucingelana, namathuba — It is important that these aren’t empty words. They must have real meaning.

Freedom is not just the stroke of a pen at the ballot box. Freedom is meaningless unless you can use it to improve your life. The kind of freedom that comes with a quality education, safe communities, and a growing economy, creating jobs that pay a living wage.

The kind of freedom that enables you to escape the poverty trap and live a life you truly value.

Fairness, to us, means two separate but interconnected things. On the one hand Fairness means a just and equal society, free from the scourge of patronage, corruption and politically-connected economic insiders and outsiders.

A society where there is a direct link between the effort you put in and the rewards you get out.

But ours is also a fundamentally unequal society because of the injustices of the past. And this is why Fairness also means our commitment to tackle inequality through targeted programmes to close this gap. And finally, Opportunity refers to everything we provide, as a capable DA state, to help people improve their lives.

These Opportunities range from quality education and training to facilities like libraries and job centres. They include assistance and guidance in starting a business. They include decent healthcare and a social safety net to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is then up to people to become active citizens who recognize and use their opportunities to build a better life for themselves and their families. These three concepts – Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity – underpin all our policies and all our actions. They are the clear blue water separating us from our opponents,” says Helen Zille

Delivery based growth.

In 1994, the DA had a mere seven MPs.

Today the DA with 102 MPs (including the NCOP), 91 Members of Provincial Legislatures and 1,656 councillors, are known both as a party of effective opposition and a party of good governance, which delivers for all.

Will this growth continue because more and more South Africans believe that proper, efficient, fair and competent government is what is most important to all of us NOW?And that only one party can honestly show that it has a proven, credible track-record of delivery in this regard.

Time will tell, just 14 months of time.