My fellow South Africans,
It’s great to be here in the Free State, to launch our 2019 election campaign in this province. I love visiting communities here. No matter where I travel in the Free State, I always get the warmest welcome from the generous and big-hearted people of this province.
My wish is that the news coming out of the Free State could be good news. Stories about opportunities for young people, about investment and growth and about development in communities long-forgotten.
But we don’t hear these stories about the Free State. Instead, we only hear stories like the one I read in the City Press on Sunday – about the criminal empire built here by Ace Magashule, about ANC-assisted looting by the Guptas and about poor citizens in towns and villages who are still denied their Constitutional rights because service delivery here has collapsed.
We hear stories about the daily struggles of the poor, unemployed and neglected people of this province, and we hear stories about the greed and waste of those elected to serve them.
What we read in the Sunday papers this past weekend is what the DA has been saying for years: The Free State has been bled dry by a corrupt ANC government and now this province is broke. According to the report, the Free State is on the verge of being placed under administration.
When the ANC put the Zuma and Gupta man, Ace Magashule, in charge here, his only mission was to allow every last cent to be sucked out of this province. Instead of a provincial government, there was a criminal syndicate running the Free State.
I assure you, under a DA government every last person found guilty of this kind of corruption will face a 15 year prison sentence.
This criminal syndicate looted millions meant for black farmers through the Estina Dairy project in Vrede.
They splashed out millions that this province simply does not have on a new provincial legislature complex. But when you go to the site there is nothing to show for all this money.
And they wasted billions through irregular expenditure. Last year this province’s irregular expenditure ballooned from R1.9bn to a massive R5.4bn. This is when a government bypasses normal procurement processes so that they can award tenders and contracts to cronies at massively inflated prices.
Anywhere else, a man like Ace Magashule would have been fired, charged and prosecuted for his role in the plunder and collapse of the province. But in the ANC, this behaviour gets you promoted, not fired. Despite all the bluster about a New Dawn and all the fighting talk on corruption, Ace Magashule found himself upgraded to ANC Secretary General.
Worst of all, though, is the broken province and the broken government he left behind.
Basic Education in the Free State is a mess, with one of the highest dropout rates in the country. More than half the learners in this province leave school between Grade 10 and their matric exam.
Service delivery across the province has all but ground to a halt, with daily protests in communities who don’t have clean water, electricity, refuse removal and sewage infrastructure.
But arguably the most visible collapse of government in this province has been in healthcare, with hospitals, clinics and ambulance services suffering from the effects of years of looting and mismanagement.
Almost every public healthcare facility in the province has insufficient personnel, insufficient equipment and crumbling infrastructure. And not only the old facilities. I visited a brand new hospital this morning with a crippling shortage of doctors and equipment.
The poor state of public healthcare in the Free State has disastrous consequences for the people here. This province has the lowest life expectancy of all nine provinces in SA. This is a direct result of the neglect of its provincial government which, in turn, is a direct result of the corruption and plunder of its leaders.
Twenty four years into our democracy, this is simply not good enough. Any government that allows this kind of failure to happen on its watch does not deserve to be in government.
It will take years to undo the damage caused here by the ANC under criminal leaders like Ace Magashule, but that damage will never be undone as long as they are still in power.
If the Free State is to recover from this terrible chapter, then it will have to do so under a new government. A government that has a zero tolerance for corruption and theft. A government that puts those found guilty of corruption in jail, not in higher office.
Only the DA stands up to the corrupt. Only the DA pledges to throw those found guilty of corruption in jail for 15 years. Only the DA spends all the money meant for the people on the people where it governs.
Only the DA has a plan to take our country forward by building an inclusive economy. No other party speaks for all the people of South Africa, or speaks of a better future rather than a fading past.
Over the coming months, as we prepare for election 2019, this is the message we will take to every corner of this great province: Only the DA can bring change that builds one SA for all.