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DA: Zille: Opening address - Eastern Cape DA Congress (11/11/2007)

11th November 2007

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Date: 11/11/2007
Source: Democratic Alliance
Title: DA: Zille: Opening address - Eastern Cape DA Congress

Introduction: a future at risk

"We, the people of South Africa . . . adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to ­ Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations."[1]

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That is the covenant we made, as a nation, ten years ago. The first words of our Constitution are the hope and vision of the new South Africa. They are the principles we fight for, the goals that we strive to achieve-together.

Human rights. Democracy. Progress. Unity.

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We share these commitments, though we may have different ideas about how to fulfil them.

That is why we must respect different voices. My predecessor as Leader of the Democratic Alliance, Tony Leon, once said in Parliament: we may disagree on the means, but we agree on the ends -- the ends spelt out in our Constitution.

At least, that is what we intended for South Africa's new democracy ten years ago. Today, however, it seems that we may not agree on the ends after all.

The ruling party, the ANC, still talks about something that seems to take precedence over the Constitution. They call this the "National Democratic Revolution", although there is nothing democratic about it. The ANC refers to its political rivals as "the enemy."[2] It threatens South Africans with what it calls "the Jacobin option"-the use of "revolutionary force to suppress and destroy its historical opponents," in its own ominous words.[3]

The ANC's threats mark a break with the Constitution. They signal a turning point in South African history.

The ANC used to say that the DA was interested in democracy for its own sake, while they were interested in the purposes democracy could achieve.

Today, the ANC is not interested in purposes or in democracy. It is interested in power for power's sake. And the future of our nation is at risk.

I serve South Africa in both opposition and in government. I am the leader of the DA, and I am also the mayor of Cape Town. It is therefore my duty to describe the problems South Africa faces, but also to offer solutions and to demonstrate those solutions in action where we govern.

I will address the solutions in my next speech, when I will describe the DA's vision of an Open, Opportunity Society. Today, I will focus on the great challenges facing our nation.

 

The danger to freedom of expression

Freedom is what democracy is all about. And the most basic freedom is the freedom of expression. The freedom not only to believe, but to profess your belief in public. Freedom of the press. Freedom to demonstrate peacefully.

These freedoms are not "foreign, frigid or feelingless," as Dali Mpofu the Group Chief Executive of the SABC, claims.[4] These freedoms are alive. They are what we struggled for. They are what it means to be a South African

But the ANC has a different idea about what freedom of expression means. They believe they are free to speak, and you are free to listen.

But if you dare to disagree, then you are called "dangerous."

A few weeks ago, the Sunday Times exposed the fact that the Minister of Health is a convicted thief. Instead of investigating her, the government threatens to arrest the journalists who published the story.

Two months ago, I was involved in a peaceful, legal march against crime and drug abuse through Mitchell's Plain. Instead of arresting the drug dealers, who operate openly on almost every second street corner, the police arrested me as well as several other innocent people, simply to intimidate us. For several weeks after that, senior ANC politicians, including the Premier of the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool, repeatedly referred to us as vigilantes, defaming and smearing us. Yet when the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to charge us because there were no grounds to do so, was there any apology? Of course not! Just the next baseless smear campaign in a seemingly endless series.

And if you think things would be better under Jacob Zuma, just look at what he says about the media.

No matter who is in charge, the ANC is a threat to freedom of expression.


Still living in fear


The police have a job to do. And I am proud of the many thousands of men and women who risk their lives every day to keep us safe. The fact that I have publicly challenged a few senior officers in the police does not imply a clash with the police force as a whole. There are thousands of policemen and women doing their very best to make South Africa a safe and secure country.

But they are losing the battle against crime.

The murder of Lucky Dube came as a shock to us all. But 19 000 South Africans are murdered every year. After falling for more than ten years, the murder rate is rising again. Fifteen years after apartheid, we are still living in fear.

The government seems not to care. The President and his Cabinet surround themselves with more and more bodyguards. They take away the child protection units and the rural commandos. They build boom gates in their own suburbs and then forbid anyone else to do the same.

If you ask for crime statistics, they hide them. If you complain, they tell you to emigrate. If you exercise your democratic right to protest, you risk arrest.

It is not hard to see where the criminals get their inspiration. They see that the President protects the national police chief from arrest. They see how the ANC punishes some and not others. They see the Travelgate MPs still sitting in Parliament.

And they develop a contempt for the law.

They understand that crime in South Africa is not a matter of innocence or guilt, but whose side you are on. Close times with those in power seem to buy immunity from prosecution. Being in opposition invites a constant stream of false allegations and groundless charges. Even more sinister, we see ANC leaders increasingly using the institutions of state to drive their political agenda against their opponents. These institutions, particularly in the criminal justice system, charged with protecting our constitution, are now under pressure to undermine it, as the ANC forces them to serve the party not the people.

BEE: a better life?

Ordinary South Africans have lost faith in the better life that the ANC promised. It has provided a better life for some. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has helped a few ANC leaders become extremely rich.

But BEE has done little to help most black South Africans. Robert Guest of the Economist called it "a convenient cover for corruption" and "a transfer of wealth from the poor to the well off."[5]

In Cape Town, we increased the number of black empowerment contracts by ten percent above what the ANC was able to achieve.. We did it by getting rid of the ANC's corruption. We did it by getting rid of racial quotas that the ANC abused to help its cronies. We did it by expanding opportunities for people to be part of South Africa's economic growth.

That is what BEE should be about. Not elite enrichment, but opportunities and entrepreneurship for everyone.

Instead, we see how the ANC helps BEE companies (which are actually ANC "front" companies) like Imvume to win public contracts and put the money straight into the ANC's bank account.

We watch as BEE companies fight over who will run the national lottery, who will build the Gautrain, who will walk away with the hard-earned money of South African taxpayers.

We wait for services that are promised but never delivered.


Race: the core of it all

And at the core of it all is race. The ANC uses race to entrench the power of a small elite who are determined to rule "until Jesus comes". In their drive to remain in power, the ANC elite have once again made skin colour the most important fact of life in South Africa.

Race is back in our laws. It rules our foreign policy. It is even threatening our sport.

The Springboks reminded us that the most important thing for South Africa to do is to become a winning nation. By winning, we make life better for everyone, black and white. But if we put race first then we cannot succeed.

Black South Africans are the real victims of the ANC's obsession with race. The poor, black majority must suffer slower economic growth and decaying public services while the ANC re-draws the colour lines.

Of course, race is usually just an excuse. Power is the real goal for the ANC. Race is a useful way to attack the opposition, to intimidate voters, to claim a fat share of the people's wealth.

Our Constitution is built on a vision of non-racialism. And most South Africans are ready to move beyond race. But the ANC's plan is for racial "hegemony." It has made its racial goals the goals of society as a whole.

That is a step backwards for South Africa. Whether Thabo Mbeki or Jacob Zuma leads the ANC, its racial ideology will be the same. Their first priority is still maintaining their power. The ANC likes to pretend that they are acting in the best interest of a majority, by referring to race all the time. But this only disguises the fact that they are only looking after a small privileged minority.


Neither freedom nor equality

I used to argue with the ANC over whether freedom or equality came first. The ANC said that freedom is meaningless without equality. And I believe that equality of opportunities is very important. That is why, when we describe what the DA stands for in three words, we say: the "Open, Opportunity Society". Equality of opportunity is our most important goal. It goes hand in hand with freedom. Trying to impose equality of outcomes, though, is an entirely different matter.

As two famous economists once wrote: A society that puts equality of outcome ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.[6] Freedom and better opportunities for all must be our top priorities.

It used to be worth debating these issues with the ANC. Today, there is no point to such debates. Because the ANC does not even believe in equality anymore.

It attacks its own members who want a more equal society. It calls them names few people understand (but are meant to be insulting) like "anarcho-syndicalist" and "counter-revolutionary." It accuses the trade unions of something called the "workerist tendency."

What all this really means is that if you challenge the ANC elite, you will be labelled an "enemy."

The most fundamental equality is equality before the law. And that is what the ANC is destroying.

It is trying to place the judiciary under the control of the executive. It is using the prosecution service to carry out political vendettas. It is using the police and the intelligence service to target the opposition.

When basic legal equality disappears, then freedom truly becomes an empty shell.


The value of our Constitution

The ANC forgets that it did not seize power by force. It came to power in a democratic election, after a process of negotiations.

No one has the right to threaten South Africa with "revolutionary force."

The people gave the ANC their consent, and the people can take that consent away, democratically. The Constitution, not the ruling party and its so-called "national democratic revolution" is the supreme law. And we must defend it with all our strength.

The ANC's latest trick is to use the Constitution to undermine the Constitution.

So James Ngculu tells us that it is unconstitutional to criticise the Minister of Health because she has a constitutional mandate to carry out. That statement is a warning about the direction South Africa is heading under the ANC.

When it becomes unconstitutional to criticise the government, the Constitution means nothing.

If the ANC behaved in 1994 the way it is behaving today, there might never have been a constitutional settlement in South Africa. It wants to undo many of the freedoms, checks and balances that the Constitution provides.

But we can stop it.

We must remind ourselves that the Constitution belongs to us all, not just to the ANC.

It protects the individual. It protects minorities. It protects the people from their government. It protects us all from power abuse.


Three possible futures under the ANC

Looking ahead, I see three possible futures for South Africa under the ANC.

Let us first consider what will happen if Thabo Mbeki remains president of the ANC.

We will continue to see the centralisation of power. The shadow of racial politics will still hang over our country.

At the same time, the ANC will begin to fracture. There will be two factions and two centres of power. ANC politics will grow even more unstable.

Now let us consider what will happen if Jacob Zuma wins the ANC presidency.

Power will shift to a man who has shown he cannot be trusted to wield it responsibly.

A new elite will take over, some of whom have absurd ideas about our economy, and who will also try to use the institutions of state against their opponents, inside and outside their party.

The ANC may split, or it may revert to a populist mould. International confidence in South Africa will suffer. Our nation's future will be uncertain.

Finally, let us consider what will happen if the ANC settles on a third, compromise candidate.

The two ANC factions will remain, and South African politics will continue to revolve around the Zuma-Mbeki rivalry.

Public institutions will remain paralysed by ANC infighting. Only the relentless pursuit of power and wealth will hold the ruling party together. And ordinary people will lose faith in politics.

The lesson of these three scenarios is clear. Trying to solve problems within the ANC, as one newspaper columnist recently said, is "as helpful as keeping incest in the family."[7]

The ANC stands for a "Closed, Patronage Society." A society in which your life chances are limited by your race, by who you know, by the circumstances of your birth, and to which politicians you are connected..

It is a society which cannot change, cannot grow, and cannot succeed unless they are the right colour with the right contacts.


The need for an alternative

That is why South Africa needs an alternative. A party that can challenge the ANC and win. A party that provides new ideas and leaders.

That party is the DA.

We believe in an "Open, Opportunity Society" that is uniquely South African; in which every person is free, secure, and equal before the law; and in which every person has the means to improve the quality of his life and pursue her own aspirations.

We are entering a new era in South Africa. A time of great risks, and great possibilities.

Our Constitution, our values, our freedoms are at stake. We can defend them only by living them.

By taking the principles of the Constitution into the contest for power. By practising the values we preach. By using the freedoms we have.

Together, we can stand up to the ANC, and stand for a better future.


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