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STRAIGHT TALK: South Africans can fix South Africa with a government that empowers them

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STRAIGHT TALK: South Africans can fix South Africa with a government that empowers them

Image of DA leader John Steenhuisen
DA leader John Steenhuisen

12th August 2022

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Help people to help themselves. Empower individuals and communities to solve their own problems and build their own lives. Work with people rather than against them. Unlock private sector investment by cutting red tape. Be open for business. Devolve power where possible. Collaborate, cooperate, support, empower. This is the DA’s approach to government.
 
The ANC’s approach of jealously guarding power and ruling from on high has broken South Africa. Don’t allow them to blame foreigners or the Constitution. And don’t fall for their quick-fix solutions that give them even more power, such as NHI, stronger employment equity legislation, more sector masterplans, SARB nationalization, and expropriation – all of which are being trotted out now in an effort to hold the party together and shore up its dwindling support. That way lies more ruin.
 
South Africa needs fixing, and fast, before lawlessness and instability spread further. This country is fixable with a government that empowers everyone to get stuck in. Realistically, decentralised control is the only way forward. We must unleash the creativity and resources, incentives and ingenuity of all the people of South Africa.
 
Harnessing people power
 
DA-run Western Cape and Cape Town are pursuing a decentralised approach to build resilient communities, a healthy economy, and a safe society. Some recent examples.
 
Education MEC David Maynier met with the CEO of Spark Schools this week about the provision of low-fee, quality education by the private sector in the Western Cape, to see how the province can support this initiative. The province welcomes the private sector’s contribution.
 
The province’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism this week revealed that the province has received R103 billion in Foreign Direct Investment into its technology sector in the past decade. It has successfully positioned itself as “Africa’s Tech Capital” by partnering with Wesgro and GreenCape to attract private investment rather than by over-regulating this growth sector.
 
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis this week published an article answering the most common questions about installing private solar generation in the City. DA-run Cape Town is doing everything possible to enable businesses and households to generate their own electricity and earn money by feeding excess power into the grid. The DA has long urged the minister of energy and NERSA to cut red tape and allow independent power suppliers to get on the grid and to devolve power to competent municipalities to buy, produce and sell energy directly.
 
The City is harnessing people power by rewarding residents who report illegal dumping, and by increasing budget support (to over R7 million) to equip neighbourhood watches in support of residents who give of their time freely to make their communities safer.
 
The murder rate in the Cape Town suburb of Kraaifontein has been nearly halved, thanks to an all-hands-on-deck approach whereby the City and Province’s joint LEAP initiative (Law Enforcement Advancement Programme) has partnered with SAPS, neighbourhood watches, the community policing forum, and churches in the area to bring down crime. Just this week another 100 graduates were deployed to the LEAP programme, bringing the total to 1100 LEAP officers.
 
Devolution
 
The Province and City are pushing for devolution of policing to competent provinces and metros, as the best way to restore law and order. They have amply shown that they will do a better job of keeping people safe than the national government does. Devolution of policing is fully within the scope of the Constitution and experience around the world shows that policing is done better when it is brought closer to communities.
 
Federalism is a core DA value. It is defined as the devolution of power between different spheres of government (national, provincial, local) to the lowest effective level, to ensure decisions are made close as possible to the people, communities and businesses they affect. In line with this value, the City has also embarked on a feasibility study to have power over passenger rail devolved to it, so that it can build an integrated, quality public transport system for residents.
 
Creating jobs, growing the economy, ending poverty
 
Similarly, if we’re going to create jobs, grow the economy and end poverty, economic decision-making power needs to be decentralised to individuals and businesses in what the DA calls a social market economy.
 
Current overregulation at the hands of such socialists as trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel, mining and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, and labour minister Thulas Nxesi is killing investment, stifling job creation, and fueling poverty and instability.
 
Overregulation in the form of the Mining Charter has deterred investment in mining and given rise to the phenomenon of Zama Zamas (illegal miners who operate under dangerous conditions and outside the tax system). Overregulation in the form of local content requirements, BEE, employment equity and other regulations has similarly crippled our electricity sector. The recent temporary lifting of restrictions on local content requirements and chicken imports, to ease the electricity and the cost of living crises respectively, are both tacit admissions that these restrictions harm society.
 
Less red tape and more decentralised economic decision-making leads to more investment, more jobs, and more tax revenue to be spent by government on growing equality of opportunity and providing strong safety nets and trampolines for the vulnerable. It’s a virtuous circle that a DA-led national government will embrace. We believe government’s role in the economy is to create the enabling environment and be a referee (in ensuring open and competitive markets and protecting the environment) rather than a player.
 
Power to the people
 
The DA is working to prevent the centralization of power and thereby to put more power in the hands of ordinary South Africans. We have gone to court to have the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment declared illegal and unconstitutional in a bid to prevent the party from controlling all levers of political and economic power.
 
While the minister of small business development is about to gazette yet another socialist ANC Masterplan, the DA is calling for the scrapping of rigid labour legislation, collective bargaining and BEE requirements for small businesses so that entrepreneurs can be freed up to create jobs on a massive scale.
 
We are fighting NHI (National Health Insurance) because the solution to our dysfunctional health system is to fix and capacitate our clinics and hospitals, train more doctors and nurses, and harness the private sector, not to centralise more power in our incapable bloated bureaucracy. It is outrageous that government has approved R30 million towards employing 44 personnel for the NHI Scheme, which has not been passed through parliament, and plans to allocate more resources next year to fund an NHI staff of 120 people. Yet hospitals battle extreme shortages and patients suffer in horrific conditions.
 
The DA is also opposing the controversial BELA Bill which will rob school governing bodies of the power to determine their own language and admissions policies, and hand that power over to ANC cadres.
 
And we strongly oppose nationalizing the Reserve Bank, an anti-growth plan that President Ramaphosa appeared to support last weekend. It would give government power to unduly influence the country’s money supply and banking sector. The Reserve Bank needs to be left in independent, technocratic hands so that it can be free to take necessary, often unpopular decisions in the country’s best long-term interest.
 
Conclusion
 
Rather than fall for xenophobic scapegoating and populist short-cuts that give the ANC more power and lead to more ruin, South Africans need to take back their power so that together we can do the real hard work of fixing and building for all. The DA cares deeply about South Africa. We are committed to decentralizing control because we believe in the people of this country and their ability to fix South Africa together if given the chance.
 
PS. Applications for the DA Young Leaders Programme are now open, and close on 31 August 2022. Click here to apply.

 

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