Our success in the Free State begins with good leadership

The following speech was delivered today by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the party’s Free State Provincial Congress.
Delegates, Members, activists, staff,
Good morning, Molweni, Goeiemôre, Bagaetso.
It is great to be here in the Free State Province this morning, a province at the very heart of our nation – both geographically and politically.
Not too far from here, at Waaihoek Wesleyan Church in Manguang, the ANC was formed some 105 years ago. And today, 105 years on, the ANC is all but dead. And this is no more apparent in this province as it is anywhere else in the country.
The Free State Province represents a systemic failure of governance. The province has the highest unemployment rate in the country, unprecedented levels of poverty, and is a captured state run by the Guptas and their lackey, Ace Magashule.
It was here that the ANC was founded, and it is here where it is finished
Fellow Democrats, it is now up to us to usher in a new beginning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am told our new Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, wants to take the DA to court for calling her a spy. It has taken her exactly a year to come to this decision. We welcome any opportunity to speak about her background and her ability to perform her job.
But we have other legal business with the Public Protector that predates this decision of hers by many months. We are still awaiting her report on the Estina Dairy Farm in Vrede, which was due more than six months ago.
In March this year, she stood in the Free State Legislature and told us that the investigation was complete and that the report would be released in April. Of course April came and went, and she promised us a new deadline. In July we were again told it would be out within days. It is now almost November.
I have it on good authority that the report has been lying on the desk of the Public Protector for months. It is also highly suspicious that all communication on this matter between her office and the DA in the Free State ended the moment the Gupta email leaks story broke which connected the Vrede farm money with the Gupta wedding. I can only assume this hard evidence has set the cat among the proverbial pigeons in her report.
The victims of this crime – the 80 farmers from the local community who were meant to benefit from the project but have been left stranded – cannot wait any longer for justice. And so I will be writing to the Public Protector on Monday to demand the release of the report within seven days, failing which we will seek a declarator from the court compelling her to do so.
I will also give the Chair of SCOPA, Themba Godi, one more opportunity to schedule a public hearing for the victims of this crime. If he again refuses, I will bring them to Parliament myself so that they can tell their story to the committee and demand answers.
Corruption is not a victimless crime. These are real people whose dreams have been crushed and whose lives have been put on hold, all because the friends of Zuma and Magashule saw a chance to steal more money. They will not get away with it.
Fellow Democrats,
If you were still in any doubt about the gravity of our country’s situation, then Wednesday’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement by the captured Minister Gigaba would have cleared that up. On our current trajectory we are heading for disaster, and our project to bring change cannot come a moment too soon.
Instead of reassuring us that our economy can be saved through fiscal discipline, strong action on our failing SOEs and an unambiguous rejection of the nuclear plan, Minister Gigaba left us with the message that he simply has no plan.
The numbers he gave us confirm what we already knew – that our country is headed for bankruptcy under this ANC government. He confirmed that our tax collection shortfall has rocketed to over R50bn. He confirmed that our gross national debt will shoot up to 60% of GDP by 2020. And by 2019, when President Zuma leaves office, our cost of servicing this debt will be three times what it was when he became president.
Minister Gigaba could only offer us unsustainable stop-gap measures to temporarily stave off disaster. But by dipping into our contingency funds and by selling off shares in our only viable state-owned enterprise to prop up failures like SAA, he is just speeding up the collapse. He is acting like someone who pawns his appliances to feed a harmful lifestyle.
That is why our task has just become so much more urgent. No one else is going provide an alternative. No one else – not inside the ANC or anywhere else – is going to steer our country away from the edge. It will fall to us with the help of our coalition partners. We are the bulwark against a complete economic and social collapse.
I don’t mean to alarm you more than you already are, but I cannot stress enough the importance of everything we do over the next 18 months. And that includes your business here today when you elect new provincial leadership. These decisions could have a major impact on our electoral performance, and you cannot afford to compromise at all.
If anyone has an idea of the dire path our country is on, it is you here in the Free State. Because this province, under the awful leadership of Ace Magashule, has become a scaled-down version of the Zuma administration. Same corrupt captors in the Guptas, same method of looting the state, same complete financial mismanagement and same seemingly untouchable Big Men at the helm.
We’ve known this all along, though. We knew, from the beginning, that Magashule and his then sidekick, Mosebenzi Zwane, were Gupta men through and through. We knew that the Vrede Dairy Project was nothing but a cash machine for this government and their Gupta friends. And all of this has now been confirmed in the hundreds of thousands of Gupta emails leaked to the media, including the Gupta links with Magashule’s son.
The result of this runaway corruption can be seen in every single aspect of government delivery here in this province. No department has escaped the damage.
Free State Health has all but collapsed, and doctors are leaving the province in droves. Free State Education has an R800 million overdraught. The province has a backlog of unregistered title deeds of over 63,000.  Collectively, Free State municipalities owe Eskom almost R5 billion.
The Free State also has the highest official unemployment rate in the country of 34.4% using the narrow definition, or 40.5% if you include those who have given up looking for work. This is a shameful statistic.
Attacks on farmers and farmworkers in the Free State are out of control, with more than 50 having occurred in the province this year alone. This echoes the crime stats released this month, which confirmed that murders have increased across all communities throughout the country. Surely it is time to reintroduce specialised rural safety units within SAPS.
This province is a time bomb, and we’re going to have to bring change very soon.
I know some people in South Africa are still holding out hope that this change will come from within the ANC. I understand how hard it must be for people who have grown up in the shadow of the party their entire life to accept the party’s demise and look elsewhere for solutions. These people cling to the hope that clearing out a few bad apples – the Zumas and the Gigabas and the Magashules – will set us back on course again.
I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. Because even if the party could find it within itself to get rid of these people, it would change neither the culture of the organisation nor its outcomes. Because no matter who you place at the head, the web of patronage and the culture of corruption has become so pervasive it infects everything they do.
While we’re all busy pouring over Minister Gigaba’s mini budget speech this week, I went and had a look at the mini budget speeches of the previous few years. And two things stand out as quite remarkable. One is that all three consecutive speeches were delivered by three different Finance Ministers. And the other is that if you cover up the names and dates, the same key message gets repeated year after year: “We did worse than we expected”.
In October 2015, Minister Nhlanhla Nene lamented that “growth is considerably lower in our economy than we projected”.
In October 2016, Minister Pravin Gordhan informed us that he’d had to again revise growth expectation for our economy “somewhat lower than the February estimates”.
And on Wednesday, Minister Gigaba told us that we’ve missed our tax collection target by R50 billion “due to lower than expected economic growth this year”.
The problem is not the personnel. The problem is the organisation. And that is why they are doomed.
My fellow Democrats,
Instead of gloating over the demise of our opponents, I want to use this as a very serious warning for our own party. Because everything that has befallen the ANC, could easily happen to us too.
The ANC’s woes come down to a “perfect storm” of issues – three major obstacles which, together, have had a calamitous effect on their party. The first is that they allowed corrupt and self-serving individuals to rise to the top of the party – Jacob Zuma, followed by the likes of Minister Gigaba.
The second is that they lost their ideological way and now find themselves adrift. No one knows if they’re nationalising or selling off assets. Should they bail out SAA or cut it loose? Will they go ahead with the nuclear build or abandon it? They have no direction.
And the third is that they allowed the organisation to die by letting a culture of patronage and crony politics dominate. This is now at such an advanced stage that it cannot be undone without completely rebuilding the party.
It’s a spectacular collapse, but if any of you think this is unique to the ruling party, then I want to wake you from this dream. The DA is not immune to this kind of organisational rot – not by a long shot. If we don’t constantly take stock of where we are, where we want to go and how we need to get there, we could easily find ourselves in the very same position.
We must guard against the very things that are tearing the ANC apart.
We must guard against politics of ego. Ours is not a party built on personality cults. Here in the DA no one is too important to get stuck in and do the ground work. We all campaign, we all go door to door, we all make ourselves visible in the community and we all contribute wherever we can. We’re 18 months away from the most important elections any of us have ever contested. We can rest afterwards.
We must guard against politics of patronage. If you have ambitions to use your position to dispense favours, jobs and contracts, then you are in the wrong party altogether. Ours is a party of service and selflessness. Our loyalty is to the people and the Constitution.
We must guard against the creep of nationalist language and ideas. No one in the DA speaks for or represents a particular racial group or culture, and we certainly don’t mobilise along these lines. Our vision of a free and open society is built on non-racialism, tolerance and embracing a diversity of ideas.
If we lose focus on any of these issues, we will be in trouble. It’s a slippery slope along which we will not easily recover.
When you cast your votes today to elect new leadership here in the Free State, I want you to remember who we are and what we stand for. And I want you to ensure that the people chosen to spearhead our project in this province are able to keep us on the right path.
I know we still have much work to do in the Free State, but we’re certainly heading in the right direction. The recent by-election results in ward 12 in Mangaung were hugely encouraging, where we grew from just 4.5% in 2016 to 18.5%. We now need to repeat this performance throughout the province, and what better place to start than next month’s municipal-wide by-election in Metsimaholo.
The budget vote debacle and subsequent dissolution of the Metsimaholo Municipality taught us some valuable lessons about coalition politics and trust. We need to ensure that we do not step into the same trap the second time round.
But more importantly, we must first run a successful by-election campaign there. Because the better we do ourselves and the less we need to rely on others, the easier it will be to continue our work for the people of Sasolburg, Deneysville, Kragbron and Oranjeville.
We have exactly one month left in which we need to reach every single one of Metsimaholo’s 79,000 voters. They need to know us, and they need to know what we will bring to government in the municipality. It will require a huge effort, but I assure you it will be worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
My fellow Democrats,
The people of the Free State need to see change here soon. And we, the DA, are that change. We must offer a complete break from the disaster that is Jacob Zuma’s ANC, and the disaster that is Ace Magashule’s ANC. And this begins with the people we choose to lead our organisation.
So cast your votes today with this in mind. And when you are done, then we will all stand behind the elected leaders and do whatever it takes to bring change to the people of the Free State.
Thank you.