After the long Covid winter, spring is coming for Cape Town

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by Geordin Hill-Lewis MP today during the launch of his Mayoral campaign in Bonteheuwel on the same spot where he started his political career 17 years ago.

Friends, colleagues, and my fellow Capetonians,

It was right here in Bonteheuwel, on a chilly winter’s morning in June 2004, that I came to my first DA meeting, at the home of Councillor Theresa Thompson.

I signed my membership form on a car bonnet outside, just moments before the meeting started.

It is wonderful to be back here today, and thank you Theresa for hosting us here.

I decided to enter politics on that winter’s day in 2004 for one essential reason: because I am committed to the fight to secure a prosperous future for the people of Cape Town.

And it is for that exact same reason that I am standing before you today.

Then as now, I have a fierce and unshakeable belief in the power of the people of Cape Town, and in the need for a government that frees and harnesses their potential so that our Mother City can take its rightful place among the great cities of the world.

In the years that followed that meeting at Theresa’s house, I worked in student politics to build our party at UCT, and later to build the DA in Cape Town.

I then went to work for our very first DA Mayor, Helen Zille, as she blazed a trail for our party and our city.

Then came a decade in Parliament where I fought to grow our country’s economy.

But looking back on that first DA meeting right here in Bonteheuwel, never in my wildest dreams did I think that, seventeen years later, I would find myself standing right here again as the DA’s Mayoral Candidate for the most beautiful city in the entire world.

I am so grateful to have travelled this road together with so many of you, and it is heart-warming to see so many friends and dear colleagues here today.

And to those of you who do not yet know me: I recognise the audacity of what I’m doing. A millennial with a funny name – that’s why most people just call me ‘GHL’ – running for Mayor of Cape Town.

But in the months and years ahead, we will get to know each other well, as we build our home, our city, together.

And Cape Town is my home – in every sense of the word.

I grew up and still live in Edgemead, just a bit further down the N7 from here.

I met my wife at Edgemead High School, our parents still live there, and now we take our daughter to the same parks that we played on as kids.

It was also as a young man that I first found a deep abiding belief in the vision and values of the only political home I have ever known, the Democratic Alliance.

The DA has shown in government that South Africa’s slow decline is not inevitable and it is not irreversible. That the future can be different, and better.

Despite all the many challenges that our country and our city has faced in the years since the DA first won power here, I am here today feeling even more optimistic about the future of the Mother City than I did back then.

After all the hard work that the DA has already done in Cape Town, we now have the opportunity to do so much more!

Let me be right up front about it: the legacy of our divisive and discriminatory past, as well as the failures of the present-day national government, continue to haunt Cape Town.

Just as winter is cold and dark here in the shadow of Table Mountain, so too do we still feel the chill of past segregation and the gloom of present stagnation.

And yet, the history of Cape Town shows that – when we are united – we can banish the clouds of winter for the sunshine of spring.

The strength of our community bonds, the care shown between neighbours, and the friendship of strangers, all warm the heart from the inside out.

Dit is hier, in Kaapstad, waar Autshumato en Krotoa die lig van begrip gebring het tussen mense vanuit alle uithoeke van die wêreld.

Dit is hier waar Maleise slawe selfs in die bittere koue van gedwonge arbeid die warmte van musiek, kultuur en godsdiens helder laat brand het.

En dit is net hier, in die gloei van Kaapstad se skitterende diversiteit, dat Afrikaans as die wêreld se jongste taal gebore is as die versinnebeelding van eenheid in diversiteit.

It is also here that merchants and entrepreneurs built world-class businesses that brought the light of economic prosperity.

And it is here that the likes of Philip Kgosana, Adam Small, Breyten Breytenbach and Colin Eglin banished the cold winter of oppression, and where our country’s first democratically-elected Parliament was sworn in.

Today, I receive the baton of being your Mayoral Candidate from another one of Cape Town’s champions.

During some of the stormiest political times in our recent history, Mayor Dan Plato had the courage to go where most feared to tread.

Dan, ek is trots om te volg daar waar jy die pad uitgelê het, en ek eer jou vir die enorme bydra wat jy tot Kaapstad se vooruitgang gemaak het.

It is precisely because of the hard work of people like Dan Plato that we all know that Cape Town is already the best-run local government in South Africa.

Because of the outright DA majority that governs this city, Cape Town is one of the only governments in South Africa that gets things done.

The DA in Cape Town doesn’t sit on the side-lines to try and divide people on the basis of race or religion. Instead, we get delivery done for everyone.

The DA in Cape Town doesn’t make empty promises about honest and clean government. We simply get it done.

But I am standing here today as your Mayoral Candidate because I believe that the time has come for us to get even more done.

And I will earn your trust the old-fashioned way.

Not by simply asking for it, but by demonstrating that I am ready to get more done than ever before for the people of Cape Town!

Doing more starts with doing the basics better.

As your mayor, I will work day and night to bring better service delivery to every resident of Cape Town.

No matter where you live, every Capetonian must see your potholes being fixed, your refuse being collected, and your streetlights being repaired.

In neighbourhoods like Delft, Lavender Hill, Manenberg, Langa, Gugulethu and other places where too many Capetonians still experience the biting cold of poverty, unemployment and indignity, we must get more done.

I want every resident to see and feel the ‘DA difference.’

The people of Cape Town must know that this is a government they can trust and be proud of.

They must feel part of this government.

Most importantly, while South Africa goes through this long winter of discontent, Capetonians should again feel a sense of optimism about their home – that they live in a city that is on the move, and where people can overcome the binds of poverty.

Let’s do more to unleash the power of the private sector to meet the enormous demand for housing in our city.

The DA is the only party that believes in empowering poor South Africans to own their own homes.

That is why I want to see cranes going up all over vacant pieces of state-owned land in Cape Town.

Our Mother City must become one big construction site where we build a future of shared prosperity.

It is time for the city to force the national government to release the massive plots of land it owns, so that the private sector can build homes for Capetonians.

This focus on opening the way for private enterprise to help solve our problems must carry over into everything we do.

It is time for us to get much more done to stimulate economic growth and the job opportunities that flow from a thriving private economy.

I intend to run the most jobs-focused and entrepreneur-friendly administration this city has ever seen.

We will relentlessly work to cut red tape wherever it ensnares private initiative.

We will make Cape Town the easiest place on the African continent to invest and do business.

Entrepreneurs who are chased away by the ideologues in national government will find a safe haven that welcomes them with open arms here in Cape Town, because we understand that nothing brings light into darkness like the dignity of secure employment.

It is also time for us to recognise that we need to get more done in areas where the national government has dismally failed the people of Cape Town.

The collapse of almost every national government service is the single biggest reason why winter lingers over too many parts of life in our city.

In fact, the failing national government has consistently undermined the efforts of DA-led Cape Town to bring dignity and hope to all the people of our city.

When DA-led Cape Town brought the light and warmth of electricity to thousands of poor households, the national ANC government plunged them right back into darkness through loadshedding.

When DA-led Cape Town worked together with the Western Cape to introduce LEAP safety officers and monitor the failures of SAPS, the ANC punished the people of the Cape Flats with the lowest police-to-citizen ratio in the country.

When DA-led Cape Town introduced the MyCiti bus service to give citizens more options for safe and reliable public transport, the national ANC government took away those options by collapsing Metrorail.

It is time for us to recognise that the national ANC government cannot and does not want to provide reliable electricity, public transport and policing services to the people of Cape Town.

They actively work against the people of this city at every opportunity they get.

Since they refuse to do it for us, we must do more of this for ourselves.

If we want a thriving future for Cape Town, where every citizen has the opportunity to live a dignified life they value, we have no other choice but to take the fight to the national government in Pretoria.

Now is the time for the DA in Cape Town to get more done than ever before.

We must end loadshedding in Cape Town.

We must train, equip and deploy hundreds of additional law enforcement officers to make Cape Town safer.

We must use every tool at our disposal to fight for control over passenger rail services to provide all Capetonians with affordable, reliable and safe public transport.

But when I say we must get even more done for the city we all love, I’m not only referring to the municipal government.

We means all of us.

To help get all of these ambitious things done, citizens will have to play their part.

It starts with seemingly minor things, like keeping neighbourhoods clean by preventing illegal dumping and cleaning up litter.

But it also includes the responsibility we all have to report and stop illegal land invasions.

And a city where everyone plays their part also needs the support of Cape Town’s business community, which will have a vital role to play in generating the investments we need to end loadshedding, build affordable housing, and fix the railways.

If we all work together, I have no doubt that we will get all of these things done – because Cape Town has always managed to turn winter into springtime when we all pulled in the same direction.

But the opposite also holds true: the history of this city shows that our darkest moments happened when we were divided.

The truth is that our country is now living through another long and dark winter caused by the Covid crisis and the slow death of the ANC and the national government it controls.

Subjected to rising unemployment, hunger and poverty, it is a time of fear and uncertainty for many people.

As in all times of crisis, this moment is ripe with opportunity for those who seek to cynically exploit our beautiful diversity to divide Capetonians into racial and religious enclaves.

Over the coming months, peddlers of hate will tell you that you are struggling to make ends meet because of the colour of your skin, because of the language you speak, or because of the God you worship.

This moment is ripe with opportunity for populist parties, and it means that this is going to be the closest election in recent history.

The only way to prevent our city from falling into the hands of populists who seek to divide us, is by ensuring that every single DA voter shows up and votes on Election Day.

But I have no doubt that Capetonians have it within them to repel the populists, because we have truth on our side.

The truth is that the anguish so many of us feel is not because we are coloured, white, black, Christian or Muslim.

Just look around, and you will see that the pain of losing a loved one to Covid is felt no differently by Muslims or Christians.

You will see that the anguish of a mother who has lost a child to gang violence is no different because she is black.

You will see that the indignity and fear of a neighbour who cannot provide for his family is no different if they are coloured, or white.

In contrast with what opposition parties will tell you, the root cause of this suffering is the failure of the national ANC government to get anything done.

Capetonians must not allow themselves to be fooled into blaming one another for the failures of the ANC.

Instead, now is exactly the moment for us to unite behind the DA even more strongly than ever before.

With an overwhelming win for the DA in the upcoming election, Cape Town will show the rest of South Africa what the future can look like.

Where others see only fear and decline, I see the opportunity of a lifetime to turn Cape Town into the great world city it deserves to be.

With a relentless focus on getting even more done, we will turn this into the best place to live – and the best place to visit – in the southern hemisphere.

En ons moet sommer dadelik begin. Dit is hoogtyd dat Kaapstad weer ‘n slag sy vere regskud. Ons stad kreun van verlange om weer te kuier saam met miljoene toeriste van oor die wêreld heen.

Ek is moeg vir die stil strate en die leë kafees. Ek wil weer ‘n slag die klanke van die ghoema hoor en die kleure van die klopse in ons strate sien!

But tourists and the jobs they create will only return once they know that Capetonians will protect them from the coronavirus.

That is why the municipal government must play a far bigger role in making sure that Covid vaccines actually reach the people who need them.

We must go street-by-street and door-to-door to make sure that every single person who wants to be protected against Covid has the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Ons almal weet ook dat jy eers jou huis ordentlik moet skoonmaak voordat jy besoekers kan verwelkom.

Cape Town is in desperate need of a spring-clean after this harsh winter, and I intend to shortly launch a campaign where every resident can help us clean up in preparation for the return of international visitors.

To the people of Cape Town, I want to say this: stand firm, and do not let the shadows of the past and the darkness of the present overwhelm you.

I know that the cold of Covid still send shivers down our spines.

I know that the storm of unemployment and indignity still rages.

And I know that the collapse of national government services crashes like thunder all around us.

But be still for a moment, and you will feel a change is in the air.

The first hint of spring has arrived.

Every Capetonian who longs for winter to end and for spring to come, must turn out and vote for the DA in the upcoming election.

For if there’s one thing I’ve come to know in the many years since I first joined the DA right here in Bonteheuwel, it is that when the people of Cape Town unite behind the DA, we can weather any storm.

The failing national government has tried to cut down all the flowers. They have tried to make this harsh winter last forever.

But with a resounding win for the DA on 27 October, we will banish this brutal winter, and spring will come again for Cape Town.

Thank you.