The following speech was delivered by DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen at the Let’s Do More Final Rally in Cape Town.
Good morning, Cape Town!
Thank you for coming out here today to hear all about the DA’s plans to take this amazing city to even greater heights.
Because that is what today is all about: the future of Cape Town, and the next steps in its evolution towards a truly world-class 21st Century city.
This is not just about what the DA has already achieved here in Cape Town, although it is that too.
It’s not just about the fact that this metro is already head and shoulders above any of the other seven metro municipalities in South Africa, on every single measure. Although that does also matter.
It’s not just about the fact that Cape Town is already seen as a place of hope and opportunity – a city with the lowest unemployment in the country, and where new businesses see potential and safety for their investments. Although that is clearly important too.
Today is about how we take advantage of that running start and then launch Cape Town even further ahead.
There is a good reason why we have called this the “Let’s Do More” rally, and if you have followed the campaign of Cape Town’s next mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, you will know that this has been the central theme of his campaign.
Cape Town clearly works – better than any other city in the country – but that is not enough. We can and we must do more. And Geordin Hill-Lewis has a plan to do just that.
A plan that says: Cape Town already delivers more basic services to its residents – and particularly its poorest residents – than anywhere else. But clearly there are still people who need better access to basic services. And this is how we’ll achieve it.
A plan that says: As long as poor people still live far away from work opportunities and transport routes, we cannot truly say that all this city’s people are economically free. So this is how we’ll tackle the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and create thousands of well-located, low-income housing opportunities.
A plan that says: Being a better investment option or having a lower unemployment rate than an ANC-run metro is not good enough. That cannot be our benchmark. So this is how we will cement Cape Town’s rightful place among the greatest cities in the world.
And, importantly, a plan that says: This city will not allow its residents to be victims of a failed national government. So even when the failures fall well outside the responsibilities of a local government – such as electricity provision, commuter rail and policing – we will not sit back and accept it. We will fight to take on those responsibilities too.
That is what today is about, and that is what Monday’s vote is about – making the most of a solid foundation laid down by fifteen years of DA successes to build an even better future for this metro.
Cape Town is a city that always looks towards the future. A city that constantly finds ways to do more with less, to spend its budget where it has the biggest impact and to sell itself, both here and abroad, as the one place in South Africa that is truly open for business.
And it is the only metro in South Africa that can realistically hold such a forward-looking view. Because before you can even think of the future, you need to survive the present.
You have to be financially sustainable. That is the term used to describe whether a municipality or metro can pay for itself – in other words, generate enough income to be able to afford its service delivery programme, its infrastructure programme, and to pay its suppliers and its debts.
It is the single most important aspect of running any municipality, and particularly a metro the size of Cape Town.
If you get clean audits, if you banish corruption, if you are open and transparent about tenders and if you collect payment for municipal rates and services, you can then provide all the services a local government is meant to offer its residents.
But if you cannot do those things, your municipality or metro enters a death spiral, where nothing gets fixed, suppliers don’t get paid, Eskom and water debts pile up and all this debt is simply kicked over to the next year.
This death spiral quickly accelerates to the point where service delivery just stops altogether. This has already happened in dozens of ANC-run municipalities, and dozens more are on the verge of collapse.
And as much as Monday’s vote is about realising Cape Town’s enormous potential, it is also about keeping out the party that leaves this kind of destruction in its wake.
There are only two kinds of ANC local government: those that have already failed, and those that will fail.
They are a party that simply doesn’t understand the principle of financial sustainability. They spend what they don’t have, and they put off paying what they owe until everything comes crashing down.
Now, there are many ways to see whether a municipality or metro is sustainable. Does it manage its cash-flow well? Does it collect payments? Does it allocate budgets sensibly? Does it spend the right amount on infrastructure development and maintenance?
And fortunately there is an independent organisation called Ratings Afrika that collects all this information in an annual index where it ranks all 278 of South Africa’s municipalities according to their sustainability.
This index consistently puts DA-run municipalities right at the top. In the latest report, all five best performing municipalities were DA-run. And when I say DA-run, I mean outright DA-run, not in coalitions or partnerships. Because that’s an important point too.
Where the DA alone looks after public money, where the DA alone decides on budget allocations, where the DA alone handles the tender process and where the DA alone rolls out a service delivery programme, it outperforms ANC local governments by a wide margin.
This Ratings Afrika index also rates the City of Cape Town as the most sustainable metro in the country, with 16 unqualified audits and an unmatched revenue collection rate of 95%.
In fact, according to the index, it is the only metro in South Africa that can be considered financially sustainable. Its score is so far ahead of the rest that it seems to be operating in a different league.
And there is only one reason for this: fifteen consecutive years under a DA government, of which the last ten were under an outright DA government, with no flip-flopping coalition partners and no power-hungry parties compromising the metro with their demands.
Now consider that this performance came as the city was trying to recover from several years of crippling drought and then went straight into a global pandemic.
On top of this it had to operate in an economic climate paralysed by a failed national government, and with three things absolutely critical to the functioning of a city – electricity provision, commuter rail and policing – effectively sabotaged by the ANC government.
Just imagine where the City of Cape Town could have been without the anchor of the ANC national government dragging it back.
Well, that is precisely what Geordin Hill-Lewis did. He imagined a Cape Town where the residents and the local economy were insulated and protected from the worst failures of the ANC. A Cape Town where the local government not only did the job of a local government – and did it very well – but also stepped in to take over where national government failed in its duties.
And that is what he built his plan for this city around. A city that not only continues to raise the bar when it comes to the things it is meant to do, but also steps in to take over the things others were meant to do but failed.
And we’re not talking about one day in the distant future here. Parts of this plan have already kicked off.
Cape Town is already compensating for national government’s policing failures by deploying a thousand of its own LEAP officers to augment visible policing in the city’s worst-affected gang and crime areas.
And it won’t stop there. The plan is to train and deploy hundreds more law-enforcement officers. Because the DA can’t just put up its hands and say “sorry, not our problem – SAPS is a national government responsibility”.
We have a duty to protect people from the ANC’s failures.
The same goes for the collapsed Metrorail here in Cape Town. We cannot simply wash our hands of it and say “PRASA is the ANC’s problem”, because that would leave thousands of Cape Town commuters in the lurch and our local economy on the ropes.
We have to step in and fight for local control of Metrorail – as we are already doing – and we won’t stop until we’ve won this fight.
But until we are able to get more Capetonians back onto Metrorail trains, we still need to ensure that our public transport networks serve our communities as best they can. And here I’d like to highlight the excellent work that the DA-run provincial government, through the Department of Transport and Public Works in the Western Cape, has been doing with the taxi industry.
They worked closely with the industry throughout the initial stages of lockdown to develop the ground-breaking Red Dot programme, which helped solve a desperate challenge that our healthcare workers faced during the height of the pandemic.
In doing so, they supported the minibus taxi industry in a way that national government has never worked with the industry before.
Building on that momentum, the department has now launched the Blue Dot programme which is incentivising the minibus taxi industry to provide safer and more dignified services to the majority of our citizens, where Metrorail has failed them.
They have built a strong working relationship with the taxi industry in the Western Cape and count them as valuable partners in their efforts to provide affordable and dignified transport so more Capetonians can access opportunities.
But perhaps an even more pertinent example of stepping in to protect residents from ANC national government failure is the provision of electricity.
Right now our country is in Stage 4 of Eskom load-shedding. This is a disaster that our economy cannot survive for much longer.
But DA governments refuse to be dragged down by a failed ANC national government. Where the DA governs we are putting in place plans to ween ourselves off this dependency on Eskom, and move towards a far healthier and more diverse energy mix.
In fact, there is a pilot programme underway as we speak in six DA municipalities in the Western Cape to put in place the legislation and the technology to buy electricity straight from independent power producers.
Once this pilot is completed, we will expand it to all DA local governments. Bit by bit we will cut the rot of Eskom and the ANC out of people’s lives.
You will see that this independence from Eskom is an important part of Geordin’s plan for Cape Town. It also includes empowering residents and businesses to generate their own electricity, as well as taking city-owned buildings off the grid by installing solar panels.
He also has plans to invest even more in the Steenbras pumped storage hydro power plant, which already spares Cape Town residents at least one stage of Eskom load-shedding.
Because if we rely on Eskom and the ANC, our country will fail. But if we put our collective trust – and our votes – behind the DA and its energy plan, our country can survive this period.
These past few days provided a perfect example of this.
As Eskom announced intensified load-shedding, you might have seen two announcements by two different metro municipalities about what they were doing – or supposedly intended to do – to protect their residents from the impact of these black-outs.
The first came from the City of Johannesburg, where City Power said it would protect residents from what was then Stage 1 and Stage 2 load-shedding, as well a statement from the city’s ANC Mayor, Mpho Moerane, in which he flat-out rejected Eskom’s load-shedding.
The second came on Wednesday from the City of Cape Town, following the announcement of Stage 4 load-shedding nation-wide. The City announced that it would keep its customers on Stage 3 – one stage below the national level.
Only one of these announcements was true, the other was telling a lie. An election-inspired lie. And I suspect you know which is which.
Turns out the City of Johannesburg had no power to reject Eskom’s load-shedding, and no means to protect its residents. It had to meekly retract its statement later that same day and accept its load-shedding like everyone else.
The City of Cape Town, however, was telling the truth. In fact, on Wednesday it even managed to keep residents two stages below the national level for most of the day.
Those two announcements – one dishonest and the other truthful; one entirely impotent and the other a powerful intervention – are a perfect metaphor for the choice that lies before us here in Cape Town, and in other towns and cities across the country.
No matter what the ballot paper looks like with its endless list of small parties, this is just a two-horse race. By Wednesday you will either wake up under a DA government, or you will wake up under an ANC government.
Your choice is simple: On the one side you have the abysmal, failed track record of a party that just never made the transition from liberation movement to government, and on the other you have a party that has shown, in municipalities, metros and a province, that it is able to outperform the ANC by a massive margin.
That is what is at stake here in Cape Town. If you don’t help keep the DA in government here with your vote, you will end up with the ANC.
You might think that a vote for a new party, or one of the dozens of existing smaller parties, is the same as voting to keep the ANC out. But that’s simply not true.
Almost every vote that doesn’t go to the ANC or EFF, and doesn’t go to the DA either, ends up strengthening the ANC. They would love nothing more than to see their opponent’s vote fragmented among a host of smaller parties. Because that just strengthens their own share.
The only way to keep Cape Town on the path to progress and take the city into a bold new future is by uniting behind the only party with the numbers, the plan and the track record to do so.
With our country in such a precarious state, now is not the time to play with fire and to gamble with your vote.
Now is not the time to vote for a personality, or to vote based on race, language or culture.
Now is not the time to try something new and untested.
What Cape Town needs now is firm, principled leadership combined with a big, ambitious view for the city. And I can assure you, Geordin Hill-Lewis has both those things by the bucketful.
On Monday, let’s go out and secure this great city’s future for another five years.
Let’s vote to protect the incredible progress Cape Town has already made, and then do even more.
Let’s vote for Cape Town’s place not only at the top of the pile here in South Africa, but among the greatest cities in the world.
That means voting for the only party that gets things done: The Democratic Alliance.
Viva DA! Viva!
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