The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP.
Today, from the DA speakers in this debate, you will hear a compelling case for why we cannot afford to persist with this Cabinet for one day longer, and why this House must, for once, stand up and be counted.
You will hear of the litany of failures of individual ministers, as well as the collective failure of the Cabinet as a whole.
And you will then be asked to look beyond your party, to recall your oath of office, and to serve the people of South Africa by voting in support of this motion.
Today is about restoring the most sacred and fundamental tenet of any democracy: The principle of accountability.
In almost every speech by the president we are told that we are entering a new era of accountability. Over the past four years we must have entered this era a dozen times.
But despite it being the bedrock of a functional democratic society, this word – accountability – has become entirely meaningless.
It gets uttered and then immediately forgotten, without changing a single action or behaviour. The result is that no one in this government fears consequences.
People have become so safely ensconced in their positions – and so protected by their party – they are confident that no failure or scandal can ever dislodge them.
One of the oldest jokes around is that the letters “ANC” stand for Absolutely No Consequences. And this would’ve been funny had it not been so devastatingly true.
The results of this impunity can be seen everywhere.
When oil refineries, manufacturing plants and mines shut their doors and take their operations to another country, it is not because there is something inherently wrong with the South African people or the quality of our commodities.
It is because our government – this Cabinet – has failed to make South Africa a viable place in which to operate a business and employ people.
They have failed to protect lives and property, they have failed to supply electricity and basic services, and they have failed to reform labour and regulatory legislation.
The result is that our extreme poverty, unemployment and inequality are now global outliers.
And yet we still persist with this: one of the largest, most inefficient and most corrupt cabinets in the entire world.
Consider that Brazil has 23 ministries. China has 21 ministries. South Korea has 18 ministries. Argentina has 16 ministries. The US has 15 federal government departments. And Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, has a 16 member cabinet.
But here in South Africa we have 38 ministries, each with a deputy minister, and sometimes even more than one. And for what? For the sole purpose of rewarding otherwise unemployable cadres with jobs.
Not one of these ministers here would last a day in the private sector, where results matter and accountability is still a thing.
But in the ANC’s sheltered employment scheme it’s happy days forever. Just one big merry-go-round of reshuffles, and when you finally run out of carnival rides in this cabinet, then it’s off to a cushy diplomatic post.
Absolutely No Consequences.
Even when a string of independent reports name your names and list your shames, Absolutely No Consequences.
When the Zondo Report directly implicates Minister Gwede Mantashe in corrupt activities, you’d expect him to step down or be suspended. But not in this ANC Cabinet. Absolutely No Consequences.
When the report into the riots and looting of last July finds that the Executive should shoulder part of the blame, elsewhere heads would roll. But in this ANC Cabinet, ministers simply get reshuffled or redeployed. Absolutely No Consequences.
When targets in the President’s performance agreement for ministers are missed by a country mile, you’d think there would be “strong action”, as he pledged when he announced these agreements all the way back in 2019. But not in this ANC Cabinet.
Three years after promising regular evaluations, nothing has happened. Absolutely No Consequences.
The long-awaited lifestyle audits for ministers? Nothing.
Action against those mentioned in the High Level Panel Report into the State Security Agency? Nothing.
Repercussions for being linked to Bosasa, Digital Vibes and Gupta corruption? Nothing.
Absolutely No Consequences for a single cabinet minister.
But there are grave consequences for the tens of millions of South Africans who live below the poverty line or have to get by on a tiny social grant. The failures of this cabinet wreak havoc in the real world – a world that pampered ministers know nothing about.
In this real world, the cost of basic food items far outstrips any increases in social grants.
In this real world, over 46% of working-age South Africans can’t find jobs.
And in this real world, thousands of South African children die each year from severe acute malnutrition.
It is simply unforgivable that we have children literally starving to death while ministers are buying themselves luxury vehicles.
This real world is a long way away from lavish ministerial vehicle allowances, state-sponsored petrol and VIP security detail.
But because not one of these ministers has ever been held accountable, they just carry on wiping out jobs, destroying lives, and then living it up on taxpayer money.
Every single sufferance or misery of our citizens can be traced back directly to an indifferent minister.
They are South Africa’s Poverty Cabinet.
If our sole mission is to end poverty – and that has to be our mission – we must start by firing the Poverty Cabinet. Because we cannot win the war under the same generals that got us into the mess in the first place.
South Africa needs a fresh start, and that is what we’re offering here today: The opportunity to open the trapdoor in one go, and then start afresh with a slimmed-down, fit-for-purpose cabinet who are up to the task.
This could be our clean slate. The president can reimagine his whole cabinet – he can make it smaller, he can look beyond the ANC and he can even appoint members from outside Parliament.
I know he’s in a tough bind here. His own position is tenuous, and he’s under constant threat from his party’s factional warfare. He simply does not have the political clout to move against his ministers.
That’s why we’re offering an alternative way out here. A reset button that can be pressed by this House, so he doesn’t have to.
Our Constitution and the rules of Parliament make provision for this very eventuality. All that is now required is for enough of you to choose to put country ahead of party.
As we head into this winter of discontent, this cabinet is not going to cut it.
Support this motion and fire this Poverty Cabinet.
If President Ramaphosa won’t fire any of his crooks and freeloaders in Cabinet, we will take that burden off his hands and do it for him. Co-sign our motion for Parliament to remove Cabinet: https://www.cabinetmustgo.co.za/