These remarks were delivered by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP, during a live broadcast this morning.
Good morning, my fellow citizens,
The events of the past 24 hours, with the hand-over of the independent panel’s report into the Phala Phala allegations, represents a seismic shift in South African politics.
Once again, a sitting President stands accused of breaching the constitution. Once again, a sitting president is facing internal political revolt. Once again the ANC and its dysfunctional politics are plunging South Africa into crisis.
But this is not just about President Ramaphosa and his fitness to hold office – it has the potential to change our entire political landscape and usher in a new chapter for our country. I will explain what I mean by this shortly.
The report is clear and unambiguous. President Ramaphosa most likely did breach a number of Constitutional provisions and has a case to answer. Impeachment proceedings into his conduct must go ahead, and he will have to offer far better, more comprehensive explanations than we have been given so far.
The authors of the report clearly do not believe that President Ramaphosa’s explanation about the source of the hidden money was truthful, and they clearly believe that the President interfered with the investigation to keep it quiet.
All of that will be aired and interrogated soon enough.
What is clear is that many did not expect such a bold finding against the President, and this has left South Africans feeling understandably concerned and vulnerable.
What many thought of as a barrier between themselves and the dangerous RET faction of the ANC, along with all its allies and proxies, has seemingly vanished overnight.
Many South Africans chose what they thought was the ANC of Cyril Ramaphosa precisely because they felt they had to keep the other ANC out.
But what has become evident since this scandal broke – and particularly now that it has been confirmed by an independent panel of former judges – is that the “two ANCs” theory has been a myth all along. A myth designed to strengthen the ANC against itself.
That myth has now been shattered, and there is no longer the illusion of a so-called buffer of reformists keeping the radical and corrupt faction out.
This is not a time for cheap point-scoring. This is a sad time for our country as it confronts the awful truth about how the party that led the fight for freedom, the party of Nelson Mandela, has become a cesspit of corruption, greed and dishonestly from top to bottom.
What makes this a sad occasion is that many South Africans inside and outside of the ANC, desperately wanted to believe that we were saying goodbye to corruption and graft, and that somehow President Cyril Ramaphosa would clean house from within.
The truth is that there always has been, only one ANC. And now that the fog has cleared, South Africans can finally see how absolutely simple their choices are going forward.
Don’t be fooled either by the proliferation of small parties and new movements that are being added to our political landscape every few months. All of these fall into a simple binary: On the one side you have the ANC’s RET and EFF, and on the other side you have the forces of progress and reform, including but not limited to the DA.
When we’ve spoken in the past of the realignment of South African politics, we’ve referred to these two binary choices, saying that all the players in our political landscape would ultimately fall on either side of this divide.
But until recently, this was not clear, because there was a mass in the middle obscuring this simple binary. What some referred to as the “reform faction” of the ANC created the illusion that the options were more complex.
And indeed, some believed they were giving a mandate to a third option. They voted for what they were promised was reform and Constitutionalism. They gave President Ramaphosa a mandate based on the pledge that he would deliver and protect these things.
But that mandate has now collapsed. Not only the people who were meant to deliver on it, but the entire platform has gone. And stepping into this gaping hole in the ANC are only bad options:
If President Ramaphosa is recalled now, we’ll end up with a corrupt President Mabuza.
If President Ramaphosa survives until their elective conference but is defeated then, we could end up with a corrupt President Mkhize.
And if President Ramaphosa somehow triumphs at the conference we’re stuck with a corrupt President Ramaphosa, whose focus will be on his own political survival rather than on the good of the nation.
This is the impossible choice – the terrible trifecta – that voters are given within the ANC. But the simple truth is: no South African voted for David Mabuza, or Zweli Mkhize, or the RET faction, or an alliance with the EFF.
But there is one more option available to voters, and thankfully the authors of our Constitution had the foresight to include this in the document. That option is for a simple majority of 50% +1 of the National Assembly to vote for the dissolution of government, which would then trigger an early election.
Section 50(1) of the Constitution makes provision for precisely the scenario we’ve ended up with today, where the President and his government have lost the mandate and legitimacy to govern, and a new mandate must be obtained from the people.
I will table this Motion in the National Assembly, and I will call on all members of the House, regardless of party or affiliation, to support it so that we can urgently close this chapter of corruption and get back to dealing with our country’s many challenges.
Even under ideal circumstances, we were going to have a mountain to climb if we were to beat the electricity crisis, the unemployment crisis, the cost of living crisis and the collapse of services and infrastructure across the country.
Even with a committed and focused government, this would take an enormous effort. But when you have a compromised president fighting for his political life and the rest of his corrupt party circling the skies, none of that critical work will get done.
That cannot be our country’s fate for the next 18 months. Too many South Africans are in a desperate situation and need a government that can fight for them right now.
With our economy, our electricity grid and our social cohesion all at a tipping point, we simply do not have the luxury of time.
South Africans should not have to choose between the Phala Phala corruption of Cyril Ramaphosa, the Digital Vibes corruption of Zweli Mkhize or the Mafia state of David Mabuza.
Our country and its people deserve far better than this terrible set of options.
And let us also be very clear: President Ramaphosa is not a helpless victim in all of this. The collapse of his presidency is entirely his own doing.
He could not have asked for a stronger mandate and more support for the reform agenda on which he campaigned four years ago. He had it all on a plate, he just needed to act.
But instead, he wilted and chose to put the unity of his corrupt party ahead of all his pledges to clean up government and institute bold reforms. No one forced him to back down from his promises. He chose that himself.
And no one forced him into the Phala Phala situation either. The hidden money, the untruths about its origin, the secret investigation and cover-up – these were all his own choices and his own doing.
The reason his presidency has become untenable and the fact that he’s now simply one of three unacceptable options in the ANC has nothing to do with outside forces or conspiracies. It’s all his own doing.
And because he and his party have lost the mandate of the voters, we have to turn to our Constitution and the provision it makes for a situation like this.
We cannot leave it up to 4000 bribed and compromised delegates at an ANC conference to choose the future of our country. That choice has to be made by all the people of South Africa in an early election.
Now, I know that many of you are uncertain about what our country’s immediate future holds. It’s natural to be scared at a time like this where it feels like we could easily tip the wrong way.
But I want to assure you that the DA will not fail you. We know exactly what the stakes are in the fight for our country’s future. We know the magnitude of the threat, but we also know that there is a pathway out of this.
We will do everything in our power to ensure that the ultimate say in the road we take lies with you and not with a small group of the party that has been abusing you for years.
I also want to reassure you that despite all this upheaval and uncertainty, there are a few silver linings to the dark cloud.
One of these is the fact that our country’s institutions – and particularly our Constitution which enabled the independent panel that authored this report – remain stronger than powerful individuals. The value of such strong institutions cannot be overstated, and there are many democracies in the world where this would not have happened.
So I ask that you keep this in mind, even as we go through this period of turmoil.
Another silver lining is that our country’s electoral choices have been dramatically simplified by the removal of the ANC’s veneer of legitimacy.
What we don’t always mention when we speak about the realignment of our politics is that this is not necessarily a steady and gradual process. It relies on catalytic moments that shift this realignment along in big jumps.
The events playing out in the ruling party today represent such a catalytic moment, and when the dust settles our political landscape will look entirely different.
It will be much easier to see who is aligned with what remains of the ANC and who stands with the forces of progress and democracy.
It will be easier to choose Constitutionalism.
It will be easier to choose the Rule of Law.
It will be easier to choose non-racialism.
It will be easier to choose the building of a capable state.
And it will be easier to choose a growing market economy that is able to lift millions out of poverty and into jobs.
So I ask that you don’t lose heart and become despondent. There are many good people still in this fight, and they will not let you down.
What looks like a crisis could in fact be the catalyst for our democracy’s greatest leap forward in thirty years.
That bright future we all want won’t happen if we sit around dreaming about it. It will happen when we use our votes to bring about positive change.
It will happen when we take a long hard look at our country and ask: Where is governance working? Where do civil servants serve the people and not themselves?
The answer is: Where the DA governs. It’s time to make that a reality across the country.
It will happen when we stand up, taking to the streets if need be, to defend our Constitution.
It will happen when we finally wake up and do something to secure a positive future for our children.
Now is the time to stand up and be counted. The Democratic Alliance calls for a national election – not one involving 4000 delegates at an ANC conference, but one that gives all South Africans the opportunity to determine their future.
A future free of corruption, a future with jobs, a future for our children.
Together let’s take power away from the ANC and give it to the people of South Africa.