The following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the Eastern Cape provincial launch of the party’s Team One SA campaign outside a failed public/private job-creating initiative in Chatty, Port Elizabeth. Maimane was joined by Eastern Cape Premier Candidate, Nqaba Bhanga, Team One South Africa Spokesperson for Women, Nomafrench Mbombo, and DA Federal Chairperson, Athol Trollip.
Fellow South Africans,
Today we kick off the DA’s 2019 election campaign in the Eastern Cape. A campaign in which, over the next seven months, we will take our message of “Change that Builds One South Africa for All” to every corner of this province.
And while our focus this morning is on bringing our vision of a better future to the people of South Africa, our attention tomorrow will be on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s first Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, where he will have the opportunity to show whether the ANC can finally put its own interests second and the people’s interests first.
Our people are suffering, and they are suffering as a direct result of ANC policy failure. Our recession, our falling currency, our tax increases and petrol price increases, our spiraling unemployment and our growing poverty aren’t because of global conditions. Our global peers are growing. Our African neighbours are growing. Our economic trauma is all self-inflicted.
Tomorrow Minister Mboweni has a chance to start correcting this. To disassociate himself from EFF-style rhetoric and to walk away from his damaging statements on state intervention in everything from mining and banking to land ownership. This is his chance to finally put poor, unemployed and mostly young South Africans first.
Minister Mboweni has an opportunity tomorrow to show that he can increase private sector investment, that he can stabilise national debt below 50%, that he can take rational decisions on our failed SOE’s, that he can bring stability to SARS and that he can provide clarity on the mega-loans being negotiated with China behind closed doors.
If he can’t do this, then it surely makes no sense to persist with this ANC government.
Fellow South Africans, there is a very good reason why we’re launching our election campaign in Chatty, and specifically here by this building behind me. We chose this site because this building stands as a testament to the corruption and neglect of the ANC in government here in NMB.
What you see here – the crumbling structure, the stripped out interior and the lack of any activity and enterprise – is a perfect metaphor for the legacy of the ANC. The very same ANC who, with the help of the EFF and the UDM, have now been allowed back in to government here so that they can pick up where they left off.
Back in 2003, this building was chosen to be the home of the Bethelsdorp Hand Weavers, a carpet factory started as part of a project to provide jobs, develop skills and eradicate poverty in this part of NMB. It was run by an NGO that received funding from the local ANC government, and it employed 200 women from the community.
In principle, this all sounds good. But in reality, this turned out to be just another looting scheme where the money ended up in the pockets of a few corrupt individuals, and government provided no oversight and no control over where its funds went.
And so, while the corrupt got rich, this enterprise failed. The women who worked here went for months without being paid. Today, a decade after the factory closed its doors, most of these women are still unemployed.
In a province like the Eastern Cape, and specifically a community like Bethelsdorp with its sky-high unemployment rate, it is shameful that there was no accountability in the ANC government for precious public money, and particularly money meant for job creation.
And yet this is the standard operating procedure for the ANC. Here in NMB, this kind of looting of public money happened in virtually every contract, tender and project undertaken by the ANC government over two decades. It was all just easy money, and no one bothered to think of the people affected by it.
When Jacob Zuma said, back in 2009, that charges against him should be dropped because corruption wasn’t a “real crime” and that there are no victims involved, he wasn’t just speaking for himself. He was speaking for every ANC minister, mayor and councillor who believed that all money was there to be taken.
Well, I’m here today to tell them they are wrong. Corruption has victims. Real people with families and dependents. Parents, siblings, breadwinners. Corruption’s victims are those who are left to deal with the unemployment and poverty, and all the crime, drugs and violence that follows.
The people of Bethelsdorp are victims of corruption. The hundreds of women who lost their jobs at this factory are victims of corruption. Their families who were counting on an income are victims of corruption. These factory doors may have closed ten years ago, but they remain victims today.
If you want to know why communities like these need change, just speak to the people affected by corruption-failed projects like these. Some of these women are here with us today. Ask them if they want to go back to the ANC way of doing things.
We cannot go back there. The Eastern Cape certainly can’t go back there. This is the province with the highest expanded unemployment rate in South Africa. Almost 46% of working-age men and women in this province cannot find a job. Young people leave this province in droves in search of opportunities elsewhere.
That is why we are gathered here today to launch our election campaign in this province. We are here to say: Our country needs change. We need a fresh start so we can rebuild our society and an economy that works for all.
Under the ANC government we ended up with a massively divided nation. There are those on the inside, people with jobs, education, opportunities, and there are those on the outside, millions of South Africans who live in poverty and who have no hope of finding employment. This must change.
Under a DA government we will bridge this divide. We will focus all our efforts on bringing the outsiders into the economy by supporting enterprise, attracting investment and helping businesses large and small to create jobs. We will unite South Africans around this goal instead of dividing, blaming and creating enemies.
The DA will bring change that builds one South Africa for all.
No other party is promising to do this. No other party even pretends to speak for all South Africans, or offers a plan that will grow the economy, create jobs, make our communities safe and speed up basic service delivery.
Under the leadership of our Premier candidate, Nqaba Bhanga, we will take this message to every city, town and village in the province. Because it is of the utmost importance that we bring clean, accountable DA government to the people of the Eastern Cape.
In two short years, the DA-led coalition government in NMB brought more progress to areas like Bethelsdorp than the ANC did in two decades. Not far from where we’re standing is the new depot for the new Integrated Public Transport Service. Also near us is the new station for the Metro Police. Roads were tarred, basic services were expanded.
Now all this progress is threatened once more by the reinstatement of the ANC/EFF coalition of corruption in this metro. This is a step backwards, towards neglect, towards poverty and towards unemployment.
Fellow South Africans, we need to move forward as a country, not backwards. And to do so we need a government that looks to the future, not the past. There is only one party that can be this government, and that party is the Democratic Alliance.