The following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane at the Party’s Provincial Manifesto Launch in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape. Maimane was joined by DA Eastern Cape Premier Candidate, Nqaba Bhanga.
Fellow South Africans,
If you really want to see the difference a particular party can make in government, then you must compare it to another party in government. You must gather facts on the performances of both of them, and hold these facts up alongside each other.
That’s only way to judge a governing party. Not on promises. Not on ideology. Not on distant history. Only on the facts of its track record.
That is what I want to do today. I want to look at two neighbouring provinces – the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape – so that we can make an informed decision about their respective governments.
The Eastern Cape has had an ANC government since the dawn of our democracy in 1994, and the Western Cape has had a DA government for the past ten years – since it took over from the ANC in 2009.
Here we have two provinces that share many similarities. They are similar in size. They are similar in population numbers. They both have long rugged coast lines and beautiful interiors that range from semi-desert Karoo to towering mountain ranges.
They have similar key industries on which their economies depend. Tourism, agriculture and manufacturing employ the vast majority of people in both provinces. They even speak, for the most part, the same languages.
But that is where the similarities end. Because when it comes to the lived experience of the residents of these neighbouring provinces, they might as well be two different countries.
Even just driving across the boundary, you immediately feel the difference beneath the wheels of your car.
One of these provinces has spent the past decade fighting its way back to prosperity and opportunity for its people, while the other has slipped further and further back into poverty and despair.
One is a place to which people flock in search of a better life, while the other is a place that people have to leave in order to survive.
More people leave the Eastern Cape each year than any other province in South Africa. Since 2006, more than 1.5 million people have abandoned the Eastern Cape in search of a better future elsewhere.
This exodus of people is the biggest possible vote of no-confidence in a government, whether they leave in search of work, for access to healthcare, for better living conditions and basic services, or for education opportunities for their children.
It is a shameful reflection of a government that has collapsed this province.
I was speaking with students from the Walter Sisulu University last night, and the conditions I saw there were terrible. The university is in a very poor state because the money Minister Nzimande used to fund his no-fee-increases elsewhere came from “poor” universities like WSU.
And this is the story of the rural Eastern Cape, and rural South Africa under an ANC government. Citizens in these communities have been betrayed. Their children can’t get a decent education, their roads are crumbling and their taps run dry, if they even have taps. They have been forgotten and abandoned.
I know the potential of the Eastern Cape. I used to run an NGO in Keiskammahoek that helped with the development of farmers. I know how fertile this province is – it could be the backbone of our agriculture sector. I also know the enormous potential that lies in tourism here, as well as manufacturing. The Eastern Cape should be booming. There should be a job in every home, in every village.
But instead people have been leaving the province of their birth because there are simply no opportunities for them or their children here. They leave where they cannot see a future, and they go where they think they can build a better life for them and their families.
And one such place is the Western Cape, a province that attracts more and more people each year from all over South Africa. And the reason for this is simple: People go where they are confident life will be better.
People go where the government doesn’t steal public money – where it will spend its budget on the things that improve living conditions. Things like basic service delivery, infrastructure, education and healthcare.
Consider that 83% of Western Cape provincial departments and entities received clean audits last year, while the Eastern Cape managed only 19%. This will give you an idea of how well public money is spent in both provinces.
People go where they know there is a chance of finding work. The expanded unemployment rate here in the Eastern Cape is almost 47%. This means that one out of every two adults here cannot find work. This province has the highest unemployment rate in the whole country.
In the Western Cape the expanded unemployment rate is less than half of this, at 23%. No other province comes close to this. In fact, this is a full 14 percentage points below the national average of 37%.
But the two biggest responsibilities of any provincial government are education and healthcare. This is where it has the most control, and it is where the bulk of its budget is spent.
If you want to judge a provincial government, this is where you look first. And when you look at both education and healthcare in the Eastern Cape you see failed government in every sense of the word.
People go where they know their children will have a better shot at finishing school and preparing themselves for the future, and they go where they know they will be looked after if they become sick or injured.
Now, the ANC government here in the Eastern Cape will say “but we got a 70% matric pass rate”, but what they won’t tell you is the number of learners who never sat down to write that matric exam.
Of the almost 150,000 children who started grade 10 in this province three years ago, less than 66,000 ended up writing matric and only 46,000 passed. That’s why the real pass rate here is not 70% – it’s closer to 30%.
This number of children who stay in school from Grade 10 through matric is called the retention rate. In the Western Cape this is 63%. No other province in the country even achieved above 50%.
What happens to these missing children? What must become of them? There is a reason why parents will give up everything and leave their homes and their families to get their children into schools in the Western Cape. They want their children to have a future that is better than their own. And they know that is only possible under a DA government.
They also know that where the DA governs, the grip that SADTU has over education is at its weakest. And this means that teachers are better held accountable for the outcomes in their classrooms.
Where SADTU is strong, education fails. This is clear in a province like the Eastern Cape, where officials steal money from school feeding schemes, where teachers go missing on payday and where SADTU members take turns in making long weekends out of normal weekends. People leave to escape this failed education.
People go where they know the government will keep the taps running and the lights on. The Western Cape faced three years of intense drought, but managed to avoid Day Zero by harnessing the combined power and resourcefulness of government, business and ordinary citizens.
But here in the Eastern Cape many municipalities are facing their own Day Zero, with no such plan from their government to stop this from happening. The residents of Makhanda have already woken to dry taps, as did the residents of Queenstown last year.
Moving from one province to another is a very clear vote. It is a vote for a government that is caring, capable and corruption-free, and it is a vote against a government that has betrayed the trust of the people.
But, fellow South Africans, this cannot be the future of the Eastern Cape.
This incredible province cannot simply be a place from which people flee – the forgotten province. There is way too much potential among these people, in this land and in these cities, towns and villages for us to allow this to happen.
This province is very special to me – it is the home province of my mother. This is the province that once produced our country’s greatest leaders, but just look at its leadership now. It is now the province of people like Andile Lungisa. It is now the province that cannot hold an ANC conference without chairs being thrown around. It is a province that has been failed by its government. And that must change.
The future of someone growing up in the Eastern Cape should be just as bright as that of someone in the Western Cape. There is no reason this province cannot make the same turnaround that the Western Cape did ten years ago. There is no reason why this can’t also be a place of growth, jobs and opportunities – a place where people come to instead of leave.
All it takes is a government like the one in the Western Cape. A government that genuinely cares, a government staffed only by capable candidates and a government that does not tolerate the theft and mismanagement of the people’s money.
There is only one option for such a government, and that is the DA. So when it is time to make your mark on the ballot paper in two months’ time, think very carefully about what you want for the future of the Eastern Cape, and then choose that future.
You don’t have to vote with your feet and leave this great province. You can vote with your ballot and get a far better result. You can vote for change.
This change has already started on campuses across the Eastern Cape, where DASO has been racking up the victories.
This change has already come to NMB, where the people said enough is enough, and voted the ANC out.
This change has even started right here in Lusikisiki, in Ward 9, where the DA grew from just 6% to almost 25% in a by-election last year.
The Eastern Cape is ready for change, fellow South Africans.
Join me on 8 May as we paint this province, and the country, blue.