The following speech was made today by the DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the Cape Town Press Club.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Members of the Press,
Whenever we have a conversation about where we stand as a country and what lies ahead, the temptation is to delve into what brought us here. And as you know, that can prove to be the deepest of rabbit holes.
I am not going to unpack the breadth and depth of our state capture saga here today, because many of you are already doing a fine job.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank each and every member of our vibrant and independent media for the way in which this huge story around the Gupta emails has been handled.
When things look bleak, people need heroes to turn to. And over the course of the last few months our heroes have been the journalists and editors who have done the back-breaking work of sifting through hundreds of thousands of mails, linking the characters, joining the dots and building the puzzle of this attack on our state and its resources.
In the face of brazen threats, counter-propaganda, cruel slander campaigns and a nation’s increasing scandal fatigue, you have not wavered.
You only need to look at countries facing their own struggles, but without the benefit of a free, unencumbered press – countries such as Russia and Turkey – to realise just what your contribution has been to safeguarding our democracy and standing up for the people of South Africa.
I assure you, your efforts are deeply appreciated by all.
So I will not repeat all the details today of what we now accept as the truth around state capture. We all know the destruction and looting that has taken place at the hands of the ANC and their Gupta handlers across our state-owned enterprises.
These are facts, confirmed in hard evidence and uncontested by all except the Gupta brothers and a handful of their syndicate members. You know it, I know it and the South African public knows it.
But perhaps even more importantly, ANC members themselves know it. Some have spoken out in the media, using clear, unambiguous language. Many have chosen their words more carefully, fearing the inevitable witch-hunt.
And last Tuesday, somewhere between 30 and 40 of them voted to oust Jacob Zuma. Another nine abstained from voting either against their party or in favour of their President.
This is unprecedented in our democracy. It has never happened before, and it signals the scale of the disunity in the ANC – something that even 198 “no” votes cannot begin to mask. It is an organisation truly at war with itself.
But far from causing introspection or moderation, this split in the ranks has emboldened the Zuma supporters to dig in their heels and refuse to acknowledge their moral bankruptcy.
In fact, they have now expressed their intention to hunt down the 40 rebels and drive them from the party.
We’ve heard people like Gwede Mantashe, Bathabile Dlamini and even Zuma himself ridicule the notion of a conscience within the ANC in the wake of the vote.
They have given up pretending they serve the people. They’re no longer afraid or ashamed to admit that they care more for their own profitable careers than for the welfare of the people who elected them.
They have proven, over and over again, that they will rally around Jacob Zuma and the kind of ANC he represents. They have betrayed millions of South Africans – not only those who voted for the ANC, but every single citizen of this country whom they swore to serve.
These people have cost the ANC its mandate to govern.
Time and time again we were told of the good people within the ANC who would step in and save the party and, by extension, our country. We were told to give them the space to self-correct.
But with all the space in the world, even with the unprecedented protection of a secret ballot, they simply could not muster just 51 votes required to cut loose the man who has brought so much misery and despair to South Africans.
They had many opportunities internally too, the most recent of which came at their NEC meeting in May. But instead of standing up to Zuma, it was Zuma who tore into them, threatening those who publicly criticise him with his wrath.
It was the second failure in six months by the ANC NEC to remove him. Instead, the handful of dissenters left with their tails between their legs.
Clearly the so-called good people in the ANC are vastly outnumbered by those who see state power as simply a means to the larger end of massive theft and corruption.
I have a message for those who say the ANC can self-correct before December, at December, or after December. And that message is: It is time to get real. The evidence is clear that the ANC is beyond redemption. Its decline and decay is irreversible.
That a considerable block of ANC MPs chose to cast their vote against Zuma under the cover of a secret ballot was encouraging.
We have said often, and still say, that the future of South African politics is in a fundamental realignment of people in defence of the Constitution and its values.
We know that in one form or another we will one day share the government benches with those 40 brave rebels who voted with us last week.
But the numbers in last Tuesday’s vote don’t lie: Almost 80% of the ANC caucus chose to shield Zuma and, by extension, the Guptas. The Kleptocrats and the “Capturists” out-numbered the Constitutionalists 5 to 1.
If the National Assembly cannot perform its job of holding the Executive and the President to account, and if the ANC cannot correct itself internally, the logical next step is to hand this decision over to the people of South Africa.
This is why, following the failed No-Confidence vote, we submitted a motion calling for early elections.
Our Constitution allows for the country to make a fresh start before the end of a five-year term of office. Section 50 states that a majority in Parliament can call for an early election, if at least three years have passed since the last election.
This section of the Constitution was written precisely for the situation we now find ourselves in: If a president or government no longer represents the will of the people – if it is failing to carry out their mandate – then the people must be given a chance to choose a new government.
Outwardly, the ANC claims to be confident that they still enjoy the support of the majority of South Africans. But we’re saying to them: Put this to the test. Support our call for early elections and let the people of South Africa decide whether you still have a mandate to govern.
There has been a bit of background noise since we announced our intention to table a motion for a fresh election. Some analysts claim that we are uniting the ANC at a time when they are most divided.
Others say that we have the timing wrong, that we should rather wait until after the ANC’s elective conference in December. And then there are those who say that our motion has no chance of succeeding, so why even bother?
So let me address these points head-on today.
First of all, the DA cannot either unite or divide the ANC. Only the ANC can do that. There is nothing that we can say or do that will unite the ANC. The party is at war with itself and whatever we say or do will not change that.
Besides anything else, it is not our job to worry about divisions in other parties. We can only do what is right for the future of the country. And we believe that the time has come to give the people of South Africa a say in which party governs them.
Then, secondly, there is the notion that we must wait until December. This doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. For one thing, we are running out of time to save South Africa. There is not a moment to waste.
And for another thing, we have seen that the ANC is incapable of self-correcting. Why should we imagine that December will prove otherwise – regardless of who is elected to lead the ANC?
Finally, there is the argument that our motion will not succeed. It is worth reminding people that our motions very rarely succeed because we do not have a majority in Parliament. But this doesn’t mean that we should not table them.
Our job is to do what is right, to use the constitutional mechanisms at our disposal and to win the argument – even if we don’t always win the vote.
The DA is not alone in its belief that we should have fresh elections. The SA Council of Churches made the call as recently as June this year.
The UDM made the same call back in April last year during the impeachment debate, with its leader Bantu Holomisa calling for an immediate dissolution of Parliament and early elections. “Let the voice of the people be heard,” he said.
COPE said during the State of the Nation Address in February that we need to dissolve Parliament and hold a new election. “It is in contempt of the Constitutional Court order. It must be dissolved forthwith and fresh elections called to save our democracy,” they said.
And in March last year, in the wake of the Constitutional Court ruling that President Zuma and the National Assembly had violated the constitution, the EFF had this to say: “That parliament was supposed to be dissolved now. It has permanently violated the Constitution. We must call for an election.”
The only problem with all of these calls was that they were premature. Firstly, and most obviously, they were made at a time when three years had not yet elapsed since the last election.
Section 50 of our Constitution is quite clear in this regard. It states: “The President must dissolve the National Assembly if the Assembly has adopted a resolution to dissolve with a supporting vote of a majority of its members; and three years have passed since the Assembly was elected.”
Secondly, we had not yet debated our Motion of No Confidence in Parliament. It was important to us that the ANC be given a final chance to remove President Zuma.
Now that the ANC has failed that test, we are left to take the next logical constitutional step – and that is the call for a fresh election now.
By now we are quite used to being told what we should and should not do.
If we were to listen to these critics and base our actions on the consensus of analysts and opinion writers, we would never have embarked on any of our most successful campaigns.
They said that we were wrong to run a “Stop Zuma” campaign back in 2009. Now everyone wants to stop Zuma.
They said that we shouldn’t have marched to Nkandla back in 2012. They said it was culturally insensitive and would lose us votes. Today, Nkandla has come to symbolise the corruption of the ANC under Zuma and was no doubt a factor in its election losses in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
They said that we shouldn’t table Motions of No Confidence in Jacob Zuma, that it would unite the ANC. Yet last week he came very close to being ousted by his own party members in a No Confidence vote. More importantly, the people of South Africa got to see, once and for all, that the ANC is incapable of ‘self-correction’ when it matters most.
They said that we shouldn’t oppose the appointment of Busisiwe Mkhwebane as Public Protector, that we just being difficult. Today you will struggle to find anyone who approves of her appointment. This was highlighted when the North Gauteng High Court slammed her this week for overreaching her Constitutional powers in the Reserve Bank case.
I am proud to lead a party that helps set the national agenda, even if our critics don’t always agree with us. We need to challenge government and to use every lever at our disposal to do what is right for South Africa.
If we are to lead a national government in the near future, our ideas and actions must be bold, not safe.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our country needs a new beginning. And this goes beyond removing Jacob Zuma and the Guptas.
We need a fresh start – a fundamental change – because millions of our people are suffering, and life isn’t getting any easier for them.
But we cannot make this fresh start when we’re stuck in a recession. We cannot fire up our economy while we carry the tag of junk status around our necks. Ratings agencies have recognised this – saying euphemistically that our crisis is one of political management, not of economic fundamentals.
We cannot focus all of our attention on the real issues – growing the economy, creating jobs and relieving poverty – while we are also trying to prevent our country from being bled dry by looters.
That’s why we must ask South Africans to hit the reset button in an early election, so that we can reinvent our country and our economy.
We need to move away from the nationalist agenda that is suffocating us, and move towards one where individuals are empowered and protected.
We need to nurture our young people – give them an education that means something, and train them to fill the right kinds of jobs.
We need to reintroduce the idea of accountability – not only accountability in government, but for each and every member of society.
We need to find one another and start caring for each other again.
This is the South Africa I want to live in – the South Africa I want to raise my children in and one day leave behind for a next generation.
And the only way we can build this South Africa is if we are prepared to wipe the slate clean and start over.
In some ways, this has already begun. Our politics has entered a phase of realignment – the days of one dominant liberation party are fast coming to an end.
We are making the transition from liberation politics to coalition politics. This has already happened at local government level, where coalitions and strategic partnerships are breathing new life into the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
The one-year-in-office briefing by the Mayors of these metros earlier this month painted a picture of renewal and growth in cities that had stalled under their previous corrupt governments.
There is still a long way to go to clean out the rot and turn these cities around, but already the change is evident. And what we’re doing in the metros we can do in national government too.
But this will require millions of South Africans to re-imagine our country. Because the problem in South African politics is not a lack of options, but rather an inability to picture a brand new future.
The truth is, people struggle to imagine a post-ANC South Africa.
And when I say the people, I mean everyone from ordinary voters to voices in the media to business and even opposition parties.
The ANC has always framed so much of our day-to-day life that it is almost impossible to comprehend a South Africa in which they don’t dominate.
I’d like to take some of the responsibility for that. The DA hasn’t always articulated this vision of a post-ANC South Africa as well as we could have.
But we’re working hard at correcting that. Because if we’re going to ask millions of South Africans to do something they’ve never done before – to turn their back on the liberation party – we’re going to have to reassure them of their place in this new society.
I have personally racked up thousands of kilometres over the past six months taking my Change 19 Tour to communities in every province of the country. I have spoken to countless people – mostly poor, often unemployed – who are desperate for a better life.
I have heard stories that will shock you to your core. How men, women and children in our country have to battle incredible odds and do things no one should ever have to do just in order to survive every day.
And all these people have told me they want things to change for them. They want their children to have a better chance at life than they had. They want the freedom that has been spoken about for 23 years now.
But at the same time, they struggle to imagine life without the ANC – the party of their parents’ parents. And understandably so.
Ten years ago, this was also hard to imagine for the people of Cape Town. Just over a year ago it was hard to imagine for the people of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
But here we are today. Millions of South Africans wake up every day to life under a DA-run government, and they realise there is the chance of a bright future beyond the ANC.
We now have our work cut out to vindicate the faith these people put in us. And we have a small mountain to climb to get many more South Africans to do so by 2019.
But we’re already hard at work, and that includes strengthening our partnerships in government.
To those who have expressed concerns about coalitions and partnerships, citing the ideological differences between the DA and our partners, I would like to give my reassurance that we will never compromise on our values.
Our Constitution is not, and will never be, up for negotiation. Any coming-together of parties must be to protect our Constitution, not to weaken it.
Any party that shares this value is welcome to join us in re-building South Africa into a prosperous, inclusive country.
But first things first – we must get rid of the clique that is dragging the whole country down. We cannot afford to wait any longer.
The recent threats by ANC MPs to suspend all committee meetings until Makhosi Khoza is dealt with shows how damaging the ANC’s implosion will be for South Africa. Our Parliament will become collateral damage in their self-destruction.
We cannot wait and see what might happen at the ANC’s elective conference, and we cannot wait until the 2019 elections.
Every day the damage under Zuma multiplies, and we’re still almost 600 days away from the next election. We need to act now before there is nothing left to save.
Don’t delude yourself into thinking that Jacob Zuma is on the verge of going peacefully. He is not. If he has his way, he will be in power until 2019, and will remain in power via a proxy for a long time to come even after 2019.
And so we will continue to ask opposition parties as well as members of the ANC to support our call for early elections. If they do not support us, then I hope you will ask them to explain how they can justify keeping power away from the people.
The country is in crisis, the ANC has failed dismally and it no longer holds the confidence of the nation. In this circumstance, I ask what better, more democratic solution there could possibly be than an early election?
Frankly, the only indefensible position to hold in our current context is to oppose the idea of giving the country the chance to be heard.
It can’t be business as usual in South Africa in the wake of the failed No Confidence vote. We can’t just shrug and say: We tried, but it didn’t work.
Jacob Zuma is complicit in the biggest crime our democracy has seen. Every day he spends in office is a travesty of justice and an insult to millions of poor South Africans.
It is time we gave these South Africans the final say in whether Jacob Zuma stays or goes.