The following speech was delivered by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, at the party’s Mpumalanga Provincial Congress today.
It’s wonderful to be here today in this great province. And it truly is an honour to address you, the hard-working, totally committed men and women who serve our party so selflessly.
We gather here in the magnificent low-veld at an urgent time for our country and our party.
Not since the days of the negotiation of our Constitution, have our values been more relevant, or more worthy of championing. Today in our country, the values which underpin our Constitution and which have formed the bedrock of our national consensus since 1994 are under attack. The values of unity, reconciliation, the safeguarding of basic individual freedoms, and the protection of people against an all-powerful state — all of these have taken heavy blows in recent weeks.
The DA is now the only party left that is prepared to come to the defence of our country’s founding values. For these are also our values. And just as we stood for these values through the darkest days of apartheid, so must we rise to fight for them again now.
I must confess, I did not expect to need to start this address in this way. Two weeks ago our country was jubilant. We were all rightly celebrating the political demise of a terrible, abusive and corrupt President.
We all stood ready to extend the hand of friendship and co-operation to the new President, in the spirit of a loyal opposition who wants truly what is best for our country.
I stand by the words I offered to President Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation Debate: Where he acts in the interest of our country and its people, I will work with him. The DA will work with him.
But this must surely go down in history as one of the shortest honeymoons ever. The intoxicating effects of Ramaphoria are wearing off just as quickly as they appeared.
For not even two weeks have passed, and already his ascent to power is revealing the President’s character.
In two weeks, he has appointed DD Mabuza, a man everyone in this hall is familiar with, as the Deputy President. He has kept a rump of corrupt, captured ministers in his cabinet.
Let’s start with Mabuza.
For years this province has been treated as the fiefdom of a criminal syndicate. The man who now occupies the office of the Deputy President, David Mabuza, ran Mpumalanga like a mob boss runs his city.
Any one of the many scandals linked to David Mabuza should have been enough to remove him from office. But we have learnt the hard way in this country that scandals alone don’t end careers, as long as you’re connected to the right people.
When DD Mabuza inflated the matric pass rate back when he was education MEC, he was axed by his Premier. He should have remained fired, but he was allowed to make a comeback.
When DD Mabuza tried to push through a R7 million deal for “good news” coverage in The New Age, he should have been fired. But he wasn’t.
When DD Mabuza spent R36 million on cars between 2010 and 2014, he should have been fired. But he wasn’t.
When DD Mabuza’s name was connected to the murder of many of his political rivals and whistle blowers throughout the province, he should have been fired. But he wasn’t.
Instead he was appointed to the second-highest office of the country.
Instead of facing charges and prosecution, he got rewarded, ANC-style, with the Deputy Presidency.
David Mabuza is a corrupt and ruthless thug who wrecked this province.
President Ramaphosa has fallen at the first hurdle. He should have put DD Mabuza in prison, not in the Presidency.
But much more ominously, President Ramaphosa seems like he has yielded to the populists in his own party and the demagogues in red in their bid to rewrite the Constitution.
Let me say that the President’s moral stature and his contribution to the process that led to the new South Africa is not in doubt. He is one of the few people who can honestly claim to have written the Constitution.
But those great contributions then will not be enough to make him a great President now.
He must also have the courage of his convictions. He must stand up for the vision espoused in that beautiful founding document of our country. And he must be brave enough to turn back the tide of populism in his own party which seeks to wash away our democratic gains.
While he decides whether to lead or not, there will be no dithering from the DA.
We will never bow down to populists and preachers of hate.
We may have our own internal problems from time to time. We are a political party, and that comes with the territory.
But one thing is sure – we will stand up for the vision of a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
We will stand up for the vision of a country that is better together. Where one person’s success is not premised on someone else’s defeat.
We will stand up for the vision of a country where a brutal state can never again destroy the freedoms of our people or arbitrarily remove their rights. That is the past we defeated in 1994, and we won’t let it come back again.
Not on our watch.
And that, fellow Democrats, is what sets us apart. That is where people get to know the DA and our values.
Always remember why we do what we do. Our cause is not a solidarity around race or creed. We are building a national solidarity around shared values.
Always remind yourself of the things that get you out of bed and to work every day – the small differences you can make in people’s lives right now, and the big difference a DA government can one day bring to our country.
You may have heard of a small party that is going around saying that they are going to vote us out of government in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
Now let me be quite clear on this.
We won the most votes of any party in Nelson Mandela Bay because voters there were sick and tired of a corrupt ANC government that literally stole so much from the city, that there was nothing left.
The city was on its knees. Everyone should read Chippy Olver’s book, How to Steal a City, to see how bad the corruption in Nelson Mandela Bay was under the ANC. They literally stole a whole city.
Now we won that election because we promised that we would stop corruption dead in its tracks. And you know what, we did.
In 18 months, we have put Nelson Mandela Bay back on its feet again. It now has a proper Metro Police Department that is fighting crime and gangsterism.
Most importantly, we cut off the corrupt money taps, and the ANC is furious about it. They are so cross.
We interrupted them while they were eating, and they are not happy. So they want the City back.
And who is going to give it back to them?
None other than the EFF.
Now, friends, I can’t explain that thinking to you. It is madness. It is insane. But people must ask them what they are thinking. And they must explain to the voters and the residents of Nelson Mandela Bay why they are handing the city back to the corrupt ANC.
They must explain to their voters that a vote for the EFF is actually a vote for the ANC.
And the ANC is so desperate to carry on their eating, they will even let this tiny party dictate to them who must be the Mayor. How far the once-mighty ANC has fallen. It is now shivering in its boots. Pathetic.
But whatever happens with the ANC and EFF’s new friendship, let us never waiver in our core beliefs. They are not up for negotiation or mediation. They are our bedrock.
We do not trade in quick fixes or soundbite solutions. That is the currency of populists.
We know that our country’s complex problems require thoughtful solutions. Solutions that build unity and shared prosperity. Not fake solutions that sow hate and fear and that will make things much worse.
So when I hear people saying “the DA opposes land reform”, I am concerned that some people may actually believe this lie.
So let me set out clearly what we believe.
South Africa has a long history of the dispossession of land.
The effect of this dispossession was to destroy the intergenerational wealth creation potential of black families, and to leave black South Africans with a feeling of being unwelcome in the land of their birth.
The consequences of this trauma still reverberate in our society today, both emotionally and economically.
That is why the DA fully supports the constitutional injunction to restitute land and reform the still-skewed patterns of land ownership.
This point must be emphasised: The DA supports land reform.
The DA supports land restitution. We support the aim of building a diverse, prosperous agricultural sector.
What is more, as I shall show, the DA has the proudest track record of meaningful land reform of any government in South Africa.
However, we do not and will not ever support any seizure of private property.
All economic growth and advancement requires the guarantee of property rights. If people do not feel secure that what they own will not be arbitrarily and coercively seized from them, there will be no incentive to invest, to innovate, and to build productive businesses.
As agricultural economist, Wandile Sihlobo, put it: “South Africa is the most food-secure country on the African continent mainly because of investment. Investment comes is there are strong property rights. Without investment, how will we get the agricultural sector to be productive?”
The Constitution, as it currently stands, does not in any way limit or even slow down the state from land restitution and reform programmes.
In fact, the Constitution specifically calls for such programmes.
So why are we even having this debate?
The truth is, this is a lazy attempt to scapegoat the Constitution instead of owning up to the real causes for the failure to reform land: bad policy, corruption and chronic underfunding.
Current ANC policy for land reform, shared by the EFF, is that the state should be the owner of all land.
This means that no black people are actually able to own land as beneficiaries of land reform. This state owned land is then to be parcelled out with short and medium term leases.
This is a patronising, insulting policy that shows that the ANC and the EFF do not trust black farmers enough to actually give them full ownership.
It is their intention to turn black farmers into permanent tenants of the state. Can you imagine the corruption that comes with that!
The ANC’s lack of commitment to real reform is shown in their meagre budget allocations to these programmes over the years.
Last year, only 0.14% of the national budget was allocated to land reform, the lowest figure ever.
This budget has been in decline every year for the last ten years.
The ANC has been deliberately slowing down land reform. And now they blame the Constitution.
So when expropriation without compensation is proposed, what the EFF are actually doing is allowing the ANC a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
It gives them the perfect cover to avoid having to explain their rank failure over two decades to take land reform seriously.
Land expropriation without compensation is therefore bad principle, bad policy, and bad politics.
The DA’s has a totally different vision for land reform.
We want black emerging farmers to have full ownership title of their land, and we know that given the chance, they will flourish as farmers.
These citizens should be respected as individuals with drive, agency and ambition in their own right, not as permanent dependants of the state.
We have championed the model of the share equity scheme, which allows farmworkers and beneficiaries to become equal partners in the farms where they live and work.
Where we govern, more than 60% of land reform projects actually work, compared with a 90% failure rate nationally (according to the national Minister of Land Reform).
We are not only focused on rural land reform.
We are the only party in South Africa that has focused on reforming ownership of urban land by making sure that beneficiaries of state subsidised housing have full ownership title to those homes.
We have made 75 000 home owners already, and are distributing more title deeds every day we are in government.
If we follow the proposal of the EFF, even these people who have just received their first homes ever, will lose them. How can that be right?
These people have just had their dream of owning property come true, only to have it snatched back by the EFF.
And then they must rent that same house again back from the state. This is madness. It is just crazy.
All of history shows that the DA is right on this question. The EFF and the ANC can have an argument with history, but they will lose. They will lose because this mad idea has never worked in any context anywhere in the world. Everywhere it has been tried, it has caused only chaos and suffering for everyone.
All of the facts about land reform in South Africa show that we are right.
So we can and must go out with confidence and make this argument, and win it.
We must bring together those people who love and cherish the constitution, to join this fight.
People like Ntate Terror Lekota, who bravely stood up for his convictions this week, despite all of the hate and bile that was poured out towards him.
Even some sensible constitutionalists in the ANC are on our side. People like Thulas Nxesi and Jeremy Cronin, who has been consistently strong in opposing expropriation without compensation.
Jeremy Cronin put it perfectly, warning that our laws and our Constitution must be defended precisely to protect us from venal, corrupt politicians and the power of the state. This is what he said:
“What if instead of a Thomas Sankara, we get a parasitic emerging elite linked to a future government pursuing private accumulation?
Imagine how, in the name of public interest, expropriation without compensation will be exploited.
And we know exactly what will happen, because we just need to look across the Limpopo to see who are the main victims when this happens, the same black majority who have been oppressed in the past: farm workers, the urban and rural poor, with chronic food shortages and skyrocketing food prices as a small connected elite seize land in the name of the public interest. So, be careful what you wish for…”
But this proposal is not just about land. It is also meant to divide our country and foster hate in the most racist and evil way.
Julius Malema attacks Indian, and Chinese South Africans and makes them feel like second class citizens, like they are not really South African.
He says he will take the property of the descendants of Indian slaves. He says he will take the property of the descendants of Malay slaves. He attacks Chinese South Africans and says they are all racists and not real South Africans.
I will not trade insults with a person who says such vile things.
But I will say this: Under the DA, every person can feel secure that they are full and equal citizens of our country. South Africa belongs to all who live in it. That is our cause.
Racial divisiveness and economic chaos may suit a cheap political objectify, but it does nothing to build our country.
The vast majority of South Africans want our country to work. They want our country to succeed. They know that we are better together. It is them that we must reach out to at this time and show that we are with them.
These are our values. They are not up for debate.
These values all start with our Constitution. This document contains all the protections and enshrined rights that should ensure a better life for our people. It was carefully considered and drafted precisely to get the balance right.
Two decades ago, when it was being signed into law at Sharpeville on International Human Rights Day in 1996, Nelson Mandela spoke of the principles that guided our negotiations and steered us away from conflict and division.
He reminded us that these very principles were not only affirmed by our people in our first democratic election two years earlier, but they were also embodied in the highest law of our nation: our Constitution.
It was inconceivable back then that this sacred document would be threatened by power-hungry populists and demagogues in a desperate bid for power. But much of what has transpired over the past decade would have been inconceivable back then.
When we speak about building this prosperous, inclusive South Africa, I want each of you to always keep a picture of this country in your mind, in great detail. I want you to think very carefully about what it will look and feel like for millions of South Africans.
It’s no good to speak of values like constitutionalism, the rule of law, non-racialism, the building of a capable state and a growing inclusive economy if you don’t also have a very clear picture of what these values mean for ordinary citizens of this country.
Because it is in the application of these values to everyday situations that we will set the DA apart from this current government – both in terms of our policy and in terms of our ethics.
Our pursuit of a society based on Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity for all its people must translate into tangible improvements in the lives of poor South Africans. And we must tell them exactly what these improvements entail.
Like getting their children into a school with committed teachers that might prepare them for a better future.
Like putting proper food on the table and shoes on their children’s feet.
Like getting the medication they need, about clean running water, about being safe in their streets.
Like finding a job that makes them less dependent on the government to survive.
Like living in a proper house within a reasonable distance from where they work.
Fellow Democrats, these are the things that all of us must care about too. These are the things that must get us out of bed every day.
So let’s do this together.
Let us build the South Africa we want, brick by brick, starting right here in the place where the sun rises.
And when we build this country, let us build it on a solid foundation of our values.
I thank you.