Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Johannesburg at the launch of John Steenhuisen's policy manifesto
SPEECH BY JOHN STEENHUISEN
CANDIDATE FOR DA LEADER
22 February 2020
“Back to winning ways”
It has been a crazy couple of weeks.
I gave the Alternative State of the Nation Address on the 12th of February to show South Africa the difference that a DA government would make in people’s lives.
And, wow, what a country it would be. Growth, jobs, clean government, decent education and healthcare for all.
This is a country I know we can build.
We were all disappointed with the President’s State of the Nation because we know South Africa can be better.
This week, in Parliament, we debated the President’s speech.
While other parties insulted each other, we debated the President’s speech with dignity and decorum.
And, while other parties disgracefully used the serious issue of gender-based violence to score cheap political points, the DA put forward real solutions to our country’s problems.
I think we can all be proud of our MPs and the way we conducted ourselves in Parliament.
It felt good to be getting back to winning ways.
Last Saturday, I launched my campaign for DA Leader. The atmosphere was electric, just like today.
I sense an incredible new mood in our party. We are starting to believe again. After a difficult couple of years, we are starting to regroup, to move forward as one.
I cannot tell you how much this means to me. You know, I have been a member of this party since 1996.
I’ve been a branch activist, I’ve been a councillor, I’ve been an MPL, I’ve been an MP.
And I have been honoured to serve as a Caucus Leader, a Provincial Leader, a Chief Whip and an Interim Leader.
I have seen it all. I have seen the worst of us and I have seen the best of us. And, believe me, the good far outweighs the bad.
We are a party of incredible diversity.
We are a party of excellence in all we do.
We are a party with solutions.
As I said last week, there is nothing wrong with the DA that cannot be fixed by what is right with the DA.
We are moving in the right direction, Democrats.
But there is one thing we need to fix if we are going to succeed in our mission.
We’ve got to stop fighting with ourselves.
We’ve got to stop disagreeing with each other in public.
We’ve got to stop having internal battles on Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s ask ourselves this: are we here to build the DA or are we here to get likes and retweets?
I know what I am here to do. I am here to fix South Africa, and I need all of you to get on board this project with me.
Are you with me?
[Is julle met my?]
And, please, let’s not fall into the traps that other parties set us.
Our political opponents want us to follow them down the rabbit hole of racial division. Because, when South Africans are divided, they succeed.
Our job is to rise above all this, to bring people together and to fight for their future.
We must unite and fight for a better future
[Ons moet saamstaan en veg vir ‘n beter toekoms]
Today I am releasing my manifesto to fix the DA and to fix South Africa. And I am launching a new website so as many South Africans as possible can see what I believe in, and what I believe the DA can be.
Please read the manifesto. And give it to your friends and family to read.
I am not going to stand up here and say I have all the solutions. I don’t.
But I think, as a candidate for the party leadership, I should be open and honest with you on where I stand on issues.
When it comes to the economy, I am proud to say I am pro-growth. We should be doing everything we can to promote growth in our country. Because with growth comes jobs. And we all know that, if we don’t solve the unemployment crisis, our people will never escape poverty.
When it comes to welfare, I am all for a social security safety net. We need to find a way of increasing social grants to protect the most vulnerable – especially the hundreds of thousands of children who don’t get the nutrients they need for their development.
When it comes to healthcare, I am unequivocally against the NHI. I think it will destroy private healthcare and what is left of public healthcare. And it will bankrupt our country in the process. The DA has our own, brilliant health plan. And it is viable, it is affordable and it is implementable.
When it comes to education, I think we need to innovate much more. The inequality in our education system is a tragedy on a grand scale. We need to find ways to give poor children opportunities to compete with wealthy children. My manifesto unpacks a few of my ideas to do that.
When it comes to empowerment, I think we can all agree that apartheid was an immoral system. It was a crime against humanity that stripped black people of their dignity and destroyed their economic prospects. We have to redress this.
But empowering the same beneficiaries again and again is not real empowerment. All it means is the empowerment of a new elite at the expense of poor people. We need to broaden the net, to make sure that poor people benefit and I have a proposal to ensure that disadvantaged South Africans benefit from empowerment policies that really work.
When it comes to land reform, we must all acknowledge the need for a more equal distribution of land ownership. But if we want to speed up land reform we need to deal decisively with the corruption and inefficiency at the Department of Land Affairs.
We must never budge on property rights. These rights are the foundation of our economy because, when people fear their property being taken away, they stop investing in our country, and people lose their jobs.
And finally, I want to raise the matter of violent crime. I am sick and tired of the mindless violence in our cities, in our towns and on our farms. I am sickened by gender-based violence and by those who use it as a political football.
As DA Leader, I will work to:
Declare Gender-Based Violence (GBV) a priority crime, classify femicide as a distinct criminal offence, and create dedicated investigative and victim support units.
Decentralize the police to provincial level to make them more accountable to the communities they serve.
Provide tax rebates for spending on private security.
Assign greater powers to metro and municipal police, and empower neighbourhood watches.
Declare farm murders a priority crime, and roll out our comprehensive rural safety plan based on getting more boots on the ground and empowering local communities to fight back.
I will be taking this manifesto to our policy conference on the 4th and 5th of April.
Please take the time to read my plan. You may not agree with all of it. And that’s okay.
My mind is open. I want to hear other perspectives, and I want all of us to bring our ideas to the table.
Because we must differ with each other and we must debate ideas with each other. That is one of the things that makes this party great.
But let’s debate the issues in a way that finds common ground, that builds our organisation.
Let’s have our debates inside the party and not outside the party.
There is no doubt that we need to fix the DA.
We need to rediscover who we are, and go forward as one party.
We need to get on with governing, and we need to get back to winning.
We can break the ANC’s political monopoly that keeps people in poverty.
And we can build a diverse DA that will one day govern this country.
I am John Steenhuisen, and I have a plan to fix the DA and to fix SA.
I invite you to join me on this historic mission.
I thank you.
Issued by John Steenhuisen, DA Leader, 22 February 2020