The DA’s candidates for Metro Mayors – John Steenhuisen

Leader says Geordin Hill-Lewis will be the party's mayoral candidate in Cape Town

Meet the DA’s candidates for Metro Mayors - the Team that will Get Things Done

23 August 2021

My fellow citizens,

It is my pleasure and my privilege to address you here today at the announcement of the DA’s candidates for Mayor of South Africa’s major cities in the upcoming Local Government Elections.

We, in the DA, feel that this is an important part of the democratic process. We have a duty to let voters know, well ahead of the elections, who will be tasked with running their cities and towns should we win in those municipalities, or secure the majority share of a coalition government.

Democracy isn’t just about casting your vote on election day. It’s a process and it should start well before the ballot box.

The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words - “demos”, which means people, and “kratos” which means rule. It’s literally “government by the people”, and for this to have any real meaning the people need to play an active role.

This means knowing exactly who you’ll be voting for. It means being able to interrogate the offer of a candidate so that the choice made on election day is an informed one.

It’s about listening to what they have to say, and then challenging the parts you either don’t agree with or simply don’t believe.

It’s about knowing what your options are, because otherwise what exactly are you weighing up? What are their plans for your town or city?

If they’re an incumbent and you feel they have done a poor job so far, they must be given an opportunity to answer for this.

And if they’re a new candidate and perhaps unknown to voters, there has to be a way - and enough time - to get to know them.

Ideally you want to see your two or three frontrunner candidates testing their offers against each other.

Parties that back their candidates and believe in their offer look forward to this kind of engagement in the build-up to an election. They are eager for voters to ask them for more details or press them on things they’re unsure of or don’t agree with.

But parties that don’t believe in their candidates - or even worse, that can’t actually arrive at a name because the internal contestation is so fraught and toxic - these parties hide behind a veil of anonymity right up to the election date.

At the DA we’ve spent an entire year on our candidate selection process.

This has included extensive interviews, practical assignments and assessments by independent panels to get to the point where can confidently say: These are the people we trust to bring the DA’s vision to life in local government. Now please ask them everything you’d like to know.

Each of them will have an opportunity to tell you a little more about themselves, but allow me to introduce to you the men and women who will stand as the DA’s candidates for Mayor of the five Metro municipalities of Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town.

Our candidate for Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni is Refiloe Nt’sekhe.

In the City of Tswhane our candidate for Mayor is Randall Williams.

In the City of Johannesburg, our candidate is Mpho Phalatse.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, our mayoral candidate is Nqaba Banga.

And our candidate for Mayor of the City of Cape Town is Geordin Hill-Lewis.

These men and women have proven to us that they not only carry the DA’s vision for building a better South Africa into everything they do, they have also demonstrated that they are not afraid to put in the effort that this will require.

We’ve long held the view in the DA that if we want to fix this country, we have to start by building a capable state.

This means governments that are made up of fit-for-purpose individuals, who are not tainted by corruption and who have demonstrated that they have the commitment and the drive that any good public servant needs.

That’s why our candidate selection process is so rigorous - we can’t afford to get it wrong.

We also believe that voters should be given enough time to get to know these candidates.

Whether the elections go ahead at the end of October - as they’ve been proclaimed - or whether the courts decide that they need to be moved to early next year, this will give voters more than enough opportunity to do their election homework.

You will notice that very few other parties have done this. The only other party to govern in municipalities and metros, the ANC, certainly does not seem to have any desire to announce its mayoral candidates.

And this is a shame, because South African voters deserve far better from this hard-won democracy. They deserve a proper government by the people where they get to play an active role all the way up to election day.

It’s still not too late for this to happen. I’d like to challenge the ANC to do what we’ve done, for the sake of our democracy. Make this election the open contest it was always meant to be. Put your candidates out there in front of the people, alongside ours.

It won’t be hard to find us. For the next few months we’re going to be out there, on the ground, every day.

I am personally going to spend a lot of time with each of these candidates here, taking our message to communities across the country.

So I’m calling on the ANC to meet us there - whether this is in a town hall debate, a televised debate or a debate on the radio. Name your candidates and let the voters interrogate them together with ours.

That’s what a real democracy looks like.

Fellow citizens, if we’ve ever needed this kind of open, engaging election campaign, it is now.

I don’t need to tell you that the state of so many of our towns and cities is dire.

Dozens of municipalities across South Africa have completely collapsed under the weight of corrupt, predatory, cadre-deployed governments, and hundreds more are on the verge of collapse.

The problem is so big that placing these distressed municipalities under administration and running them by remote control is simply not feasible because there are just too many of them.

This situation is not normal.

We can no longer pretend that the total implosion of service delivery and infrastructure in these towns and cities is normal.

We cannot pretend that it is normal for companies and their factories to have to relocate at great cost and with massive job losses because they cannot be guaranteed the very basics like water, electricity and usable roads.

We cannot pretend that it is normal for municipalities to owe water and power utilities billions and billions of Rands.

We cannot pretend that a river of sewage running down a street where children play is normal.

We cannot pretend that it is perfectly normal for hundreds of municipalities to rack up billions in irregular and unauthorised spending every year, and to never get a stamp of clean governance from the Auditor General.

We cannot pretend that daily protests in multiple communities against an invisible, unresponsive government is normal.

None of these things are normal.

What is normal though - or what should be - is a government that either responds by fixing these things or is fired and replaced by another government that is prepared to fulfil the five simple objects of local government as set out in Section 152 of our Constitution.

That’s what needs to happen now. Voters need to start firing and hiring governments.

There is no other way to undo what has happened to these broken municipalities, and there are no shortcuts.

So why should voters trust these people here on the stage to run their towns and cities, rather than the ANC or any of the other smaller parties? What does the DA offer in government that these other parties don’t?

Well, let me perhaps start by telling you what the DA doesn’t offer.

The DA’s offer is not some fading struggle history or similar stories from the past. Because none of that can fix what needs to be fixed now.

The DA’s offer is not that it looks or speaks like a certain type of person. Some parties will come to you and try to convince you that you can only be represented by someone from your own race or culture. But that kind of racial nationalism and identity politics cannot fix what needs to be fixed.

And the DA’s offer is not every imaginable pie-in-the-sky promise of free things. Parties that do this know they will never have to deliver, and so they promise everything to everyone without ever doing the maths. That’s no way to fix what needs to be fixed.

The DA is a forward-looking party. We acknowledge the injustice of the past, but we make plans for the future.

The DA is a party of ideas and values, and not identity. Which is also why we are the most diverse party, by far, in South Africa.

The DA is an actual party of government. This means we’re in the business of making government work by carefully planning how every Rand is spent for the benefit of the people. It’s easy to call yourself a revolutionary party and just make things up. The DA operates in the real world.

But above all, the DA is a party of results. Not past glories, not race, not populist promises. Just results.

Our achievements where we govern are what set us miles and miles apart from any other party.

And that’s why our message to voters in this election campaign - and the message these candidates will take with them on the road - is that the DA gets things done.

That’s all we want voters to judge us by. Because if you want to have any chance of turning these struggling municipalities around and giving the people who live there hope for a better future, you must start by doing the actual job of a local government.

And that’s what our party does far better than anyone else.

The DA governs less than 10% of municipalities in South Africa, but the top 5 are all DA-run. All the failing municipalities are run by the ANC.

DA municipalities consistently outstrip ANC municipalities when it comes to basic service delivery, clean audits, the maintenance of infrastructure, attracting investments and creating jobs.

DA municipalities are at the forefront of protecting their residents from droughts and water shortages, as we saw in the world-class effort by the City of Cape Town to defeat Day Zero.

Compare this to the current water situation in NMB or in towns like Makhanda, where Day Zero has already arrived for many.

DA municipalities are also leading the charge in shielding their residents to some degree from Eskom’s failures and load-shedding.

The City of Cape Town often manages to keep its electricity customers on one load-shedding stage less than the rest of the country, and municipalities like Stellenbosch are preparing to become even less reliant on Eskom by taking steps to procure their power elsewhere.

But nowhere has the direct link between good, clean governance and service delivery been more clear than in Nelson Mandela Bay following the 2016 Local Government election. The impact of the DA-led coalition government was immediate.

Roads were resurfaced, streetlights were fixed and water infrastructure repaired. The city’s integrated bus service was launched, along with the metro police. And, importantly the city’s finances were turned around and for the first time in years the deficit became a surplus.

Fast-forward two years later, when the coalition of corruption ousted the DA-led coalition in a council coup, and every single gain made in those two years under the DA was reversed.

Today NMB is back where it started before the DA took over and the city’s coffers have been stripped bare once more.

The rise and fall of service delivery in NMB perfectly matches the electing and eventual ousting of the DA government.

And all this says to me is that we simply have to do it again, and this time make sure our majority is strong enough to withstand a coup by the corrupt.

And not just in NMB. We need to protect and bolster our majority wherever we govern so that we can continue our work uninterrupted.

Just look at what happened in the City of Cape Town after the DA took over in 2006. For that first term we were locked in a very tricky coalition arrangement, and our position in government was always touch-and-go.

But in the next election we managed to stretch that majority far enough to govern outright, and this allowed us to start making the big gains that are only possible in back-to-back terms.

Today, after three uninterrupted terms under a DA government, the City of Cape Town operates in a different league to the other metros, on every single criteria.

Similarly, a municipality like Midvaal in Gauteng has enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted DA governance, and it has left its neighbouring ANC-run municipalities in its dust.

Why? Because the DA gets things done. It’s that simple.

This is what we want to bring to even more towns and cities, and this is why we have assembled this team here on stage. The team that can get things done.

I know them, and I know they are not afraid of the hard work that lies ahead - not only in this election campaign, but also once they take office.

I want to invite you to get to know them too. Look out for them on the road over the next few months. Follow them on social media. Understand what their plans are and see whether this aligns with your own ideas.

Our country is in a very tough space right now, but I assure you we will get through this. We will rebuild our communities, our towns and our cities into the vibrant, inclusive places we’ve always dreamt of.

We will grow our local economies again, so that people have hope of finding jobs and building a future wherever they live.

We will reclaim our democracy from those who tried to steal it for their own selfish gains.

We will put the bad days behind us and look to the future with hope.

But first we need to put in place governments that live and breathe this vision.

Governments that don’t steal.

Governments that serve the people and not the other way round.

I’m talking about DA governments that get things done.

Thank you.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 23 August 2021