In this election, a vote for the DA is a win-win – John Steenhuisen

Party leader says ANC’s gradual long-term decline has now entered the sudden, terminal phase

In this election, a vote for the DA is a win-win

26 March 2024

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance John Steenhuisen during an address to the Cape Town Press Club. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to be back at the Cape Town Press Club.

The last time I spoke at the august institution, was at the end of 2020.

Over three years ago.

Our country’s politics have gone through a great deal of change since the last time we got together.

Back in 2020, many people were still experiencing the afterglow of the promise of a “New Dawn.”

Today, we know it was all a lie.

Just yesterday, it was reported that Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula – the current Speaker of the National Assembly who served as Minister of Defence in the Ramaphosa administration until 2021 – received 12 different cash bribes totalling R4.55 million between December 2016 and July 2019.

At the same time that Ramaphosa was busy selling his lie of a supposed “New Dawn” ahead of his inauguration as President in February 2018, his own Defence Minister was allegedly hard at work robbing South Africans blind.

Even now, as the National Prosecuting Authority apparently prepares to arrest her and after the DA tabled a motion of no confidence in Mapisa-Nqakula, Ramaphosa refuses to lift a finger against her.

The same goes for Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, who reportedly facilitated kickbacks to the South African Communist Party in exchange for NSFAS contracts that are already under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit.

Yet again, Ramaphosa refuses to lift a finger.

The same also goes for the Deputy President appointed by Ramaphosa himself, Paul Mashatile.

Just last week, News24 reported that it obtained confirmation that the criminal case opened against Mashatile by the DA is being investigated by the Hawks as we speak.

The allegations against Mashatile are a mirror-image of the state capture modus operandi we saw during the Zuma administration, with millions allegedly funnelled to Mashatile’s children and associates to fund his lavish lifestyle.

But, in this case too, Ramaphosa continues to shield his fellow cadre at all costs.

Unlike when I last spoke here in 2020, Ramaphosa can no longer blame the rampant corruption that has only increased under his administration, on his predecessor.

In fact, in January this year, Transparency International reported that South Africa’s score on the global Corruption Perceptions Index fell to its lowest level ever – lower even than it ever was under Zuma.

Looking back from the vantage point of 2024, it is clear that the so-called “New Dawn” was the greatest political fraud perpetrated on the people of South Africa in our country’s democratic history.

And there is only one person that must take responsibility for this great betrayal: Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is Ramaphosa who appointed the likes of Mapisa-Nqakula, Nzimande and Mashatile.

It is Ramaphosa who broke the promise he made in 2018 to implement lifestyle audits on members of his Cabinet.

It is Ramaphosa who is sending 90 crooked cadres back to Parliament despite them being implicated in state capture by the Zondo Commission.

It is Ramaphosa who continues to defend the corrupt ANC system of cadre deployment, even after the Zondo Commission confirmed the DA’s position that this practice facilitates state capture.

And it’s not only on corruption and state capture that Ramaphosa betrayed South Africans.

His second grand promise was to restore our country’s economy after the beating it suffered under Zuma.

This promise, too, he betrayed.

The unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2018, when Ramaphosa was inaugurated, was 26.7%.

Today it is 32.1%, and increases to 40% when discouraged work-seekers are included.

Seven out of ten young people cannot find a job in today’s South Africa.

But the economic betrayal does not end there.

In the ANC’s manifesto for the 2024 election, the party has promised to implement a policy proposal that even the Zuma administration was not prepared to adopt: prescribed assets.

Where he once spoke of bullet trains and smart cities, Ramaphosa has now turned to looting private pensions to keep the feeding trough full.

The very first pledge in the ANC manifesto’s section on the economy reads as follows:

“The ANC will engage and direct financial institutions to invest a portion of their funds in industrialisation, infrastructure development and the economy, through prescribed assets.”

Let’s not beat around the bush because there can be no ambiguity about what this means.

Should it remain in power after the election, the ANC is coming for your pensions.

It is well aware that the cupboards are bare after three decades of looting.

One of the last remaining pots of money it can loot, is the trillions of Rands in savings, pensions and investments built up over a lifetime by ordinary, hard-working South Africans.

This same desperation to keep the looting going at all costs also explains Ramaphosa’s determination to sign the National Health Insurance bill into law, showing total disregard for the unified voice of rejection sounding from business and civil society.

During the State of the Nation debate earlier this year, he told the country to our faces that he would sign the NHI, “whether we like it or not.”

Just like with prescribed assets, the ANC is determined to ram-through the NHI because it will unlock another R1 trillion in looting opportunities while South Africans die in dilapidated public hospitals.

Far from a “New Dawn,” South Africa under Cyril Ramaphosa is more corrupt, and more economically dysfunctional, than ever before in our democratic history.

It is this basic fact that brings us to the situation we face now, in the 2024 election, which is just 64 days away.

The political situation in South Africa is unrecognisable compared to the one that existed when we last spoke in December 2020.

There are two main factors that have driven the rapid realignment of politics.

The first is that Ramaphosa’s betrayal has been the final straw that broke the ANC’s back, and the party is now in complete freefall.

It is now widely accepted that support for the ANC has dropped to below 40%.

One is reminded of the famous quote by Ernest Hemingway on how you go bankrupt: gradually and then suddenly.

That is exactly what has happened to the ANC.

It’s gradual long-term decline has now entered the sudden, terminal phase.

Nothing exemplifies this more than the formation of the Zuma-backed MK Party.

Instead of prosecuting Zuma, Ramaphosa did everything in his power to protect his predecessor.

He even released over 10 000 criminals back onto the streets as an excuse to keep Zuma out of prison.

Ramaphosa clearly hoped that, if he only kept feeding the crocodile, it would stop being hungry.

But Zuma knows that the ANC is now on its knees after Ramaphosa broke the promise that he would be better than the so-called nine wasted years.

And now, the crocodile has turned on the one who fed it for all those years.

The second game-changer has been the formation of the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa.

When I first announced the DA’s commitment to pursue the formation of a “Moonshot Pact” from the floor of our party congress in April last year, few commentators gave it much of a chance.

But now, almost twelve months later, the parties inside the formation – renamed to the Multi-Party Charter – have demonstrated that, even as we retain our individual identities, it is possible for parties who share similar foundational values to build each other up, rather than breaking each other down.

That is what the country wants to see, and that is why we are now truly giving the ANC a run for its money.

The combination of these two trends – the outright collapse of the ANC that culminated in the breakaway of MK, as well as the formation of the MPC – has laid the foundation for the binary choice we face in this election.

A recent poll from the respected Brenthurst Foundation shows what this binary looks like.

As the Daily Maverick put it in its headline story on this poll, and I quote: “The DA and Zuma’s MK party are the big winners, while the ANC and EFF flop.”

Brenthurst now puts the ANC at just 39% nationally – a decline of 18 percentage points since 2019.

The DA is up to 27% from 20% in 2019.

MK is at 13% just three months after it was endorsed by Mr Zuma, while the EFF is stagnant at 10%.

At provincial level, the DA remains above the 50% mark in the Western Cape, is up from 27% to 32% in Gauteng, and is set to grow from 14% to 19% in KwaZulu-Natal.

This while the ANC has declined to 34% in Gauteng and to just 20% in KZN, with MK at 25% in the latter province.

This is nothing less than a political earthquake.

The combination of these two trends – the decimation of part of the ANC electorate by MK, combined with the growth of the DA among centrist voters from different backgrounds – has made previously unthinkable scenarios, possible.

For example: if we can get all of our voters to turn out on Election Day, the DA is within striking distance of emerging as the single biggest party in Gauteng.

According to Brenthurst, the ANC is down to 34% there, with the DA at 32%.

In KZN, the combined support of the DA, the IFP and our other partners means that the Multi-Party Charter for South Africa is now, by far, the biggest organised bloc in that province.

And, nationally, the MPC is now just 6% behind the ANC, a fact which ought to spur us on to work even harder to get our collective over the line.

But the growth of the DA and the prospects of the MPC is only one side of the binary.

A far gloomier picture looms on the other side of the equation.

During the same speech in April last year where I announced the DA’s commitment to the formation of the MPC, I also issued a warning about a risk to South Africa’s future that is only becoming more palpable by the day.

I actually went back to my speech from that day and want to quote from it again now:

“Given the fact that the ANC now officially co-governs with the EFF in parts of Gauteng, we need to start taking the threat of these parties ganging up to destroy our country in 2024 very, very seriously.

I want to be unequivocal about the DA’s view on this: the day that an ANC-EFF government takes over, it will be Doomsday for South Africa.”

Since I uttered those words in April last year, the Doomsday Coalition has gained a powerful new prospective partner.

As much as the emergence of the MK Party has hastened the ANC’s long-overdue demise, we cannot ignore the possibility that its strategy may well be to gang up with the RET, the EFF and proxies like the PA, GOOD and Al Jama-ah after the election.

If the RET faction of the ANC, the EFF, MK and their small party proxies find a way to come together, South Africa will face an existential crisis requiring the strongest opposition we have ever seen.

Can you imagine how the markets would react to national and provincial governments led by the likes of Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma and Paul Mashatile?

If this Doomsday scenario comes to pass, there is every reason to be concerned that the 2024 election could be South Africa’s last free and fair election.

This is the other side of the binary we face in this election.

On the one hand, there’s the DA that is working to become the big, strong anchor party at the heart of a new multi-party government to rescue South Africa.

On the other hand is the Doomsday Coalition, composed of state capture rogues, VBS looters, and RET factionalists.

The side that wins nationally and in provinces like Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal will determine whether our country embarks on a fundamentally better path, or whether it accelerates down the road to ruin.

In this new binary environment, we have unfortunately also seen the emergence of rogue spoiler parties that seek to exploit the binary coalition environment for narrow personal enrichment.

They are political mercenaries who are not only willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder inside coalitions, but who are more than happy to actively undermine the MPC.

These opportunists live by the maxim: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, I have others.”

This is a dangerous posture to adopt in the new binary political environment we face.

Take this province of the Western Cape, as an example.

The latest quarterly labour force survey from Statistics South Africa confirms that the DA-led Western Cape has the lowest unemployment rate, the highest employment-to-population ratio, and the highest labour force participation rate in the country.

Incredibly, over the past five years, 78% of net new jobs created in South Africa have come from the DA-led Western Cape.

The latest ranking from Good Governance Africa shows that the best-run metro, Cape Town, the best-run secondary city, Drakenstein, and the best-run small town, Swartland, are all run by the DA right here in the Western Cape.

The DA-led Western Cape is also the only province left in the entire country that is not experiencing a debilitating water crisis.

While taps run dry from Johannesburg to Durban, the DA-led City of Cape Town has just completed a R2 billion upgrade to the Zandvliet Wastewater Treatment Works that will provide quality sanitation services to the people of Delft, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and Blue Downs.

All without stealing or misspending even a single cent of taxpayer money.

We are not perfect, but that is the DA difference in action.

However, these facts to not dissuade the opportunists from fighting the DA rather than the ANC.

Instead of working to persuade ANC voters in the eight provinces run into the ground over the past thirty years, we have seen a long list of parties positioning themselves in alliance with the ANC an in opposition to the DA here in the Western Cape.

Strategically and tactically, this is just about the most short-sighted decision imaginable.

Some of this is not new.

A party like GOOD chose to align itself with the ANC against the DA immediately after the 2019 election.

But, more recently, the likes of Rise Mzansi have openly declared their intention to break the one province that works by removing the DA from power, where after it intends to pursue land expropriation in the Western Cape.

Don’t believe me?

Go and look at Rise’s policy platform.

They have been unequivocal about their support for land expropriation.

The only thing standing in their way in the Western Cape is the DA’s outright majority, which explains why this ANC Lite party is taking aim at the only province that works, rather than working to defeat the ANC.

Then there is the Patriotic Alliance, which has worked with the ANC and EFF to collapse opposition coalitions at least eight different times, including in Johannesburg.

The consequences are on full display in a place like Knysna, where an ANC/EFF/Patriotic Alliance coalition collapsed service delivery within a matter of months.

Rubbish has piled up throughout the once-picturesque town.

Recently, a dead body floated in Knysna’s drinking water reservoir for two weeks.

When it was finally removed, it was so badly decomposed in the pool of water that residents had been drinking, that the arm broke off.

Another example of what awaits this province if the DA is removed from power comes from Plettenberg Bay and the Bitou Municipality.

In the 2021 election, the DA fell short of an outright majority in Bitou, with 41% of the vote.

The fact that the DA fell just 9 percentage points short of 50% was enough to open the door for the Doomsday Coalition, which, just last month, removed the DA from power there and have now brought the same calamity faced by Knysna, to Plettenberg Bay.

The lesson from Knysna and Bitou is urgent.

If we do not safeguard the DA’s outright majority in the Western Cape at all costs, it will be taken over and destroyed using the same template created by the ANC/EFF/Patriotic Alliance gang in those municipalities.

There is simply only one way to guarantee that we keep collapse out of the Western Cape, and that is by voting DA to ensure we retain more than 50% of the vote in this province.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to conclude by setting out how the DA understands our role in this new binary political landscape.

First of all, we feel a profound sense of responsibility towards the Western Cape.

Here, it is our mission to protect the gains we have made, to do more to take control of key functions like policing, transport and logistic through our Provincial Powers Bill, all while shielding this province against a takeover by the ANC, the EFF and their partners.

In the Western Cape, we have a lot to show.

We have a lot still to do.

And, indeed, we have a lot to lose.

Secondly, the DA will continue to work with our partners at provincial level to ensure that we expand our governance footprint to Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, while also fighting for breakthroughs in the Free State and Northern Cape.

Thirdly, and finally, at national level, the DA’s mission is to become the big, strong anchor party at the heart of a new multi-party national government to rescue South Africa.

We have learnt from painful experience that multi-party governments work best when they are not overly-fragmented.

The reason that a place like Johannesburg is held hostage to a never-ending merry-go-round of government instability, is because the vote there was fragmented amongst 18 different parties with no strong, stable anchor party.

Conversely, the reason why Tshwane – which recently achieved an improved audit outcome – is making difficult yet steady progress under a stable multi-party government, is because the DA got 8 percentage points more of the vote there than in Johannesburg, which reduced fragmentation and enabled us to form a stable anchor.

The DA believes that we are perfectly suited to this role, given our size, our resources, our demonstrated track record of good governance and our credible and battle-tested manifesto, which is focused on the seven urgent priorities we need to deliver on to safeguard South Africa’s future.

The DA believes we have the plan, the people, and the on-the-ground experience that it will take to anchor South Africa’s first multi-party national government.

In this election – with its new binary choice between a multi-party government anchored by the DA or a Doomsday Coalition – the stakes are too high to stay at home.

On the 29th of May, South Africa will either emerge into a dreadful reality controlled by Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma, or it will embark down a new path laid out by the DA.

In this election, a vote for the DA is a win-win-win proposition.

A vote for the DA is a vote against a national ANC/EFF/MK Doomsday Coalition.

A vote for the DA is a vote to keep the ANC, EFF and Patriotic Alliance out of the Western Cape.

A vote for the DA is a vote for a new multi-party national government with a strong, stable anchor party that has a credible plan and knows how to get things done.

On the 29th of May, vote wisely, vote soberly, and vote like your life depends on it.

Because, in this election, it does.

Thank you.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of Democratic Alliance, 26 March 2024