SONA 2015 must be about the real issues facing South Africans
11 February 2015
Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane MP, during the Power to the People Rally.
Fellow Democrats, we have gathered outside Parliament today because we feel it is important to debate the real state of the nation - the issues that matter to South Africans.
We are gathered here 25 years to the day since South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Mandela, was released from prison. Long may his memory live on in the hearts and minds of South Africans, may we never forget that Madiba's dream was for a prosperous nation, with functional democratic institutions.
We are gathered here 25 years later at a time when our institutions are under great threat, and at a time when the ANC and the EFF are hell-bent on breaking down Parliament.
With all the talk of disruption and heavy-handed parliamentary security, Parliament is losing focus of what really counts for South Africans. Just last night, Parliament was the sight of militaristic police drills.
South Africans do not want to see constant bickering and fights amongst politicians, they want MP's to act with dignity and to address the real problems confronting our country. We believe that South Africa works when Parliament works.
We will not join a circus in the National Assembly tomorrow evening. We are going to the house as Members of Parliament who are ready to work for South Africans.
If the House descends into chaos it will be a national embarrassment.
At a time when Eskom's mismanagement is taking our country to the brink of economic shutdown, when communities are burning from protest, when drugs and crime are over-taking our neighbourhoods, the actions of the ANC and the EFF are an insult to ordinary South Africans.
The ANC has done everything in its power to undermine Parliament's role of holding those in power to account.
But we will not join the EFF in trashing Parliament. Breaking this institution down does nothing to hold those in power accountable.
We must make the State of the Nation about the issues of real concern to South Africans.
The DA does not need to break down Parliament to grandstand. Because make no mistake: The President's day is coming. We will see him in court soon to review the decision to drop 700 plus counts of corruption against him.
In preparation for tomorrow's opening of parliament, I have spent the past month on a tour of our country to listen to the views of South Africans on the real state of our nation, as opposed to holding cosy meetings with the ANC behind closed doors as the EFF have done.
In communities from Mogalakwena in Limpopo, to Atteridgeville and Soweto in Gauteng, to Tlokwe in the North West and Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, citizens are facing the same struggles.
Across South Africa, lights are going off in our homes and businesses, disrupting our lives and costing the economy jobs.
The ANC has made a handsome profit from this crisis, benefitting from a R38.5 billion boiler contract that was central to the delays in building new power stations.
This is not an inconvenience; this is an ANC-made crisis. Load-shedding is job-shedding, and it is holding our economy to ransom.
Since 2008 our economy has lost R300 billion, and 1 million jobs due to load-shedding.
It is time for government to break the Eskom monopoly, and for the management of the national electricity grid to be take away from them. We can no longer allow a situation where Eskom is responsible for 95% of South Africa's electricity generation.
We must allow independent power producers to supply electricity to the grid in significant numbers, and massively expand our renewable energy programme.
That is why we reject President Zuma's R1 trillion Russian nuclear deal, clouded in secrecy and potential for corruption, and call on him to announce that he will abandon it. There is no plan to budget for this mega-Arms Deal expenditure, which means that future generations of South Africans will pay for this deal in electricity price hikes if it is not stopped now.
Electricity is the fuel that powers our economy and we need to be able guarantee a stable supply as a matter of urgency. Unemployment will continue to grow unless these key reforms are introduced now.
The youth in Nelson Mandela Bay and Ikageng worry about their futures, not knowing if they will be able to find a job after school or afford to go to university.
Young people are not being adequately prepared for the job market by a school system that is marked by great inequality, with some schools lacking even the most basic of resources such as desks, textbooks and committed teachers.
We need a national audit of school infrastructure so that funds can be directed to fixing our schools, and systems for delivering textbooks to every learner on time based on the successful Western Cape model.
We need to take a hard-line approach to the powerful teacher's union, SADTU, by enforcing teaching time as sacred, performance contracts for school principals, and regular assessments of teachers.
Unemployment and a feeling of hopelessness amongst our youth is a major driver of drug abuse and criminality. Parents in Riverlea told me they worry about their children, who are exposed to drugs, crime and violence on a daily basis.
To make matters worse, corruption and a lack of training and resources in our police force means they are often seen to be part of the problem.
Since special units were disbanded in 2004, drug-related crime has more doubled. We can no longer delay the reintroduction of specialised units to combat drugs and drug related crimes, organised crime, serious and violent crime, crimes against women and children, sexual crimes and human trafficking.
The President and his government have fallen short on each and every one of these issues, and left South Africans powerless.
After five years of broken promises, our patience has run out.
While the same connected individuals benefit over and over again, and despite many promises having been made by President Zuma to create jobs, we battle with 35% unemployment, and a major skills shortage amongst the youth.
This is why we need a real Youth Wage Subsidy, and not government's watered down Employment Tax Incentive.
We want to see more money put behind a real Youth Wage Subsidy, and for the programme to be expanded smaller businesses that don't currently benefit. We want to see policy changes to prevent labour brokers from profiting without passing on the benefit to businesses who employ young people.
Under the leadership of President Zuma we have seen South Africans disempowered.
The obstacles that face our country today are the same ones that we faced five years ago. But in the meantime the President has allowed them to grow in scale.
We will show in Parliament that with the right decisions we can build the kind of prosperous and fair South Africa that all people want.
A place where every effort is being made to undo the injustices of the past.
A place where people are safe in your homes, in the streets and at work, and where children can go to school free from the fear of crime and drugs.
A place where the economy is growing and creating millions of new jobs through a thriving, competitive market economy, giving South Africans dignity because they are able to provide for their families.
A place where a capable state delivers quality basic services. Where there is enough energy required to power economic growth, and where the lights stay on in our homes.
A place where South Africans in all our diversity unite together on the basis of shared values, and commitment to building a better nation.
This is the kind of SA the DA is committed to building. A society characterised by fairness, by an abundance of opportunity and the freedom to live the life you desire.
We will hold the government to account for its failure to create to this kind of South Africa and we will make sure we do not rest until we make our vision for this country a reality.
Power to the People! Amandla!
Issued by the DA, February 11 2015
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