NEWS & ANALYSIS

We're winning the race to save our democracy - Helen Zille

DA leader says the ANC, by contrast, is racing to entrench a system where the corrupt can use their power to benefit themselves and their cronies

We're winning the race to save our democracy

11 February 2015

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by DA Leader, Helen Zille, during the Power to the People Rally.

My fellow Democrats,

Today, South Africa's two biggest political parties, the DA and the ANC, find themselves in a race against time.

For both parties, the clock is ticking and everything is at stake.

But let's be very clear on this: we're not running the same race. Our obstacles are not their obstacles. And our finishing line is not their finishing line.

The DA's race - if we triumph - means that South Africa will once more be moving in the right direction.

A South Africa where the economy grows, while unemployment shrinks. Where opportunities exist for every person to use their freedoms to improve their lives. A South Africa without load-shedding, without an education crisis, without rampant corruption and theft of the people's money.

A South Africa free from the constant fear of crime; where the streets, the schools the shopping centres belong to the people, not the criminals. Where the same rules apply to everyone. Where hard work is rewarded, regardless of who you are, where you're from or who you know. And where corruption is punished, regardless of who you are, where you're from or who you know.

The DA is in a race against time to build this kind of country, because we have to do so before too many parts of our democratic machine are broken. We need the institutions that form the foundation of our democracy to be fixed. We need them to do their jobs.

The ANC is also in a desperate race against time, but theirs is a different race altogether; and in a different direction.

Their race doesn't end in an open and fair society. They are racing to entrench a system where the corrupt can use their power to benefit themselves, their families and their friends.  They want to destroy anything that threatens their corrupt little network.

But the ANC knows that another party is catching up with them and preparing to overtake them. When they turn their head, they can see a party that stands for Justice and the Rule of Law. They see the DA, and this is what they fear most. They have to beat fairness, justice and the law, in order to keep control so that they can continue to loot.

And how will they do this?

The ANC faction led by Jacob Zuma will defeat justice by capturing every single institution with the power to expose and prosecute corruption, before these very institutions take them down in a court of law.  This is the race they are running.

They will do so by placing loyal, unquestioning cadres in every important position - obedient yes-men who can be counted on to do exactly as they're told, often by those who have the most corruption to hide.

These are Jacob Zuma's men and women who are betraying the liberation struggle by capturing the state for their own purposes.

In the last couple of months, this campaign of "state capture" has seen almost every independent thinker at the head of every corruption-busting body in South Africa either dismissed, suspended or shifted sideways. Even when they win court cases, they are put on enforced leave, as we saw with General Anwa Dramat yesterday.

This has happened to the Hawks. It has happened to the Special Investigating Unit. It has happened to SARS. It has happened to the Anti-Corruption Task Team. And it is busy happening to the National Prosecuting Authority, for the fourth time.  Step out of line with Jacob Zuma, and you're gone.

Everytime a person in charge of an important institution is not loyal enough to Jacob Zuma, he is replaced by someone who will put political loyalty above the law.

And South Africans will feel the effect of this in their lives every day.  It will also destroy the prospects of a better life for our children.

When criminals in high office run rampant, a government starts becoming a criminal state.  When the focus of government is on shielding the president, no one is focused on serving you, the members of the public.

Perhaps even more worrying is the capture of the South African Revenue Service, that we call SARS.  It is the body that collects our taxes. Their ability to do this, without fear of favour, is what keeps our country functioning. It is the engine of our economy. Destroy SARS through political interference, and you destroy our ability to build schools, to staff hospitals, to pay social grants - everything falls apart when you compromise the collection of tax. But President Zuma seems to think he is above paying fringe-benefit tax for Nkandla, let alone the money he has been ordered to repay by the Public Protector.

This describes the ANC's race. It is the race a whole party is running in the interests of one man who has become so powerful that his personal objectives have become the party's objectives. One man who wields all the influence simply because he alone hands out all the goodies. If you are in favour you get the jobs and the contracts. If you aren't, you are out.  That is what cadre deployment and patronage politics are about. It is a serious form of corruption. And if it isn't stopped, it leads to a failed state.

In this race to the bottom, Zuma's loyal cadres have no choice but to back him. They must hire and fire on his behalf. They must lie and cover up on his behalf. They must pretend, to the whole world, that none of this is wrong. If they don't, they will be pushed off the gravy train at the next station. It's that simple.  That is how it works in the ANC.

Our president, Jacob Zuma, is a deeply flawed man whose only goal is to stay out of court, using your money, for as long as lawyers can achieve this, using every delaying tactic possible.

The man who finds himself at the very centre of the biggest scandals of our time - Nkandla, Guptagate and the Spy Tapes - has his entire party running this crooked race for him.  Men and women, many of them once good and true, have sold their souls to stay in power, as they once criticised the apartheid National Party for doing. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said:  they only stopped the apartheid gravy train for long enough to get on it themselves.

These are the people who, tomorrow evening, will stand and clap and even sing for the man who is bringing our country down; the man who will stand up in the National Assembly, imploring us all to believe his "good story".

Even his praise-singers no longer believe him. But they know how to clap on command because they will be out if they don't.  They know they are being watched closely by people in their own party.

The State of the Nation address will be the same so-called "good story" we've been hearing for years now: Some carefully selected service delivery stats and a list of impossible promises about big projects in the pipeline.

What the ANC says, often sounds good. What they do is something quite different. And more and more South Africans know the truth.

We see this in their shrinking numbers at the polls. We see this in reports from the recent ANC lekgotla, where insiders have admitted they have failed to deliver on his promises. And we have seen how the ANC has had to resort to using people as "fronts" to buy newspapers and control broadcasting, because the only way they can sell this fiction as a "good story" is by destroying media independence, built up in the struggle for democracy over more than two  centuries.

Why else would Jacob Zuma's wealthy friends, the Guptas, publish The New Age newspaper? Why else would these same connected Guptas run the ANN7 TV news channel? Why else would the "overly empowered" Sekunjalo Group take over Independent Newspapers? Why else would the Communications Minister change all the rules at the SABC so that she makes the big decisions, and not the Board?

This is simply another part of the ANC's race against time. It is determined to beat back the forces of democracy while claiming to champion them.

But I have some more bad news for them: The DA's race is going a whole lot better than their own race.

Despite Jacob Zuma and the NPA's ducking and diving for five years and six court appearances to avoid justice in the Spy Tapes saga, the net is now closing in.

Unless Jacob Zuma and the NPA suddenly decide to comply with court deadlines and hand in affidavits, our court application to review the decision to drop corruption charges against the president will be heard on the 16th of March.

And even if they do hand in their affidavits, we'll still come away with a court date in the near future. There is very little place left to hide for Jacob Zuma. And the only reason for this is the remaining integrity of institutions such as our independent judiciary. It is this independence and integrity on which the future of every single South African depends.

This is why it is absolutely crucial that we protect our institutions of democracy with every last breath. A South Africa with robust, independent institutions is a South Africa that creates real opportunities for people. This is why this matters so much.

This is a South Africa where communities can beat criminals, not have them in Parliament. Where all spheres of government are caring and responsive. Where every decision is aimed at growing an economy that is able to create millions of jobs. Where government is efficient and every cent is spent on delivering quality services to the people.

This is the race the DA is running. And it is a race that the DA is increasingly winning.

Our race is not run under cloud of fear and threat. No one in the DA stands to lose their job if they don't do the bidding of a faction or a leader.

Our goal is simply: A South Africa where everyone has real opportunities to use their freedom to build a better life.

In the DA we face this challenge with an open heart and mind, and a clear conscience. It is a goal that unites us and inspires us. It will drive us over all obstacles and hurdles our opponents put in our way.

So when you see the those in the ANC benches falling over themselves to applaud President Zuma's "good story" tomorrow evening, spare a thought for the many who are forced to do so because they have no choice.

But we in the DA do not have to kow-tow to the corrupt. We have been put in by the voters and we answer only to them. And we will do so again when we take our seats in the Assembly tomorrow night.

Issued by the DA, February 11 2015

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter