2016: The year rock bottom became South Africa’s launch pad
This is my last Bokamoso for 2016. Thank you for your support this year. I wish you all a safe and happy festive season. Now is the time to be with our families, rest and relax so that we can return refreshed to tackle the challenges that lie ahead in 2017.
This has been an extremely tough year. South Africans have suffered more under Zuma’s ANC government than ever before. We’ve seen record unemployment with joblessness passing the nine million mark for the first time in SA’s history. Our economy has stagnated while food and electricity prices have soared. Our university campuses have become battlegrounds.
The ANC in government have been an embarrassment to South Africa. They closed ranks around the president when he was revealed to have violated the Constitution and to have sold our sovereignty to the Guptas. They made extraordinarily damaging policy choices: to press ahead with nuclear; to withdraw from the International Criminal Court; to pass the buck on university funding. Corruption has skyrocketed along with the rand, which reached R16 to the dollar for the first time ever.
Add to this the drought, which has ravaged our farmlands and brought many towns to a standstill, while beyond South Africa the western liberal democratic order is faltering. Undeniably, the year 2016 has been a low point.
But sometimes the lowest point gives the firmest foundation from which to kick off. The year 2016 has seen a critical tipping point in South Africa’s politics. In the August local government elections, multi-party democracy took a big step forward. Millions of citizens used their vote to hold government to account, rather than as an indication of group identity. Outraged by the President’s dishonourable and damaging behaviour, and by the ANC’s complicity therein, South Africans from all walks of life stood up together and said: “We don’t have to accept this”.
That is the most encouraging development of 2016. Our democracy is coming of age. In years to come, South Africans will look back and see that in 2016 we hit rock bottom but used it as a launch pad from which to take our democracy to new heights. And they will see that the Democratic Alliance was at the centre of this development.
I am truly proud of the DA’s performance this year. Through sheer grit and hard work, we shrugged off the “regional party” mantle and became a national government in waiting. We started the year governing for 6 million people and we are ending it governing for 16.5 million people across six provinces. We have the inside lane now, because good, honest governance is the DA brand.
In opposition we were relentless in holding the ANC government to account in Parliament. We fought successfully against Zuma’s plans to purchase a R4 billion luxury presidential jet. We fought censorship at the SABC, politicization of the NPA, SADTU’s capture of our education departments and many battles beyond.
Where necessary, we took our fight beyond Parliament. We fought Zuma’s Nkandla corruption in the Constitutional Court and won. We instigated the investigation that led to ex-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report. We successfully challenged Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi’s fitness to hold office in the NPA. We are challenging SA’s withdrawal from the ICC.
We have emerged from 2016 a bigger, better, more diverse and more united party, well positioned to contest for national government in 2019. We are in a race against time to save South Africa, to arrest institutional and infrastructural decline, to restore inclusive economic growth and to tackle poverty and inequality.
Our vision for South Africa is that of an inclusive, prosperous constitutional democracy; a safe, peaceful society with access to opportunities for all; and a regional giant standing as a beacon of hope for the developing world. This is well within our grasp. To quote a most determined woman, former DA leader Helen Zille: “We can, we must and we will.”
This article by Mmusi Maimane first appeared in Bokamoso, the online newsletter of the leader of the Democratic Alliance.