A reason to hope

John Steenhuisen on the SA success story that the media seems strangely reluctant to tell


A shallow dive into the recent news cycle will deepen one’s sense of despair. But there is reason to hope and reason to act on that hope.

The third wave is hitting Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape and appears to be just weeks away in other provinces. Fourteen months under a state of disaster with varying levels of lockdown and yet South Africa faces the third wave unprotected and vulnerable with not enough beds and oxygen and less than 1% of the population fully protected against serious Covid. (Recall that it takes 2-4 weeks to develop full immunity once vaccinated.)

To make matters worse, our vaccine rollout continues to be held back by a shortage of vaccines, a failure for which president Ramaphosa must ultimately take full responsibility.

To cover for this failure, the National Coronavirus Command Council is considering moving SA to “an adjusted lockdown level 2”. If the NCCC announces irrational blanket bans, it will deal a deathblow to thousands of businesses and jobs teetering on the edge.

Meantime Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is distracted by shocking revelations of Covid corruption that implicate him in his department’s allocation of a sham R150 million contract to his close friend and former associate’s company Digital Vibes.

It is a chilling portent of what is to come if the Health Professions Council of South Africa gets its way. Last week, it told Parliament that the current reserves of the medical schemes must be transferred to the NHI which should be the only health funding mechanism.

Consider the implication for health outcomes if one individual, the Minister of Health, gets full control of SA’s R450 billion health services procurement budget.

Citizen safety also seems more fragile than ever after the horrific incident in Zandspruit where nine young people were stripped naked and burnt to death in an open field by a vigilante group fed up with local crime and policing failures.

Yet rather than taking measures to make South Africans safer, government’s solution to policing failures has been to cut the budget for visible policing and to release the Firearms Control Amendment Bill which proposes a ban on firearm ownership for self-defence. At the same time, it has increased VIP protection for the political elite.

Our power-hungry national government can’t deliver on its basic responsibilities but is amassing more power than ever before.

Understandably, this barrage of bad news leaves one feeling helpless and hopeless.

But there is a South African success story that the media seems strangely reluctant to tell.

The DA in government shows that a successful South Africa is possible. This claim is not the facile promise of a party in opposition. It is the real track record of a party that runs 27 governments across four provinces in South Africa.

Consider how the recent news cycle would have differed had the DA been in national government.

The DA-run Western Cape Government is confident it has prepared enough beds, oxygen & staff to ensure no person is denied access to life-saving medical treatment at a third wave peak. This removes the need for all but the most low-cost, effective interventions to push out and flatten the wave (masks, handwashing, social distancing and limiting indoor gatherings), meaning both lives and jobs are saved.

Unlike its national counterpart, the Western Cape Department of Health spends the entire health budget on delivering health services to citizens and can therefore focus on this objective without the distraction of corruption scandals. As proof, it received a clean audit for the second year in a row – the only health department in the country to do so.

The province has everything in place for a rapid, efficient vaccine rollout, and is constrained only by a shortage of supply from national government.

While the rest of the country lives in evermore fear, the Western Cape Government is making residents feel safer through their Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP), which is on track to meet its target of deploying 1000 officers in high-crime areas of Cape Town by October 2021.

The DA gets things done. Which is why the best-run province, the best-run metro and the top five best-run municipalities in South Africa are all governed by the DA, according to independent audits and rankings.

The fastest route to a successful South Africa is to bring this DA difference to more towns and communities across the country. A thorough analysis of by-election trends shows the DA is growing in wards representing both black and white voters.

However, it is concerning that smaller ethnic and race-based parties are splintering the opposition in specific areas, making it harder for the DA to achieve the crucial objective of beating the ANC. These parties are effectively the “opposition to the opposition” and could end up doing far more harm than good, no matter their true intentions.

Therefore it makes sense for everyone to get behind the DA, to give maximum momentum to the project of replacing the ANC with a credible alternative government.

And I’m happy to report momentum is already on our side for the upcoming municipal elections. Our hugely successful and vibrant virtual rally launch showed that we are ready and eager to contest the local government elections on 27 October. Join us and support us. Together, we can grow this South African success story.

Warm regards,

John Steenhuisen
DA Leader