OPINION

Let us build the reconciled SA we once dreamed of - John Steenhuisen

Coalitions do work, as long as the partners stand in agreement on the core objectives and principles, says DA leader

Let us build the reconciled South Africa we once dreamed of

My fellow South Africans

As we approach the end of the year and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2020, let us pause on this Day of Reconciliation to gauge where we stand as a country, and where we ought to be heading.

Twenty-five years into our democracy one would have hoped that the scars of our divided past were well on their way to healing, and that the symbolic freedom of 1994 would have translated into a real, substantive freedom for millions of South Africans who had been locked out of opportunity and the economy. But the reality is that ours is still a country beset by crippling poverty and deep divides.

Instead of highlighting how far we have come as a society, Reconciliation Day instead serves to point out how far we still have to go. It reminds us that we once shared a dream for a united, inclusive and reconciled South Africa, and that our current course is taking us further and further away from that dream.

Not everyone shares this dream though. Many in our country still benefit from keeping us mistrustful of one another. There are many for whom conflict, blame and resentment are powerful weapons with which to cling to power, and these people will continue to drive wedges between us.

But that can’t be the future of our country. There are too many of us who want to make it work – who have the same vision of a South Africa shared by all and with opportunities for all – for us to give in to those who only seek to divide.

Our challenges may be daunting, but they are not insurmountable. If we act now, and if we harness the power of all those who want what’s best for South Africa, we still have enough time to overcome these challenges. This will require a new kind of coalition that truly has the interests of ordinary South Africans at heart.

Some will point to the collapse of the coalitions and voting agreements in certain metros as proof that coalitions do not work in South Africa. But that is simply not true. Coalitions do work, as long as the partners stand in agreement on the core objectives and principles. This means that they have to agree on building an inclusive economy around sustained economic growth, they have to agree on clean, corruption-free governance and they have to respect the Constitution and the Rule of Law. With that as an unshakable foundation, we can make any coalition work for the people.

We made a very complex coalition work in the City of Cape Town back in 2006, and we came very close to doing so in Nelson Mandela Bay. But there, as in Johannesburg and Tshwane, it became clear that the forces of corruption and patronage would do anything to undermine clean, accountable governance. We all learnt some tough yet valuable lessons about partnerships that don’t share the same intentions.

If we want Reconciliation Day to become a celebration of a unified and reconciled South Africa, as opposed to a reminder of how far we still have to travel, then we have to start building that country today. And we have to learn to turn our backs on those who don’t share this vision.

Statement issued by John Steenhuisen MP - Democratic Alliance Leader, 16 December 2019