We need to do things differently

John Steenhuisen says his party will support a reform agenda, but he is not seeking a cabinet position


Celebrated investor Warren Buffett once remarked, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

We need to start doing things differently here in South Africa. There must be consequences for violence, corruption and governing failures.

The damage done to infrastructure during the week of violence and looting unleashed by Zuma’s faction of the ANC is vast. But it pales in comparison to the damage done to people’s trust in the rule of law and other institutions needed to ensure peace and wellbeing. And it’s going to be harder to rebuild. But rebuild it we must, if we are to ensure public safety and achieve the economic growth needed to tackle the tinderbox of poverty and inequality that so fanned the flames of insurrection.

As the preamble to the 2030 Global Sustainable Development Agenda puts it: There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.

To rebuild trust in the rule of law and our security system after these riots, we need full transparency about what went wrong and full accountability for actions and inaction, coupled with an honest assessment of the country’s problems. Residents in KZN and Gauteng deserve the whole truth of why their lives and livelihoods were torn apart. And we all need reassurance that this kind of anarchy won’t happen again.

The DA has called for a Parliamentary Enquiry that is chaired by members of the opposition and broadcast on national television. The intelligence reports that Dlodlo claims to have handed to Cele and that Cele denies having received from Dlodlo must be made public. If the three ministers of the security cluster (Police Minister Bheki Cele, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) are found to have failed in their constitutional duty to protect the public, they must be removed.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Parliament needs to be able to undertake its constitutional duty of executive oversight without fear or favour. When Parliament works, South Africa works. Parliament cannot continue to be a toothless lapdog for the governing party.

South Africans must not accept the usual ANC-style enquiry run by ANC cronies under a veil of ANC secrecy with the purpose of covering up ANC governance failure to resolve an ANC-caused crisis. This cannot be the fox guarding the henhouse. It cannot be another Seriti Commission where the tax payers fork out millions to be kept in the dark and told lies. And it cannot be a replacement for the actual prosecution of the instigators and perpetrators of the violence and looting.

We must also not allow the ANC and EFF to foment racial division and use racial scapegoating to divert attention from the very real governance failures that lead to such loss of lives and livelihoods and confidence in the social contract.

People in positions of power must face consequences for their failures. It has been five weeks since President Ramaphosa received the damning SIU report implicating Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in the Health Department’s R150 million Digital Vibes scam, yet still he has not acted against Mkhize, who remains on fully paid “special” leave, nor has he published the report. And Mkhize clearly feels no compulsion to resign.

I have called on President Ramaphosa to clean up his cabinet by replacing useless or obstructive ministers and by working with people outside of his own party who want the best for the country. The president needs to look beyond his own party to find the support he needs to reform our economy.

On Saturday, I said in an interview that President Ramaphosa has been badly let down by his security cluster and that it is time to axe Minister Mkhize and to bring in people with capacity. I said the DA wants to be part of the solution in South Africa and we stand ready to offer our expertise and support to help rebuild South Africa.

I did not say, as SABC news falsely claimed, that I am ready to serve in Ramaphosa’s cabinet. South Africa needs a strong opposition and a credible alternative to the ANC. I have no interest in taking Patricia De Lille’s if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them approach to cabinet.

It is possible to be part of the solution while still occupying the opposition benches. If Ramaphosa brings his long-promised economic reform agenda to Parliament, the DA will provide the votes needed to pass these reforms, votes he will not get from many within his own party.

Our Olympic medalists and Springbok heroes can only do so much to unite South Africa and buoy the national spirit. Now the president and parliament need to go for gold through consequence management, reform and good governance.

Otherwise, there must be consequences at the ballot box.

Warm regards,

John Steenhuisen

DA Leader