Win the battles, then go to war

Tertuis Simmers says 2024 elections are going to be a watershed, with the ANC losing majority support

Win the battles, then go to war

19 May 2022

In politics, wars are only won if you learn from the many preceding battles. Over the past three years, the DA in the Western Cape has had to fight many different battles, some internal, many external, but all of them moulding and forging us into shape, preparing us for what lies ahead.

The 2019 National and Provincial Elections proved to be an invaluable learning curve for the party. Smaller opposition parties entered the fray and baited voters with identity politics, which, from a distance seems noble as it seemingly concerns itself with issues of specific societal groupings, but ultimately serves only to divide society. We, however, were able to stick to our guns and managed to retain the Western Cape with an outright majority.

Ensuing years did not, however, allow us to rest on our laurels. As the ANC continues to splinter, smaller parties entered the political arena in rural municipalities, forcing us to focus our attention on by-elections.  

In my view, these, to name but a few, were necessary battles. These were battles we needed to fight. Challenges we needed to face to become tougher and stronger. And at the end, the party managed to navigate these challenging times and emerge anew.

The 2021 Local Government Elections, had us focussing on local governments and the DA managed to regain voters’ trust, not by exploiting their fears and vulnerabilities, but by a show of good governance and proper service delivery where we govern. And earlier this year, our strength was again demonstrated in what I call four defining battles where we were able to win convincingly.

The first victory was at the Witzenberg by-election, where we retained our council seat. The second was beating the opposition at the polls, leaving the Patriotic Alliance (PA) battered and bruised after an eleven-day-long battle. The third victory was the DA welcoming the PA leader of Matzikama and a PA ward councillor into the fold on Tuesday, 3 May.

The latest victory was won outside the Western Cape, in Tshwane, when we won 45% of the vote in the by-election in ward 96. ActionSA desperately tried but miserably failed to convince voters that a former DA leader had voted for them and that they must do the same. It turned out that the individual they referred to was not even registered in the ward.

These were four victories in only fourteen days – victories that demonstrated our strength and our will to fight for real change in all communities, not only in the Western Cape, but across the country.

On the 7th May 2022, at the Western Cape’s Provincial Council, I was proud of the party when it showed internal strength and unity, and succeeded to consolidate our province’s top leadership structure, re-affirm our values and unify behind a common goal.

I am humbled to have been elected the Interim Provincial Leader in the Western Cape at the Provincial Council. Standing alongside me is the newly elected Interim Deputy Leader, JP Smith, who brings with him a wealth of experience that he obtained within the party as well as government structures.

My vision, as we head towards the national and provincial elections in 2024, is simple. It is underpinned by us going back to basics. We will soon embark on branch Annual General Meetings and the DA in the Western Cape will aim to strengthen these ground-level structures closest to the communities. We will reconnect with residents by empowering our branches and our activists, and we will work hard to reinforce the trust people have in us. We will showcase our distinguished record of service delivery where we govern, give hope for a better future, and we will expand our voter base in the province.

I strongly believe that the only practical way for the Democratic Alliance to succeed in this way, is to keep on delivering to the people of our province and beyond and bring solutions to problems we all face daily. We recently celebrated Workers’ Day, but how can we celebrate freedom while most South Africans are unemployed.

However, I am very proud of what the DA-led Western Cape Government is doing to rectify this enormous challenge. By cutting red tape and making it easier for people to start a business, facilitating the growth of the tech industry through infrastructure, and by investing the tourism sector, we are actively creating job opportunities in real-time.

On the 27th of April, we celebrated Freedom Day, but I ask again, how can we celebrate freedom in our country when people live in fear. However, the DA heard the people’s call long ago and the Western Cape Government has established its Provincial Safety Plan, getting more boots on the ground through the Law Enforcement Advancement Programme, bolstering the police service, and supporting neighbourhood watches in communities. In crime hotspots, like Nyanga, Kraaifontein, and other areas, we are already seeing a decline in crime. We know that there is still a lot more to be done, but we are working hard to address these issues.

The country is also hampered by the burden of load-shedding which is not only hurting our economy severely but also has a devastating impact on the livelihoods of our people, especially the poor. But again, DA governments are rolling up their sleeves and are working hard to free us from the burden that is Eskom by aiming to secure energy independency in our province soon. DA-led municipalities such as Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Saldanha have already begun the process of procuring electricity from independent power producers. In Drakenstein, the municipality has established the Leliefontein pump-as-turbine station that generates electricity using the same set of water pumps by reversing the flow.

These, and many other challenges, are the ones that the ANC government is unable to address, and fixing these problems cannot be delayed any further.

We say this at every election, but it has never been as true as it is this time around: the 2024 National and Provincial Elections will be a watershed moment for South Africa. For the first time, in what will then be the country’s seventh democratic elections since 1994, the ANC will not receive the majority of the vote. For the first time in what will then be 30 years, South Africans’ will loudly proclaim that enough is enough.

I look forward to these elections. I look forward to our future. Not only in the Western Cape, but as we head towards 2024, I look forward to the future of our country as a whole. Because there is hope. The DA has time and again shown, through leadership, dedication, and innovation, that we work hard towards a better future, and the DA in the Western Cape recommits itself to build on our successes and to do even more for every resident of this beautiful province.

By Tertuis Simmers, DA Interim Provincial Leader, Western Cape