DA no longer just a party of opposition - Helen Zille

Voters now able to compare DA and ANC's record in govt

Campaign Launch speech: We deliver for all

Text of speech delivered by DA Leader Helen Zille at Walter Sisulu Freedom Square, Kliptown, Soweto at the DA's National Campaign and Manifesto launch, March 26 2011:

May 18, 2011 will be a watershed in South Africa's democracy.  For the first time since 1994, the DA enters this election as a party with a track record in government. We are no longer just a party of opposition.

Our record where we govern proves that, while others promise a better life for all, the DA is actually delivering it, step by step.  This election offers voters everywhere the chance to make a change to the DA and bring a better life to the place where you live. My fellow South Africans, I want to make something clear today: this election is not a contest between race groups.

For too long now, we have used elections as a way of expressing racial identity and racial solidarity. This time, we must take the next step. We must make the issues the issue.

And the key issue in a local government election is achieving excellent service delivery for all.

When we say we deliver for all, we really mean for all. For the poor and for the better off. For black and coloured and Indian and white. For workers and for entrepreneurs.   And for those without any work at all.  For people living with disabilities. For people of all religions. Everyone. Almal. Bonke. Bohle.

Let us use this election to break down the barriers between South Africans. Let us treat every South African as a person who matters, with hopes and fears, and a deep yearning for a better life in a better country. Umntu ngumntu ngabantu.  Motho ke motho ka batho.  'n Mens is 'n mens deur ander mense.  In the immortal words of the Freedom Charter - adopted right here in the very place we stand today - South Africa can only be a great country if it truly does "belong to all who live in it."   

And so the crucial question of this election must be: which party delivers best for all?

Today I want to provide the answer.   

The DA's vision for South Africa is an open, opportunity society for all, in which every person has the right and the means to follow their dreams and make a success of their lives.

The greatest obstacle we must overcome is poverty. Poverty cheapens our hard-won freedom.  It destroys a person's chance to live a life they value. And it reinforces apartheid-era social divisions.

That is why beating poverty is the DA's number one priority.

At local level, we have to do two things to beat poverty. First, we have to create jobs through an unrelenting focus on economic growth. Second, we have to deliver more services, more efficiently, to more people.

The manifesto we release today sets out how we plan to do this.

Let's start with job creation. A job is a passport out of poverty, a first step on the path to prosperity. There is no opportunity like a job opportunity.

But governments cannot create jobs by themselves. Jobs can only be created sustainably in a growing economy. And cities and towns are the engines of a growing economy and job creation. That is why it matters so much how they are governed.

When international companies invest in our towns and cities, they create jobs. When local entrepreneurs start their own businesses, they create jobs. We must create conditions that attract investment and jobs wherever we govern.

This means we must have clean, corruption-free government.  Corruption chases away investors and makes poor people even poorer. This is why the DA's anti-corruption measures go further than any other party.

We are the only party willing to open government tender processes to the public. Where we govern, councillors and officials disclose their financial interests.  We put a stop to lavish parties, ultra luxury vehicles, and other perks for politicians.

Effective local government must also collect revenue and spend ratepayers' money wisely. This means that councillors and officials must do the jobs they were elected or appointed to do.  

That is why all DA Councillors and Mayors are nominated according to their fitness-for-purpose. It is why our Councillors and Mayors are given performance targets and are measured against them. And it is why we appoint officials based on the value they can add to an administration, not their political links. We don't do cadre deployment.

When it comes to rates and tariffs, DA municipalities are firm but fair. We distinguish clearly between those who can't pay and those who won't pay. DA municipalities make annual tariff increases as gradual and predictable as possible so there are no nasty surprises. And DA municipalities make sure that citizens are billed correctly and only for the services they consume.

All of these things are important for growth. So are reasonable regulations that help growth instead of hinder it. I am talking about the excessive red tape and planning regulations that tie up local businesses. Every DA municipality will work hard to eliminate the unnecessary bureaucracy that stifles growth and destroys jobs.

Having the right infrastructure - including roads, water, electricity, sewage, public transport and telecommunications - in the right places is crucial for development and growth. Every major DA municipality will work with other spheres of government to deliver safe, reliable, affordable and integrated public transport systems for all.  

We will work to bridge the digital divide by giving more people access to free internet and speeding up internet connections. Internet access can be one of the greatest empowerment tools for the poor.

Crime, besides robbing people of their right to live without fear, is a major barrier to economic growth. Nobody wants to invest and create jobs where crime is out of control. We know that municipalities do not lead the fight against crime, but we think they have a role to play. That is why we propose introducing and expanding municipal police forces in areas where crime rates are high.

All of the initiatives I have spoken of are designed to make municipalities engines of growth and job creation to win the war against poverty.

At the same time, we believe that government must ensure that everyone has access to the basic and social services that people need to improve their lives. This is why the DA is committed to providing rates rebates for our most vulnerable citizens. It is why every DA municipality is committed to providing relief for citizens unable to afford basic services such as clean water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal.

We are dedicated to finding ways to increase the availability of affordable electricity and water through recycling and renewing, cutting unnecessary consumption and installing and maintaining bulk infrastructure. Our indigent policy will ensure that people who qualify, receive enough water and electricity for their families. And we will continue our focus on upgrading informal settlements with bulk infrastructure and services.

Finally, we recognise the role that municipalities play in primary healthcare and social development.

We will work with local NGOs and other spheres of government to develop strategies to combat drug and alcohol abuse. This will include working with the Police to reduce the supply of drugs in our communities.

We will provide free anti-retroviral medication to HIV-positive pregnant mothers and rape survivors at municipal health facilities.

DA municipalities will continue to use social amenities such as libraries and sports fields to provide young people with alternatives to anti-social behaviour.

And, finally, we will offer vulnerable people a hand-up out of poverty by assisting them with skills development, including help with starting their own businesses.

Those are just some of the highlights of our manifesto. It is our blueprint to deliver a better life for all in every town and city in the country. It is a plan that has been proven to work in the places we govern.

Take Midvaal, a municipality not far from here, as an example.

Since the DA took over 10 years ago, Midvaal has been transformed from a sleepy dormitory town on the outskirts of Johannesburg to an engine of economic growth, job creation and service delivery.

We began with clean, efficient government. This year, Midvaal received its 8th unqualified audit from the Auditor-General. We improved our revenue collection system to the point that Midvaal is the only municipality in Gauteng with a revenue collection rate of 100%.

We made it more attractive to invest in Midvaal, by bringing down crime in the CBD by 70% in four years. We invested in new infrastructure. We built theVaal Marina and Klipriver reservoirs to provide clean tap water to all residents. We built and upgraded substations to increase the electricity supply. And we promoted Midvaal as an investment destination.

All this explains why the European brewing giant Heineken chose Midvaal as its national headquarters, with benefits for everyone who lives there. During the construction of its brewery, Heineken created 5000 jobs. Now, 500 people are employed by Heineken permanently.

The Italian chocolatier Ferrero Rocher chose Midvaal to be the site of its chocolate packaging plant, employing some 250 people. And BSI Steel, a listed company, recently moved its head office to Midvaal.

It is little wonder that Midvaal was this year rated first in the district for attracting foreign and local direct investment. It was also rated first for job creation. In fact, Midvaal has the lowest unemployment rate in Gauteng.

Last year, Midvaal was rated number one in Gauteng's annual Quality of Life Survey. Life is getting better in Midvaal because a majority of voters voted DA, and put us in power where we have spent the last ten years fixing things and getting the basics of government right.

This explains why Midvaal can subsidise water and electricity for over 3000 of the poorest households.

It explains why the municipality can build state-of-the-art libraries in disadvantaged areas like Daleside and Sicelo where residents also have access to the internet free of charge.

It is why there is a modern clinic that services 30,000 people with a turn-around time that is 33% faster than the provincial average.

It is why Midvaal can provide mobile clinics for vulnerable patients that live away from the town centre, usually in informal settlements.

And it explains why Midvaal was able to build a multi-purpose centre in Sicelo where children can play soccer, tennis, netball and other games in safety.

The lesson of Midvaal is that, when a municipality gets the basics right, it does a lot to deliver a better life for all, especially the poor.

This applies to a relatively small municipality like Midvaal, but also to a big City like Cape Town, where we have improved the prospects of poor citizens step by step since the DA-led coalition came to power five years ago.  

In 2006 we inherited the worst-run metro in the country. Corruption was rife. The ANC administration spent only 60% of its capital budget. And the shambolic state of its revenue collection system meant that the municipality was owed R4-billion in unpaid rates and service charges.

Within a year of taking office, the DA had cut debt by nearly R1-billion. Sound financial management and revenue collection meant there was more money for service delivery and infrastructure development. By 2010, the DA had increased its revenue collection rate to 96% and had more than tripled its spending on infrastructure.

These savings and efficiencies allowed the DA to double its spending on free water, subsidized housing and electricity for the poor.

It also meant we could increase the number of poor people who qualified for service subsidies. When the DA took over, it doubled the qualifying income threshold to R3,000 per month, thus benefiting many more people. Those eligible receive a 100% rates rebate, free refuse collection, 10 500 litres of free water and 50 kwh of free electricity per month.

The result is that Cape Town is now, without doubt, the best City in South Africa for service delivery.

In 2009, after 3 years of DA governance, the Ratings Agency Moody's rated Cape Town "at the high end of the five metropolitan municipalities."  Four years previously, it had been the worst.  

In the same year, the BEE ratings agency Empowerdex found that, and I quote: "Cape Town is clearly the best city in the country for service delivery."

And, last year, the national government's Universal Household Access to Basic Services or UHABS index found that Cape Town delivered more basic services to the poor than any other District or Metropolitan municipality in the country.

In every place we apply our formula - no matter whether it is a town or a city, or which province it's in - we get results.

Just last week, the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, named Baviaans, the only DA-run municipality in the Eastern Cape, as the best for service delivery in that province. Baviaans also won the award for best collector of revenue in the Eastern Cape.

And last year, the UHABS Index ranked Western Cape municipalities number one in the country for service delivery. An independent survey conducted by the South African Institute for Race Relations found that more poor people had access to free basic services in the Western Cape than anywhere else.

My fellow South Africans, where the DA governs, we really do our best to deliver for all. But we know that no DA municipality is perfect. We make mistakes. And when we do, we try to fix them. Every one of our municipalities can do more to improve service delivery and increase economic growth to create jobs. But what is important is that we are moving in the right direction, step-by-step.

Some people say that DA municipalities have an unfair advantage, as if (somehow) our municipalities don't face the same challenges as others in our developing country. When they say this, I tell them the story of a small Gauteng municipality called Nokeng Tsa Taemane near the Limpopo border.

When the DA took it over from the ANC in 2001, it had just about collapsed.  Eskom was about to cut off the power because of an R11- million unpaid electricity bill. There was not much furniture, no computers and no filing system in the tiny municipal offices. Officials were disillusioned and demotivated. There was no town engineer at all. The Municipal Manager was the previous Mayor's brother-in-law.

The new DA team went to work, building the systems and physical infrastructure necessary for a workable administration. Garages were converted into office space; computers and administrative systems were installed. The new Mayor furnished his office with his own furniture brought from his home.

The DA Mayor and Speaker had no other staff besides the one secretary they shared. They sold the mayoral Mercedes Benz and used the money for service delivery. The Mayor drove around in his own Nissan bakkie instead.

Through good financial management, the DA managed to stop Eskom from switching off the lights, and paid back R9m of what it owed. And it managed to upgrade the infrastructure that had been left to decay under the previous administration. A new sewerage works was built, the Refilwe community hall was refurbished and the water and electricity infrastructure was expanded. Around 2,000 RDP houses were built in three years.

But then, because in the past, elections were not about service delivery, the ANC again won the 2006 local election in Nokeng.

The new ANC Mayor started her term by refurbishing her office at a cost of R135 000 to the ratepayer. Two luxury German vehicles were purchased - one for the Mayor and one for the Speaker. The Mayor increased her expense account from R50 000 to R500 000 and appointed 12 new staff members to work in her office. When the Mayor had to fly anywhere, she flew business class and stayed in expensive hotels.

It wasn't long before the municipality went bankrupt again, and had to be bailed out by the Gauteng provincial government at least three times. In four years, only 78 houses were built. Infrastructure was neglected. During one month the municipality didn't send out bills because it didn't have enough money for the postage.

By 2009 things were so bad that Nokeng was placed under administration by the Gauteng government. In fact, it is now such a basket case that, after the local election this year, it will be absorbed into the Tshwane metro.

Nokeng Tsa Taemane was literally run into the ground by the ANC. This was the direct result of the choice that voters made in the 2006 election.

When I visit towns where service delivery is failing, people often say to me:  Helen, please bring the DA here and fix things up.  I reply that the DA stands for elections everywhere but that we can only fix things if we win and govern the municipality. We can only win in the place where you live if enough people vote for us.  Only you can take control of your future.  You vote is your power to do that.

Because the truth is this: if you want a better life you need to think about choosing a party that has proved it delivers for all wherever it governs.

So give us a chance to prove it to you.  Put us to the test.  You have nothing to lose by trying something new in this local election.

If you usually vote for the ANC in the national election, the local election is your chance to do something different. Use your freedom to choose.

This election is about breaking free of the straightjacket that keeps people voting for the same party over and over again and somehow expecting a different result.

In a democracy, you can make the change and choose a party that will deliver a better future.

So let's stop comparing the South Africa of today with the South Africa of the past. And let's start comparing the South Africa of today with the South Africa we know we can become tomorrow.

One nation, with one shared future.  Isizwe esinye, ikamva elinye, een nasie een toekoms, sechaba sele seng, bokamoso bo le bong.

If you live in a DA-governed municipality, you already know the difference the DA can make.

If you don't live in a DA-governed municipality, now is your chance to make it happen. Now is the time.  Manje isiKathi; Hona joale ke nako.  Die tyd is nou.

So, whatever you do, make sure you vote on 18 May.

And vote DA.

Because the DA delivers for all!

Sisebenzela uwonkewonke.

Re isa ditshebeletso ho bohle.

Thank you very much.  Now let's go out and win.

Issued by the Democratic Alliance, March 26 2011

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