Patricia Kopane will bring real change to FState - Mmusi Maimane

Mmusi Maimane says his party's Premier candidate brings with her crucial experience

The DA’s candidate for Premier, Patricia Kopane, will bring real change to the Free State

Note to Editors: the following remarks were delivered today by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the announcement of the DA's Premier Candidate for the Free State. 

Given the extent to which our country has been plundered by the ANC government at national, provincial and local level, it is becoming increasingly difficult to grasp the full scope of this corruption. We run the risk of suffering from corruption fatigue, and so it is sometimes useful to have a tangible reminder of these crimes – a bricks and mortar “monument to corruption”.

Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead is a monument to corruption. The R1.8 million Zuma monument in Groot Marico in the North West Province is, literally, a monument to corruption. And this site where we are gathered today, the old Ramkraal Prison building, is another such monument to corruption.

Built in 1893 and declared a heritage site by the National Monuments Council in 1990, the Ramkraal Prison was chosen back in 2010 by the provincial administration of Ace Magashule as the site for a new provincial legislature. Any work here would have had to adhere to strict heritage guidelines.

But eight years later this site stands derelict and vandalised, with almost nothing left to preserve. And despite more than R120 million having already been spent, there is nothing to show for all this money. There are no plausible answers from the ANC on this matter either. In fact, there is no clear indication that this project will even be pursued any time soon, as the Free State government has just extended its contract on the existing legislature building.

The sad reality is that today we no longer have to ask “Where did the money go?” Because we know it went to the ANC. The question now is simply: “Which cadre got rich this time?”

This project started under Ace Magashule, the Gupta’s inside man in the Free State. It perfectly symbolises everything about his corrupt reign here: zero progress, zero transparency and lots of missing money, much like his infamous Vrede Dairy farm swindle. But it’s also telling that nothing has changed here since he departed to take up his post as Secretary General for the ANC. That’s because Magashule wasn’t the cause of the rot here in the Free State. He was just an opportunistic symptom. The cause was, and continues to be, the ANC itself.

This is why Ramkraal Prison stands as a monument to ANC corruption, and this is why we chose to announce the DA’s candidate for Premier of the Free State here. We want South Africans to see for themselves what the ANC has become, and why our country is so desperate for change.

I am confident that the candidate chosen to spearhead the DA’s effort to bring change to the Free State is up to this important task. Patricia Kopane is one of our party’s most humble leaders and a loyal servant of the people. During her time as Free State Provincial Leader, Patricia has demonstrated her leadership skills and her impeccable values, and I have absolutely no doubt that these same skills and values will stand her in good stead as Premier of the province.

Patricia has been a hard-working member of the DA for the past 14 years, citing the party’s commitment to non-racialism, democratic rule and inclusivity as her reasons for joining. She believes the DA is the only party committed to creating jobs, ending corruption and delivering quality services – commitments that resonate deeply with her own mission in life.

Patricia was born in Bloemfontein but grew up in the small village of Dithutaneng in Qwaqwa. She relates well with both the village and township life, and she knows the unique challenges faced by both these communities.

Patricia brings with her crucial experience as the current Provincial Leader as well as Member of Parliament. She is currently the DA Shadow Minister of Health and she was previously the Shadow Minister of Public Works and Social Development. She is also a Parliamentary Whip, a Member of the Coalitions Committee as well as a Member of the DA’s FedEx, Federal Council and Federal Legal Commission.

Patricia has served as the DA Free State Leader for the past five years, a period she describes as the most rewarding years of her life. Together with a close-knit team of true democrats, she has helped grow the party in the province in terms of voters, activists, public representatives and professional staff. Under her leadership, the DA has grown in stature as official opposition in the legislature, and worked tirelessly at exposing the corruption and irregularities of the ANC government here.

Thanks to these efforts, the truth around the Vrede Dairy Farm scandal, the Free State Provincial website scandal, the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Brandfort house scandal, the appalling state of Free State hospitals, the state of the province’s roads and the full extent of the municipal decay here are public knowledge.

Under Patricia Kopane the DA in the Free State has fought to bring water to many communities in the province, and has pursued the Eskom issue with great vigour, where it is estimated that bankrupted Free State municipalities owe the power utility a combined R5 billion. These battles are ongoing, as Patricia and her colleagues continue to fight for the people of this province in a way that its ANC government seems incapable of doing.

It is incredibly encouraging to see that these efforts have not gone unnoticed by voters. In Metsimaholo, voters in 2016 gave a DA-led coalition government a mandate for change, only for this to be stolen back through tactics similar to those used to steal back Nelson Mandela Bay. More recently, the DA’s by-election victory in Nala in a ward previously held by the ANC is testament to the kind of change sweeping across this province under Patricia’s leadership.

What this means is that the DA’s message of one South Africa for all, built on freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity, is reaching all communities in the Free State. It also means that voters are finally beginning to make their choices based on the issues that matter to them, rather than purely on historic allegiances.

This is the momentum that Patricia Kopane will build on as we aim to turn this province around, because it is time for real change here. According to the last Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the Free State saw the largest increase in the unemployment rate of all nine provinces in the second quarter of this year. Over 40% of working age people in this province are now unemployed, or have given up looking for work. This must change, and it must change soon.

The Free State can’t be known merely for its failures: failed education, failed public healthcare, failed road infrastructure, increasing household poverty and spiraling unemployment. It is time for this great province to finally escape the shadow of the ANC.

Voters will have the chance next year to decide whether they want more of the same from this ANC government, or if they are ready for change. I am proud to endorse Patricia Kopane as the right candidate to offer the people of the Free State this change.

Issued by the DA, 11 September 2018