Tag Archives: helen zille

When the watchdog lost its bark

The DA must never forget that regardless of its ambitions to govern South Africa, it is an opposition party, with a mandate from its voters to hold the government and the ruling party vigilantly to account. Its clearly defined vision of an Open Opportunity Society for All, and the values which flow from this, should guide its response to every piece of legislation that appears in parliament.

Even after Helen Zille’s very public about-turn on the party’s astonishing support in the National Assembly for the Employment Equity Amendment Bill, it is still pertinent to question what on earth were its MPs thinking. How could such an important and dangerous law, one which runs so contrary to the party’s values, be given the thumbs up? Where was the scrutiny – the vigorous interrogation of the Bill’s ramifications, and of its (in)compatibility with the party’s values?  Despite the significance of the Bill, and the significance of the party’s support for it, a press statement explaining its support was not provided (until much later). Why the subterfuge? Was the party hoping the public wouldn’t notice its “yes” vote?

And, if they’ve screwed up on this bill, what else are DA MPs supporting that runs counter to the their party’s vision and ideals? Is it too much to expect the DA’s parliamentarians to have a thorough understanding of what the party stands for? That while it strongly values redress, it believes this should not be achieved on the basis of race – that the key criteria for redress should be disadvantage, and not a racial proxy?

The confusion around this legislation is deeply concerning. Several DA MPs have — somewhat incomprehensibly — spoken on record in favour of it. And yet, it should be manifestly clear to the party’s MPs that it is contrary to its values. If they can’t grasp that, how can voters be expected to figure out what on earth the party stands for? If DA public representatives support racialism, they can always join the party defined by it – I’m sure the ANC would be happy to have them.

The DA’s parliamentary caucus should stop taking those who voted them into power for granted. They entered the National Assembly to serve. To scrutinise. To uphold the values which the DA espouses. They are not there to sleepwalk their way to entrenched racialism.

I hope the DA soon realises that while broadening its support is important, basing this growth on a foundation of principle is essential. It’s unfortunate if some of its members believe that the only way to increase black support is to support racial engineering. Indeed, it’s an insult to the very people they are trying to attract.

The DA has long talked about offering voters an alternative. In parliament three weeks ago, it came perilously close to abandoning this ambition entirely. In a bid for power, pragmatism should never erode principle. If it wants to achieve its vision of a South Africa in which reconciliation and redress are achieved, delivery is successful, and diversity is valued, then it is time for the party to not just talk about these values, but for its parliamentary caucus to start living them.


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Ideas must trump race for democracy to survive

DA leader Helen Zille neatly sums up the underlying challenge to the sustainability of South Africa’s democracy in “SA Today”, her weekly newsletter:

Breaking the racial logjam is essential for democracy in South Africa to survive. If elections are always a racial census, one party will always be in power. This has been the root cause of the ‘failed state’ phenomenon on our continent. Knowing they won’t ever be voted out of office is what leads politicians to abuse power and to steal people’s money in an ever-worsening spiral of corruption. They have the freedom to loot with freedom from accountability.

The greatest political challenge we have in South Africa is to ensure that voters’ choices are not based on race, but on alternative policy choices for the future. A shift closer to this ideal is in everyone’s interest, because unless we achieve it, the chances are great that we will also end up as a failed state.

Read the rest of Zille’s piece here.

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How corruption sustains the ANC – and is killing our democracy

Official opposition leader Helen Zille’s latest weekly newsletter offers up an essential analysis of why corruption within the ANC is endemic and how its deep, poisonous tentacles are steadily strangling South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

Read it below:

Why Zuma couldn’t stop corruption, even if he wanted to

The utterances of the ANC today have all the hallmarks of the double-think of George Orwell’s 1984. If you haven’t read the book, double-think involves holding two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. This means that when your actions contradict your words, you actually believe your own propaganda.

Examples of ANC double-think abound, but nowhere is it more apparent than its stance on corruption.

How often have we seen commentators praising ANC leaders, including the President, for their tough talk on corruption? It always ends with rhetoric. Action never follows.

When the President launched the ANC’s manifesto before the last election, he said:

“Most importantly, the ANC will step up measures in the fight against corruption within its ranks and the State…this will include measures to review the tendering system, to ensure that ANC members in business, public servants and elected representatives do not abuse the State for corrupt practices.”

In his State of the Nation address this year, he said: “We will pay particular attention to combating corruption and fraud in procurement and tender processes…” He said the same thing the year before. Yet, we have seen no measures introduced to actually do anything about corruption.

These repeated anti-corruption promises are deeply ironic given the cloud of corruption that hangs over the President himself. Extreme double-think must be necessary for Zuma to speak of his “zero tolerance” approach to corruption when he knows how many quashed charges hang over his own head. More than that. As he attacks corruption, President Zuma knows that the ANC undermined the independence of the National Prosecuting Authority to avoid ANC leaders, including himself, having to answer corruption charges in court. The Constitution itself is being sacrificed to the ANC’s corruption.

What’s more, the ANC has even set up front companies to institutionalise corruption. Most notorious is Chancellor House. Its purpose is to channel tenders and contracts from the ANC in government to the ANC in business in order to enrich the ANC and its leaders. Straight, institutionalised corruption.

Chancellor House facilitated the deal between Eskom and Hitachi Africa, to manufacture boilers for the proposed Medupi Power Station, from which the ANC stands to make an estimated R1-billion tax free profit. Eskom will have to pay with taxpayers’ money. And, as a result, the ANC will become one of the wealthiest political parties in the world. Let South Africans remember this when they pay their inflated electricity bills.

So, while some in the ANC leadership rail against the proliferation of tenderpreneurs, the ANC has become the tenderpreneur-in-chief. A pattern is emerging here: the more corrupt the ANC becomes, the tougher its anti-corruption stance. Indeed, this is how double-think works. The graver the deed, the greater the falsehood required to neutralise it in one’s mind.

It is time for everyone to realise that corruption is not just an aberration in the ANC that must be ‘rooted out’ from time to time. The ANC needs corruption to survive, it is its lifeblood. It needs it to fund its election campaigns. It needs it to pay the loyalty networks necessary for ANC leaders to entrench their power. And it needs corruption to pay for its leadership’s lifestyles. ANC leaders in the party, the state, and in business have become an interlocked network of patronage and corruption. Everyone knows that everyone else is corrupt, so they cover up for each other, and abuse power to tighten their grip, undermining independent institutions and eliminating opposition both inside and outside the Party.

In the process, the ANC is turning South Africa into a criminal state. What will it take to get us out of this sordid mess?

The obvious thing would be for President Zuma to stop talking about corruption and take decisive action to actually expose and prevent it. He could announce anti-corruption measures such as preventing political parties from doing business with the state. He could announce laws which prevent government employees from doing business with government. And, he could stop the deployment of cadres to parastatals and institutions integral to the fight against corruption, such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). He could re-instate the independence of the criminal justice system to expose and prosecute corruption without fear or favour.

But he cannot do any of these things without exposing himself and his closest political allies to criminal prosecution. The criminal justice system has been perverted as an instrument for persecuting political opponents and protecting political allies. But even this selective use of the criminal justice system is becoming difficult because the entire ANC edifice — allies and opponents alike — are caught in what Allister Sparks calls a ‘corruption gridlock’. Senior ANC members have so much dirt on each other, that they dare not take action against corruption. If one goes down, he will take the rest down with them. This is precisely what Jacob Zuma himself threatened to do when faced with prosecution relating to the arms deal before he became President.

This explains why the corruption in the arms deal was so successfully covered up. It explains why Julius Malema was able to get away with what he did and said before any rebuke whatsoever from Zuma. It explains why Schabir Shaik is still on medical parole, despite no evidence that he is terminally ill.

In all of these cases, the ANC leadership is paralysed because of its dubious past and future interest in maintaining the status quo. Zuma cannot go beyond rhetoric and take real action against corruption for fear of alienating those who have enough information to bring him down. His time and energy is spent placating those who hold this power over him instead of governing. This is the consequence of endemic corruption.

Most people think Zuma needed to avoid jail so he could become President. Actually, the opposite is true. Zuma needed to become President so that he could avoid jail.

Now that he has succeeded, Zuma is paralysed as a President. You can be sure that nothing will come of his rebuke of Malema. There will be no tough anti-corruption measures taken while he is in office. And, in time, Schabir Shaik will receive a presidential pardon.

If we dig deep enough, I believe we would discover that Jacob Zuma continues to benefit from corrupt relationships to this day. The lifestyle of his family is too lavish to be affordable on his presidential income. We wonder how he can spend R65 million – which he has insisted is his own money – renovating his residence at Nkandla. And we marvel at how he can support his wives, his fiancée and 20 children on a single salary.

But we also know that his family members, including his wives, are involved in over 100 companies – some of which benefit from state contracts. It was therefore not surprising that Zuma missed the deadline to declare his financial interests by 10 months, and only disclosed his assets when public pressure forced him to. The irresistible inference is that his advisors were sanitising his business interests for public consumption.

All of this tells us why Zuma cannot get tough on corruption, even if he wanted to. The cronies he relies on for political support benefit from corruption too much. Not only this, the ANC benefits. Most of all, Zuma and his family benefit.

This week, the DA tabled private members legislation in the National Assembly that, if passed, would put an end to political parties doing business with the state. This would have prevented the ANC from using its influence at Eskom to grant a multi-billion rand state contract to a company it has a stake in.

Also this week, we announced new legislation in the Western Cape, where the DA governs, that will prevent state employees and their families from doing business with the state, because of the clear conflict of interest this presents.

I have challenged President Zuma to implement this legislation at national level and I look forward to seeing his response. But I am not holding my breath. After all, he is caught in a corruption gridlock. He has too much to lose from taking decisive action against graft.

But what Zuma and his cronies need to understand is that, if they do not act against corruption in their ranks soon, they will lose in the end. They must remember that we live in a democracy and that they are subject to the will of the people. The time will come when even the ANC’s staunchest supporters will realise what their party has become. The only remedy available in a democracy is to vote for an alternative.

As ANC NEC member Jeremy Cronin said this week: “The ANC should realise overwhelmingly that the honeymoon is over.”

–end of newsletter–

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Travelling down the DA’s Country Road

Early last year I complained that the DA’s image was too rich, too old, too white. I wrote, “Clearly brand DA is in need of a major overhaul, a major injection of cool. Its fusty look is rather reminiscent of what Woolworths was like 10 or 15 years ago when people under 30 refused to be seen dead inside a Woolworths store.”

This was having a discernible impact on its support amongst the youth, who found joining the DA was effectively social suicide. “As such,” I said, “its reputedly attractive members are remaining unloved and unlaid — leaving me wondering as to whether alliances (democratic or otherwise) will occur to ensure the reproduction of little Helens, Tonys and Joes in the years to come.”

I noticed that this was despite the DA’s intelligent policies that offered a blueprint to stimulate entrepreneurship, nourish education and tackle crime. And also despite its ranks being filled with bright young things with an alphabet soup of degrees and awards.

Now, like Woolworths, the DA has had a makeover – doubtless earning the gratitude of its younger members for staving off eternal celibacy. The party’s logo was Obamarised. Its leader started tweeting and doing song-and-dance routines to keep drug dealers awake at night. An online social network of DA supporters was created. The party also got major street cred amongst Capetonians because when it was elected in 2006, they finally got a functioning municipality.

But not just was the party prettied, it also developed a sexy sub-brand. The Country Road equivalent – cutting-edge, classy, cool. Welcome to the DA Young Leaders’ Programme. What’s so hot about a youth movement, you might be wondering? Well. This is different. It’s not the veld-and-vlei fandangos of the FF+’s youth league (brownshirts are so 1936). Or the Sandton parties and beer-bottle battles of the ANCYL. Or even the SACP Youth League’s caviar communism – business class flights to cushy conferences, anyone?

No. The DA Young Leaders’ Programme is a rigorous part-time course in leadership. During the programme’s four retreats you’ll meet guest speakers from both within and outside of the DA. You’ll have workshops on politics, personal development and public speaking. And between each retreat you’ll have plenty of reading (about politics and leadership, of course).  You’ll also be typing up writing assignments and attending one-on-one life coaching sessions that will help you overcome obstacles to your growth as a leader. And to prove you’re not just a paper tiger, you’ll be overseeing your very own a leadership project which can be anything from a soup kitchen to a clothing brand – the choice is yours.

The DA is taking a gamble by investing in you – you’re not signing your life away or under any obligation to serve in the party – though obviously they would like you to). Why are they prepared to take this risk? Because the party genuinely wants to deepen the pool of young people that can one day lead South Africa – in politics, business, civil society and elsewhere.

And don’t think this is only for white protestant males from Houghton (there was only one of those this year!). People from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, languages, genders are welcome and, indeed, encouraged to enrol in the programme.

If you’re between the ages of 18 and 35, and want to help South Africa reach its potential then what are you waiting for?

Believe me. It’s a lot cheaper than Country Road.

Visit www.youngleaders.org.za for more info.

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ANC will savage any opposition to its bid for perpetual rule

Leaked plans by the ANC to destabilise and distract from opposition leader Helen Zille from fulfilling her duties as premier of the Western Cape shows the contempt that our ruling party has for democracy.

After several years of the ANC’s chaotic mismanagement and paltry delivery, the Western Cape’s voters decisively elected the DA to run the province. In moves startlingly reminiscent to its repeated attempts to topple the DA-led Cape Town council, it is clear that the ANC simply cannot accept that its totalitarian agenda has been thwarted by Zille.

The ANC clearly isn’t interested in creating “a better life for all” as its slogan cynically claims. This is because the planned attempts to disrupt Zille’s administration will hurt the poor hardest. Zille has emphasised that service delivery and the practical obligations of her party’s much vaunted “open opportunity society” are her key priorities. Should she be prevented by the ANC from fulfilling this, then the poor – who would be the most significantly affected by her programme of action – will suffer.

Blinded by its elite’s relentless pursuit for power and privilege, the ANC’s track record local and provincial government – especially in strongholds like the Eastern Cape – has been that of abysmal incompetence and corruption, with the poor remaining shackled by apartheid’s legacy. Little wonder that the party cannot bear to be shown up by a principled, effective white woman who gets things done and actually genuinely cares about the plight of the impoverished.

When the MK Veterans Association threatened to make the Western Cape ungovernable after Helen Zille dared to exercise her right to free speech (even if she displayed unseemly insensitivity in the process), there was not even a whisper of condemnation from the ANC for this brazen, illegal incitement to violence. Making a province ungovernable is tantamount to rejecting the rule of law, and the constitution that underpins it. But this implicit endorsement of violent intolerance is not surprising. As we shall doubtless see in the months to come, the ANC will use its attack dogs – whether they be a semiliterate Youth League or washed-up war veterans – to brutally undermine any opposition that stands in the way of its bid for perpetual rule.


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Sleeping around goes viral

Profundities expressed by the ANC’s Youth League spokesman have become a popular hit online, with the recording of  his conversation with talk show host Redi Direko having already over 12000 hits.

Watch it here.

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“Two-thirds gevaar” was reasoned, not racist

In a recent ANC Today, President Kgalema Motlanthe rehashes an article he wrote in the run up to the 1999 elections in which he criticised the then DP’s calls to prevent a two-thirds majority as “a fear of democracy”. In that decade-old piece he said:

Lacking a coherent or realisable vision for a better South Africa, these parties have fallen back on the promotion of fear to erode the ANC’s support and to generate a mood of resistance to meaningful change.

The ‘swart gevaar’ and ‘rooi gevaar’, now devoid of their previous menace, have mutated into the two-thirds gevaar.

If fear is the opposition’s most enduring weapon, then a two-thirds ANC majority is their latest ammunition.

He adds a postscript:

In the decade since this article was first published, the ANC has in fact held a two-thirds majority in Parliament. In all this time it has not used this majority to change the Constitution in the way that these opposition parties predicted. It is has no intention to do so now. This is the Constitution for which the ANC fought, and we will continue to do everything we can to defend it.

That is a blatant lie. With cabinet’s approval of the Seventeenth Constitutional Amendment Bill, we can see why the electorate depriving the ANC of its ability to change the Constitution is imminently sensible and vital for the sustainability of our democracy.

The bill seeks to grant wide-ranging powers to central government to intervene in the operations of local government, thereby wholly undermining local government’s constitutionally-mandated autonomy. Government is claiming it will use the bill to speed up service delivery and force municipalities to accept the role of Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs) – until now, these have been reluctant to do so, as they buy electricity straight from Eskom. But the problem with the bill is that it would give power to do much more than that. As a Sapa article mentions:

Asked why the proposed amendment did not limit itself to letting central government intervene on electricity, Maseko said the State might later need greater powers in other areas and did not want to change the Constitution constantly.

“We don’t want to amend the Constitution on an almost annual basis. If we did, it would stop providing certainty. So we thought it was better to give government the powers and trust… it will not use the powers willy-nilly.”

Past behaviour is no guarantee for the future. Just because the ANC hasn’t substantively changed the Constitution in the past does not mean that it won’t do so in the future. This much is illustrated with the current amendment bill, where the resulting unwarranted accumulation of power in the hands of central government could prevent opposition-run councils from governing unimpeded by central government interference.

With the ANC having tried their utmost to topple Cape Town’s opposition-run council (including a bid by former Local Government MEC Richard Dyantyi to strip Helen Zille of her executive mayoralty), the DA has every reason to be worried. Its Stop Zuma campaign aims to turn out enough people to prevent potential abuses of power that a two-thirds majority – and hence the ability to change the Constitution – would thus enable. Unfortunately some people claim this is irrational hysteria – “swart-gevaar” tactics by any other name. To the uninformed or the blindly bigoted, it may come across that way. But it’s not.

The DA’s track record and vision proves that its vociferous campaigning against a two-thirds ANC victory is for the right reasons. Unfortunately, though, in focusing so zealously on Zuma — which doubtless is of vital importance — an insufficient emphasis on the DA’s ideals, vision and manifesto has resulted.

For people to know that the DA isn’t the reactionary, racist minority party that Motlanthe and the ANC like to depict it as, the DA needs to work harder to put across its vision to the millions who (by dint of the SABC’s propaganda and insufficient access to information) remain unaware of what the party represents.

In advocating an “Open Opportunity Society”, the DA aims to achieve sustainable transformation by encouraging innovation not by rewarding party loyalty. Its policies, especially with regards to the challenges of dismantling the legacy of apartheid (which the ANC has entrenched), is informed by “a clear acknowledgment that there is a long history of racial discrimination and oppression in South Africa, that it was wrong and that positive action is now required to make it right. That positive action must be targeted at individuals who still suffer the effects of discrimination, not at groups. It must provide opportunity to the disadvantaged without shutting off opportunity to the advantaged.”

This is why the DA is a proponent of an Income Grant of R110 per month for people earning less than R46000 a year. This is why it proposes a voucher system “aimed at giving the most academically promising 250 000 children from low income families the opportunity to receive a better school education.” This is why it suggests giving “young South Africans who meet certain conditions an opportunity voucher, which will allow them to subsidise study costs or start a business.”

And if the proof indeed is in the pudding, then its record thus far as the largest party in the City of Cape Town’s ruling coalition is very promising. The City wrote off R1.5 billion worth of debt owed to it by the poorest of the poor. It has provided free water and electricity to impoverished areas ignored by the ANC when it was in power. It has also more than doubled the rate at which council housing is being delivered.

Both its manifesto and track record of governing Cape Town prove that the DA is a viable, prinicpled alternative to the ruling party — far from being an ethnically-based minority party seeking to deny apartheid’s painful legacy and only promoting the interests of one population segment.

Campaigning to stop Zuma from potential abuses of power is important and should doubtless be a key part of the DA’s campaign messaging. But for if the DA is to ever build critical mass, it needs to focus on getting the message through to the electorate that not only does it oppose Zuma, it is a better alternative to him and the party he leads — better for poor people, better for rich people: better for all South Africans.

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