“The incapable head of an incapable state.”
This is how DA interim leader John Steenhuisen described President Cyril Ramaphosa in his “alternative State of the Nation Address” in Cape Town on Wednesday, a day before Ramaphosa is due to deliver the real deal to an expectant nation.
Over the past two weeks, Steenhuisen has criss-crossed the country, following in the footsteps of the DA’s “founding member and first lady of liberalism, Helen Suzman”.
“Her famous motto was ‘go see for yourself’. And by tirelessly visiting prisons, townships and funerals, by meeting with banned individuals and by writing and answering thousands of letters, she got to a truth that no one else in Parliament would ever admit to,” Steenhuisen said.
“Fast-forward many decades later, and it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
He said Parliament had once again become “a place of fairy tales and spin – where the ruling party will do all it can to present a sugar-coated version of the past, present and future, and hide the ugly truth from the people”.
Steenhuisen said he was expecting Ramaphosa to downplay the bad and invent the good.
“Last year it was high-tech cities and speeding bullet trains. What will it be this year? Already he is talking about building a Cape to Cairo highway, while he can’t even get the road to Mthatha fixed,” he said to muted laughter from the DA’s public representatives and supporters in the audience.
“All this while our economic doomsday clock ticks ever closer to midnight.”
Steenhuisen told of his recent travels, and said the people he had met had two things in common:
they are all, in one way or another, victims of this government.
Victims of its failure to deliver services, victims of load shedding,
victims of unemployment and victims of the daily crime that government
cannot protect them from.
“And two, they don’t dwell in their
victimhood. All the people I spoke to were resilient and resourceful.
They were hustling to get by in the face of indescribable obstacles.
“They were surviving despite this government.”
He said having listened to Ramaphosa delivering the ANC’s January 8 address and having read his recent newsletters, he expects the phrase “capable state” to be a mantra in his address.
“And, although it has been pointed out to him that this has been a core DA principle for the past two decades, he has continued to bandy it about as though the ANC had just thought of it,” Steenhuisen said.
“The irony, of course, is that the entire philosophy of the ANC-in-government is the very antithesis of the capable state.”
DA’s vision for South Africa
He said that, ever since the ANC officially adopted the policy of cadre deployment in 1997, the state’s capability had been slowly eroded to the point where it was hard to find a single ANC-run department, local government or parastatal that was not in a constant state of crisis or looting.
“We’ve seen what cadre deployment has done to Eskom. We’ve seen what it has done to SAA. We’ve seen what it has done to Prasa, Denel, Transnet, SABC and every other state-owned enterprise.
“But if you really want to see the devastation caused by this practice, you need to visit the towns and villages that seldom make the national news cycle. Because here the destruction of the state and its inability to deliver is on full display, 24 hours a day.
“What I saw these past two weeks across the breadth of South Africa is the real state of our nation, and the true legacy of this ANC government: The Incapable State.”
He said Ramaphosa, who was supposed to lead them out of this “nightmare” was himself “stuck in his own quicksand of warring factions and crippling indecisiveness”.
“The incapable head of an incapable state.”
He presented the DA’s vision for South Africa – “an open opportunity society for all” – as the alternative and said it is shared by many South Africans, even those outside of the DA.
“This vision speaks of a society where one set of rules binds everyone equally – where a connected elite doesn’t get to play by its own rules,” he said.
“A society where every person has the freedom to pursue their own dreams and create for themselves a life of meaning and value.”
Steenhuisen said it was a South Africa where all the state-enabled opportunities made it possible for people to live their own lives with dignity and independence, but for those who still needed it, there would be a social safety net to ensure that no one suffered the brutal effects of extreme poverty.
“This vision is our entire project in the DA. Our dream is to help build a South Africa of opportunity for all – a country where every individual has the freedom to choose their own path in life.”
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