There is no doubt that we need to fix the DA. We need to rediscover who we are and go forward as one party. We need to get on with governing, and we need to get back to winning, writes John Steenhuisen
As a candidate for the DA leadership, I’ll be the first to admit that we have had a challenging couple of years. Somewhere along the way we got disorientated. We lost sight of who were we and where we were going. We can, and we must, fix this.
One thing I have learnt in my two decades in politics is that you can never take the electorate for granted. Voters will punish you when you stray from your principles, but they will also reward you when you stand up for them with a clear set of values and a solid plan.
I want to get the DA back to winning ways.
This means fixing the party without being fixated on internal politics.
It means being introspective about what has gone wrong without navel gazing. And it means developing a clear policy offer to the electorate rooted in our values.
I sense an incredible new mood in our party. We are starting to believe again. After a difficult couple of years, we are starting to regroup, to move forward as one.
This unity of purpose is incredibly important.
Our political opponents want us to follow them down the rabbit hole of racial division.
Because, when South Africans are divided, and the DA is divided, they succeed. Our job is to rise above all this, to bring people together and to fight for their future.
Last week, I released my manifesto to fix the DA and to fix South Africa.
I am not going to pretend that I have all the solutions. I don’t. But I think, as a candidate for the party leadership, I should be open and honest on where I stand on issues.
When it comes to the economy, I am proud to say I am pro-growth.
We should be doing everything we can to promote growth in our country. Because with growth comes jobs. And we all know that, if we don’t solve the unemployment crisis, our people will never escape poverty.
When it comes to welfare, I am all for a social security safety net. We need to find a way of increasing social grants to protect the most vulnerable – especially the hundreds of thousands of children who don’t get the nutrients they need for their development.
When it comes to health care, I am unequivocally against the NHI. I think it will destroy private health care and what is left of public health care. And it will bankrupt our country in the process. We have a brilliant health plan. And it is viable, it is affordable, and it is implementable.
When it comes to education, I think we need to innovate much more. The inequality in our education system is a tragedy on a grand scale. We need to find ways to give poor children opportunities to compete with wealthy children. My manifesto unpacks a few of my ideas to do that.
When it comes to empowerment, I think we can all agree that apartheid was an immoral system. It was a crime against humanity that stripped black people of their dignity and destroyed their economic prospects. We need to redress this.
But empowering the same beneficiaries again and again is not real empowerment.
All it means is the empowerment of a new elite at the expense of poor people.
We need to broaden the net, to make sure that poor people benefit, and I have a proposal to ensure that disadvantaged South Africans benefit from BEE.
When it comes to land reform, we must all acknowledge the need for a more equal distribution of land ownership.
But if we want to speed up land reform we need to deal decisively with the corruption and inefficiency at the Department of Human Settlements.
We must never budge on property rights. These rights are the foundation of our economy because, when people fear their property being taken away, they stop investing in our country, and people lose their jobs.
And finally, I want to raise the matter of violent crime. I am sick and tired of the mindless violence in our cities, in our towns and on our farms. I am sickened by gender-based violence and by those who use it as a political football.
As DA leader, I will work to declare gender-based violence a priority crime, classify femicide as a distinct criminal offence, and create dedicated investigative and victim support units.
I will decentralise the police to provincial level to make them more accountable to the communities they serve. I will also declare farm murders a priority crime and roll out our comprehensive rural safety plan that empowers local communities to fight back.
The DA will be holding its policy conference on April 4 and 5, where we will engage in robust debate on the DA’s plan to fix South Africa. My mind is open.
I want to hear other perspectives, and I want every DA member to bring their ideas to the table.
Because we must differ with each other and we must debate ideas with each other in the appropriate forums and in a way that finds common ground, that builds our organisation.
There is no doubt that we need to fix the DA. We need to rediscover who we are and go forward as one party. We need to get on with governing, and we need to get back to winning.
We can break the ANC’s political monopoly that keeps people in poverty. And we can build a diverse DA that will one day govern this country.
– Steenhuisen is a candidate for the position of DA leader.