Campaign Diary Week 5: DA Manifesto Launch marks beginning of Election 2011
Manifesto Launch – Kliptown
The Democratic Alliance (DA) Manifesto Launch this past Saturday in Kliptown, Soweto marked the start of our local government election campaign in earnest. We have, of course, been preparing for this crucial election since the end of 2009, just as we have already begun to think about the 2014 general election during the course of this campaign. Nevertheless, Kliptown was a seminal moment, as it was the first time the DA was able to stand up and declare on the basis of sound experience that it is now a party of government.
This has been a significant departure from previous election campaigns. In the past, what we have been able to offer South Africa’s voters is a party with a long track record of effective opposition – providing oversight over the governing party, and ensuring the Executive is continuously and rigorously held to account for its actions in office. We continue to do that in all three spheres of government, but what we were also able to offer South Africa for the first time in Kliptown last Saturday, was a party with a proven and effective track record in government, with the DA-led City of Cape Town as its flagship municipality.
The choice of Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown – the place where the Freedom Charter was first adopted by the Congress of the People in 1955 – as the location for our launch was also significant. The message was twofold: the DA is a party that remembers the events of South Africa’s difficult past, and we will never forget the sacrifices that were made to secure the democratic dispensation in which we operate today. But we are also a party of the future, and our future lies beyond the municipalities of the Western Cape, in which we have made significant inroads in electoral support. With a foothold in government in two other provinces (Gauteng and the Eastern Cape), Johannesburg – and Soweto in particular – symbolises the next frontier for the Democratic Alliance, and it is in this election that we plan to lay the foundation for our future success as a party of government in other provinces, and ultimately, nationally.
This Sunday’s weekly SABC Election Debate at the University of Johannesburg was boisterous and eventful as ever – with party supporters from the DA, ANC, IFP and PAC, as well as citizens groups from diverse Gauteng neighbourhoods turning out in their numbers to support and engage with the panellists on the issue of service delivery protests. The debate highlighted an aspect of constitutional democracy that does not get quite as much attention in South Africa as it should: the absence of the fundamental link in the minds of voters between casting their ballot, and getting a particular government in return. This is significant in part because of the identity dynamics behind so many voters’ choices – a remnant of our painfully divided apartheid past. Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane – who represented the ANC in the debate – made this point himself when he said that many of the people who protest against their local ANC government are themselves ANC supporters.
In other words, unlike the citizens of North Africa’s Arab states, where the recent wave of anti-government protests has been driven by frustration with the absence of democratic freedom in those countries, service delivery protesters in South Africa vote for the ANC on one day, and protest against it the next. South Africans have yet to acknowledge that they still have at their disposal a powerful weapon in the fight against corruption and maladministration: the vote.
DA Cape Town Mayoral Candidate Patricia de Lille also alluded to this issue at the Manifesto Launch when she urged South Africans to “Lend us your vote for five years, and see if we can do a better job than the ruling party. If we don’t, then lend your vote to somebody else!” We will truly be on course towards building a multi-party democracy when voters’ electoral choices are an expression of whether or not they are satisfied with their incumbent government, rather than an expression of who they are.
The Cape Town Story
Lastly, while we remained camped out in Johannesburg (which will be the case for much of this election), Monday saw the launch of the DA’s Cape Town Story from the 50th floor of the iconic Carlton Centre – a venue with sweeping and dramatic views of the metropolis below.
In attendance was the DA’s new candidate for the Mayor of Johannesburg, Mmusi Maimane, for whom the story of the DA’s successes in turning around Cape Town – which 5 years ago was South Africa’s worst metro municipality, and today is its best – will be a pivotal part of his offer to the voters of Joburg. Like the data from other municipalities we govern, such as Baviaans in the Eastern Cape and Midvaal in Gauteng, our record makes the choice for South Africa’s voters simpler than it has ever been: between a party with a proven track record of corruption, maladministration and inefficiency at local government level, and a party running municipalities that a long succession of government and private institutions have named the best in South Africa.
Ultimately, that is what makes this 2011 Municipal Election fundamentally different to previous polls. And it is also what makes the DA different.