Maimane: Let's build a #FairSA
- Greg Nicolson
- South Africa
- 08 Mar 2016 12:15 (South Africa)
The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday launched #FairSA, its plan for a more equitable society which it will take to communities across the country ahead of the local government elections. But is it enough to get voters to bite? By GREG NICOLSON.
“This is where I was born and raised,” said Herman Mashaba, entrepreneur and DA candidate for mayor of Johannesburg. Wearing a big fedora, he was walking through the streets of Ramotse, Hammanskraal, where he learnt the skills of business as a young man while hustling to make a profit.
Ramotse’s roads are mostly unpaved and it has a mix of shacks and small but respectable houses. Residents say there are problems with both water and electricity. Under the scorching sun, Mashaba said there was hope for the area in 1994, with roads, jobs and services being delivered. That hope has now been lost and the area needs change, he concluded.
That is, basically, the DA’s position going into the municipal elections as it fights for Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
“Fairness is about sharing the opportunities you and I have. It’s not about being selfish,” said DA Gauteng leader John Moodey, kicking off the event. Since its federal congress last year, the party has emphasised the fundamentals of its Values Charter, neatly packaged as freedom, fairness and opportunity, and sells them at all occasions.
Monday was the launch of the DA’s #FairSA (note the obligatory hashtag), which it plans to tour across communities in key constituencies where it believes the ANC is failing. Like the party’s Vision 2029, #FairSA continues the DA's imaginings of a better South Africa and was billed to provide details of policies the party would implement to improve equality and overcome divisions established by past and present governments.
“Today we say South Africa is unfair. We are here to build a fair South Africa,” said DA leader Mmusi Maimane to the 100 supporters gathered in the heat.
“The DA is absolutely 100 percent committed to overcoming the structural inequality that makes South Africa such an unfair society. It will require hard work, dedication and purposeful action to overcome the distortions and disadvantages of our painful past,” said the script from his speech.
Much of what Maimane said followed the line established by former party leader Helen Zille and the DA’s Values Charter, but in a year when the issues of structural inequality and racism are leading the national discourse, he also tapped into current issues. “It’s time for change,” he said.
He spoke extensively on how futures are currently determined by where and how you grow up, saying it’s not fair that those who grow up in Waterkloof have access to quality education, services and job opportunities while those in Mamelodi don’t. Some people are free in South Africa, but most aren’t, he said.
While effectively saying the ANC hasn’t been able to improve life for enough black South Africans, Maimane also spoke extensively about racism and reiterated his statements from earlier in the year that the DA isn’t for racists.
“If you are racist, you must go there,” he said of other parties, whom he accused of clutching to race issues to hide their lack of values. “Here we are not a party of racists,” he reiterated, countering the argument espoused by ANC and EFF alike that the DA prioritises white interests.
Maimane painted a vision of a nonracial and united South Africa, a touch of Mandela rainbowism at a time when many say the rainbow has faded. As Afrikaans is being challenged as a medium of instruction at some universities, Maimane said we should instead be focused on creating new academic languages other than English and Afrikaans.
The DA leader spoke on the government’s failures in land reform, BBBEE, education and service delivery but was light on policy detail. He said a DA government would focus on delivering title deeds in urban areas and employee share ownership schemes on farms. On black economic empowerment, he said under the ANC it only benefits the elite and it needs to be used to make black-owned businesses the norm rather than he exception.
As far as election hashtags go, #FairSA isn’t bad. Maimane showed on Monday he is willing to acknowledge and speak against structural inequalities that limit the hopes of black South Africans. It seeks to woo those who still believe the current system can work, with a few tweaks to take us back to the founding values of democracy and improvements in service delivery. In between the polemics, it could resonate among moderate voters.
The question is, with the DA continually criticised as a party for white interests, will people buy it? Or, perhaps more important, will those who are looking for an alternative to the ANC buy it? DM
Photo: DA leader Mmusi Maimane addressed supporters at the launch of the party's #FairSA campaign in Hammanskraal on Monday (Greg Nicolson)