South Africa


SOPA opera, the final act: Zille swansong becomes an electioneering melodrama

SOPA opera, the final act: Zille swansong becomes an electioneering melodrama
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille in Cape Town, 10 October 2018. Photo: Leila Dougan

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s final State of the Province Address and the subsequent debate has been little more than pure electioneering before the May 8 national elections. Serious issues raised by both the governing and opposition parties in the Western Cape went unnoticed among noisy interjections and walkouts.

Crime, service delivery, housing and education became electioneering tools in Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s State of the Province Address (SOPA) and the debate that followed this week.

Zille delivered her final SOPA as premier on 15 February at the provincial legislature in Cape Town. Her second and final term as Western Cape premier ends after the 8 May national and provincial elections. But her address was soon caught up in a walk-out by ANC members.

Read Daily Maverick’s report on her address, available here.

Tuesday’s debate was turned into an electioneering platform, with opposition parties and the DA predicting control of the hotly contested Western Cape after the elections.

When African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MPL Felon Christians told the DA “your time is up”, and that his party would be in control of the province — both the DA and the ANC MPLs laughed and heckled him.

The DA has failed the people of the Western Cape — and they will remove you,” said Christians, who questioned why the province would allow the sale of alcohol at school events across the province after school hours.

Why do you discriminate against Christian businesses?” asked the ACDP premier candidate, who said the provincial government forced Christian businesses to secure a halaal certificate from an Imam in order to do business with the provincial government.

The ANC’s acting provincial chairperson Khaya Magaxa chided Zille on her legacy in the province: The rising gentrification in Bo-Kaap, inner-city housing for poor black and coloured families and her “refugee” comments on children coming from the Eastern Cape to attend school in the province.

When ANC stepped out of power, crime and unemployment were at lowest points ever, the province maintained a top position in quality of matric passes, and we prioritised free housing delivery for the poor. Ten years later, Premier Zille leaves the Western Cape a murder capital, unemployment especially, (the) youth spiralled out of control and she abolished free housing policies,” said Magaxa.

He added: “The Ramaphoria taking over our province and country is indicative of the changes coming within our organisation and already taking place in our country for the better — and the belief the people have in us… The ticking time-bomb that the socio-economic challenges bring to the people of the Western Cape cannot go ignored any longer.”

Even DA MPLs and MECs did some electioneering during Tuesday’s debate. Alan Winde, MEC for Community Safety and the DA’s premier candidate for the Western Cape, said Magaxa’s accusation that he did not support the anti-gang unit on the Cape Flats was wrong.

False… From its launch, we have welcomed and celebrated this specialised unit. We regard the unit’s successes as a victory for the Western Cape government and all residents in this province, as we have been calling for its reintroduction since disgraced former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi disbanded these units,” said Winde.

The MEC then said the walkout by the ANC was “a failure” and the party’s protest consisted of failures — including “brown envelope failure Rasool on the bus”.

By Thursday afternoon, Zille finally had her chance to respond — and this was again filled with interruptions and interjections by the opposition ANC.

The outgoing premier’s speech was aimed at the ANC — the Guptas, the corruption allegations and the latest Eskom load shedding crisis.

ANC members continually made objections, prompting Speaker Sharna Fernandez to call on opposition members to “show dignity”. Magaxa interrupted her saying she was “a DA Speaker” and not a Speaker of the provincial legislature.

Fernandez eventually ordered Magaxa to leave the session after he had repeatedly interrupted Zille’s tale of a pregnant young woman who had migrated from a village in the Eastern Cape into the land of opportunity — the Western Cape.

Zille’s story of a young woman who didn’t know what an ultrasound was, but knew that the Special Investigating Unit and Hawks were investigating claims of corruption in her small town — angered ANC MPLs – with one member shouting: “This is racist.”

After Fernandez told Magaxa to leave, other ANC members again walked out of the session — repetition of Friday’s walkout.

A seemingly unfazed Zille continued her tale, with only the EFF’s Bernard Joseph sitting in the opposition benches.

But despite Zille’s speech about a woman who moves from a dysfunctional Eastern Cape into the functional Western Cape — the bottom line remained: These speeches and walk-outs were a stark reminder that it is an election year and there are three million possible votes in the province up for grabs.

Promises of housing, hope and opportunity will come from every political party in the province hoping to attract desperate voters looking for the actual change to their present situations. DM


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