Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 6 May 2014

A historic election goes down to the wire

As South Africans go to the polls on Wednesday, I wanted to share with you some reflections on the most closely contested election in Gauteng’s history. Even with one day to go, the polls continue to show us that change is possible in South Africa’s economic heartland. It is possible for the ANC to be brought under 50% in Gauteng. This outcome would be an historic victory for change, democracy and accountability.

The reason for this swing away from the ANC is simple.

Monday’s job stats show us that Gauteng lost jobs over the last year and now has an unemployment rate of 30%, affecting the lives of over two million unemployed people here. The fact is our country’s economic hub is not delivering opportunities fast enough for the millions of South Africans who call this place home.

That is reason enough for us to go to the polls on Wednesday and ensure that we bring change to Gauteng. It is with this message that we started a bus tour eight months ago on the streets of Alexandra.

Since then we have travelled over 100,000km doing up to six events a day in taking the message of change to every corner of Gauteng. I will never forget the people I met along the way. Their hardships continue to weigh heavily on my mind to this day.

There was on an old woman in Zandspruit, forced to dig holes in the ground for her family’s toilet. There was a man fetching water from a river in Winterveld who looked up at me and said, “this is on you, we need you to change this”.

These images stay with me. My hope is that enough people committed to change get out and vote so that we can address the horrific living conditions of so many in Gauteng.

Make no mistake, we have put issues on the table in this election.

We have said entrepreneurs must lead job creation in Gauteng through policies of R1 a year rental, support centres, and a fairer tendering system to boost small businesses.

This is a message we have taken to business schools, universities, high schools, and small traders in places like Stwetla, Daveyton and downtown Joburg.

Support of entrepreneurs was a key focus of the Fighting for Jobs Rally where we launched our Gauteng manifesto at the Ellis Park Arena.

In pushing for pro-entrepreneur policies, we have also waged an intensive campaign against this government’s biggest job-killing policy in the form of e-tolls.

We fought the legislation in court and we fought unfair billing practices at the National Consumer Commission. We urged Gauteng residents to fight e-tolls through billboards, sky messaging and community meetings.

We are saying to Gauteng that we will call a referendum so that people can vote against this unjust system.

Our commitment to job creation has remained steadfast throughout.

Nationally we believe our policies can create six million real, permanent jobs in South Africa, over two million of which would be in Gauteng.

Under great threat of intolerance and violence, on the streets of Tembisa, Mamelodi and Protea South, we highlighted the key difference between our focus on permanent employment and the ANC’s focus on so-called “job opportunities”.

But jobs are just one part of capitalizing the millions of Gauteng residents who are outside of the economy.

Through our policy of fast-tracking title deeds for people with government houses they don’t own, we have won endorsements from the Jabulani Homemakers community in Soweto, the Phomolong backyarders Association, Watville Residents Association, Ekhuruleni Residents Association and the Bekkersdal Residents Association.

Nationally we were endorsed by Abahlali base Mjondolo, the biggest shack-dwellers movement in South Africa.

I believe that if we give the 220,000 families in Gauteng their outstanding title deeds we can transform the township economy and bring capital, equity and investment clout to well over a million people.

The problem in Gauteng is that too many people feel hopeless with no access to the economy. That is why we see a nyaope epidemic in this province. That is why we marched with thousands of Eldorado Park residents, joined by the Eldos Drug Action Committee, against drug lords staying in government flat buildings with impunity.

Through this campaign we have united people at the grassroots while extending our reach to social media, broadcast media and print.

And if anyone thought campaigning for change in South Africa was easy then they need only look at the major freedom of speech issues this campaign has highlighted.

We fought and won a court battle when the ANC asked the High Court for a retraction of our SMS to voters that said the Nkandla report shows how Jacob Zuma stole your money.

We won begrudging concessions from the SABC to air our Ayisafani commercials even though they tried their best to keep us from the airwaves.

And so after this long, hard-fought campaign it is surreal to think that there is just one day left.

This was driven home for me this past weekend during our We can Win Concert in Walter Sisulu Square, Kliptown – the same place we launched this campaign back in November with the Believe in Change rally.

On 7 May the voters will decide an historic election in Gauteng. Politics will never be the same again. DM

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