Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 18 May 2014

A place called Gauteng: Reflections on the 2014 elections and the future

It has been more than a week since election day 2014, and there has been much time for reflection; both on the campaign and what we can take from it for the future. I write this piece to reflect on this campaign, the stories I have observed, and what hope exists for so many of us who call Gauteng home.

Over the weeks and months that we travelled the length and breadth of Gauteng, I saw many things, met many people and heard many stories. We set out to meet over 50,000 people, which is the equivalent of one seat on the provincial legislature. These would be South Africans that we would speak to, shake hands with; we would listen to their stories. Memorable of these was a lady I visited who President Zuma had visited three times and who had been promised a house. She still lived in a shack, and to date she truly was in the final phase of her life with limited hope of this taking place.

I write this piece to reflect on this campaign and the stories I have observed and what hope exists for so many of us who call this province home.

There are three stories in particular that epitomise my journey and that reflect the state of this province and government’s role in shaping our lives.

The first of these stories takes place in Midrand. During a campaign stop here, I met a mother with a young child. She came to me and told me that she was concerned that her child could not walk properly. I immediately recognised the distinct features of a child that most probably had Down’s syndrome.

The fact that this mother did not realise that her child probably had this syndrome is a symptom of the absolute failure of our healthcare system to provide all South Africans with quality healthcare.

Had this child been born under different circumstances, the developmental problems would have been picked up immediately and proper care implemented. Equitable and accessible healthcare is not yet a reality for too many of our people. The spatial landscape and net inward migration into Gauteng means that so many still are denied decent healthcare.

The second story is a story of shack fires. Early in the campaign we visited the site of a devastating fire to provide support and food and blankets for the victims. It was heartbreaking to witness the absolute destruction wrought upon people; most of whom lost absolutely everything they owned.

These people are victims of neglect and an uncaring government. Access to basic housing could have spared this community and many others the trauma of such an experience. I will not only continue to fight for the residents of this province to get the title deeds they deserve but in partnership with our people we must find ways to house and provide better shelter for all.

The third story is a story of corruption and the manner in which this disease can kill people’s dignity and hope. During a campaign stop to Sebokeng we were invited to visit a hostel in the area. More than 4,000 people were resident in this hostel. A tender had gone out to fix the overwhelming sewerage problems in the building but thanks to corrupt officials the problem had never been fixed. As a result the living conditions in the hostel were terrible, with residents reduced to living with pigs and other animals.

These stories do not discount the thousands of youth who are without work. This election was indeed about jobs and about these young people. Through the macroeconomic confusion that the ANC has led us into many remain hopeless. I’m not a doomsayer; I simply recognise that without work, hope disappears, and many resort to alternate means of survival.

I maintain, without doubt, that inequality epitomised by the Sandton-Alex socio-economic gap will destabilise Gauteng. If we don’t address the infrastructure backlogs in this province many communities, such as Bekkersdal, will be left without water, electricity, transport, housing or sufficient healthcare.

These stories are just some of the hundreds that I have witnessed over the past few months. I carry them with me and am determined that change is still possible for every single one of these communities.

So in reflection of what has been a gruelling and long campaign, I still hold the belief that change is essential in Gauteng. Real change. I am deeply encouraged by those who voted for change. In particular, the fact that the ANC only scrapped through in many of our big metros is encouraging when we focus on the 2016 elections.

The fact remains that without a change in government, real change will not come to the people of Gauteng or to the rest of South Africa. I remain absolutely committed to work every day for the people of this great province.

That is why I am taking the stories of Sebokeng and the mother in Midrand and the victims of the shack fires to Parliament.

Not a single kilometre that I travelled during this campaign has been a waste. Each one took me to the people and to their stories. Now I am going to take these stories to the National Assembly and to the committees of Parliament.

It is the people’s voices that will go with me to Parliament, but I will return to my constituency in Gauteng to constantly be reminded of what it is that I am fighting for.

Parliament must become a place where both the economist and the victims of corruption in Sebokeng feel equally represented.

South Africa cannot be a place where such glaring inequalities and access to basic services continue to keep people separated and undermined.

The challenges I have seen are borne out of a racial, brutal history of Apartheid. I’m not convinced that the ANC has done enough to transform this. I join the generation of leaders who are resolute in the fight against this legacy in order to build a better, non-racial tomorrow.

Our economic policies must rid our government of corruption and create inclusivity. They must be capacitated by state institutions with the ability to deliver and with the coherence to fight for a better life for all South Africans.

In the next few weeks, will write at length about inequality, about race and mobilisation, about the plight of miners in Marikana and about key clauses of legislation.

I am looking forward to a new chapter in the South African political space, which as the 2014 election results reflect, is changing fast. The change that people really need is not yet here, but it is coming. I thank each and every single person who voted for us for their support and take this opportunity to pledge my commitment to taking the fight forward and bringing government closer to the people. DM

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