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Political and social cohesion in the Western Cape: The true cost of the DA’s failure to govern


Zahir Amien and Dr Phillip Dexter are both members of the ANC. They write in their personal capacity.

The DA and the ANC have both had opportunities to govern the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town and most of the smaller towns of the province – the ANC from 2002 -2006 in the city and most other municipalities, and 2002-2009 in the province. The balance sheet is enough to make any grownup weep.

While there have been periods of higher rates of investment, economic growth, some job creation and increased rollout of services, given the economic base that was started from during the period 2002 until 2009, today the Western Cape is underperforming compared to many provinces in the country in terms of socio-economic transformation.

Recently, disasters such as the water shortage crisis have been visited on the people of the Western Cape. Last week, racial conflict began to rear its ugly head between the historically disadvantaged African and coloured communities of Siqalo and Mitchells Plain. In the past few months there have been service delivery protests, protests over the lack of housing and, in particular, urban habitat.

If the Western Cape wants to position itself as a modern, innovative province and if it is to maximise its competitive advantages, then political, government, business and labour leaders will have to change the way they think about the economy, urban development, social cohesion, racial, religious and social integration, and governance in general. While the ANC has had its own fair share of problems, challenges and crisis over the past decade, it is clear that the DA’s racist and illiberal, neoconservative ideology

is visiting nothing but bad karma on the province.

Nationally, the NGO PLAAS says that historically disadvantaged people – which for the purposes of this contribution includes people who were classified as Black, Bantu, African, coloured, Indian – own 15% of the land. In the Western Cape, it is claimed by AFASA that historically disadvantaged people own 1%. Africa Check claims that the direct ownership of listed assets nationally is 10%, and indirect 13%. Statistics SA paints a slightly different picture.

Yet they all indicate the perilous state of land ownership by historically disadvantaged people. When it comes to wealth, 40% of the population, the majority of whom are historically disadvantaged people, own no wealth at all. It is even more challenging to determine the figures for the Western Cape because the DA does not want to reveal this information. Yet, if one takes a drive through Langa, Gugulethu, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Hanover Park, Khayelitsha, Delft and Mfuleni, it is clear that there is no positive difference to the national picture.

The same is true of unemployment and housing. Yet unlike in other provinces where the ANC has recognised these failures and is putting in place the necessary legislation and policy architecture to correct these historical imbalances, the DA fails to even acknowledge it. Equally, the DA has failed in a stark and obvious way when it comes to inclusive investment and building an inclusive economy, preventing crime and corruption, and water and services more generally. Here, it has been apartheid spatial, racial, social, class, cultural and economic “planning” as usual.

It is clear that 10 years of DA government in the Western Cape has meant no transformation, no net increase in jobs, increased inequality, no economic empowerment of black and coloured people or women. There is a decline in investment and services, an increase in crime and substance abuse and the all-round decline of the quality of life of its people. Social and political cohesion are at an all-time low.

The economy of the Western Cape has huge potential. Yet the pedestrian nature of recent policies and interventions in the province has seen lower levels of investment. The DA government has failed to build on the successes of the ANC government during the tenure of the ANC from 2002-2007 under former premier Ebrahim Rasool. This includes the failure to capitalise on strategies put in place in the film, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), tourism, transport, exhibition and manufacturing sectors.

During the DA’s period in office, key growth nodes, such as the Waterfront, the Saldanha IDZ, the Atlantis SEZ, the Voortrekker road corridor and various wine routes have received less support than under the ANC government, or no support at all. The DA believes in the myth that “the market” will deliver.

Furthermore, where there has been growth, it has not been inclusive growth that has benefited the poor and middle-class coloured and African communities. Yet why should we expect any different when the DA’s own leadership structures are populated by mainly pale, male middle-aged individuals who see the world and the delivery of services through their own narrow racist, sexist and conservative prism?

Urban development has also suffered under the DA. The racialised emphasis on protecting white minority privilege has meant that the DA has failed to plan for urbanisation and the migration of people to the province. Instead of treating migrants as a resource and focusing on housing, education and in general supporting them, the DA still treats them as refugees, in their own country.

Opportunities for the development of homes and habitat for working people in the city have been turned down by the DA, usually in favour of wealthy, mainly white, property developers. Properties such as Tafelberg School, Somerset Hospital and land in Observatory, Mowbray, Rondebosch and most tragic of all, District Six, stand vacant, instead of being used to build affordable and social housing.

Moreover, where the DA believes it is unable to develop these strategically located parcels of land for the rich due to the pressures of civil society, it finds other devious ways to prevent the poor from living in the city. The latest in a litany of such examples is the empty fields in Green Point which have been declared a heritage site with the sole purpose to avoid the land being used for social housing. What is the heritage in green empty fields? Instead the ghettoes of Blikkiesdorp, Wolvegat, Khayelitsha and the like grow every day.

The DA has also deliberately increased the rates and taxes in its attempt to push out the historical communities of Bo-Kaap, Woodstock, Salt River and Observatory who cannot afford these exorbitant rents and bonds on their meagre pensions. All the while, the wolves of the property sector wait patiently for the fatigue of poverty to defeat those who fight for social justice, to develop more luxury apartments for the rich.

The DA have also provided tax incentives for the shiny, new and expensive apartment blocks in the CBD and surrounds. While at face value this may seem progressive, the real intention and consequence has been that it has artificially inflated the value of these properties. The consequence being that it has kept out many young black aspiring middle-class professionals. An apartment that just three years ago may have cost under R1-million now costs much more. The effect of this is that only those with inherited wealth, and speculative investors, can afford these properties. Analysed cumulatively, the consequences of these policy interventions by the DA have brought back apartheid spatial development and the Group Areas Act lives on in the Cape Town CBD and surrounds.

Social cohesion among communities and the issue of identity remain a fault line in the province. Instead of using the last 10 years to build on the African-coloured solidarity and the ideal that the Western Cape can be a home for all as championed by the ANC when it governed, the DA has emphasised racial differences, created a laager mentality among white residents, and stoked their unfounded fears.

It has perpetuated the insecurities of coloured people to turn them against black people by claiming they will lose their land, their jobs and their “safety” (in the province with the highest crime rate) and it has increased the alienation of black people by treating them as refugees in their own country. “Swartgevaar vir Wit Oorheersing!” (lit. Black danger for white domination), should be the real DA slogan. Even attempts by their own party leader, the insipid and lacklustre Mmusi Maimane, to tackle white privilege and black poverty have been countered by the neoconservatives of the DA. The political necklacing of Patricia de Lille reveals the truth about the DA. Blacks and coloureds can only lead when they do so under white management and to protect white interests.

Good governance, progressive and strategic use of government, as well as developing a new social and economic compact and social solidarity between African, coloured and white communities is what will turn the Western Cape around. This will make it a preferred investment destination, a growth engine for the South African economy and a platform for development in Africa. This is what we have begun to see under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa and it was what we experienced when the ANC once governed the Western Cape.

A strong, genuine partnership between government, business, labour and civil society will create the glue that helps to mend the damage done by the DA to our communities, the economy and to the image of the Western Cape. DM


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