It has now been almost exactly nine months since the DA’s federal council formally adopted a detailed organisational review report as the roadmap for fixing our party. In keeping with our commitment to transparency, the DA shared the review report with the public, which laid bare how our wings had been clipped and how our engines were spluttering.
Nine months ago, very few people gave the DA a chance. Many in the media gleefully seized on the review report’s findings to write off South Africa’s official opposition, with headlines loudly proclaiming the “death of the DA”.
Today, it is clear that these excitable reports were wildly exaggerated.
The unprecedented crisis triggered by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as by the ANC’s disastrously destructive lockdown, has upended our politics and stress-tested every political party in South Africa like never before.
As the old adage goes: “A crisis does not build character. It reveals it.”
As successive waves of adversity washed over our party and country, a remarkable thing began to happen in the DA. Where other opposition parties went into hiding, and as the government quickly exhausted any resolve to save lives and livelihoods, the DA’s backbone only grew stronger. Instead of weakening our resolve, the crisis just made the DA more determined to save our country from the dual devastation of the coronavirus and the ANC.
Instead of retreating, the DA rose to the occasion and called for the first debate of national importance over our country’s lack of preparedness for the coronavirus. Rather than get swept away by populist whim, it was the DA that held the line and warned that an extension of the hard lockdown beyond the initial three weeks would be an economic disaster.
Far from cowering in fear when short-sighted ANC sycophants blindly lapped up every word spoken by President Cyril Ramaphosa, it was the DA that designed and proposed an alternative ‘smart lockdown’.
And while ANC-led provinces entirely wasted the world’s longest and most brutal lockdown, the DA in the Western Cape built four brand new world class Hospitals of Hope that saved countless lives. In fact, there can be no better demonstration of the DA difference than the fact that we build Hospitals of Hope where we govern, while the BBC tells the world about the ANC’s murderous Hospitals of Horror.
Nine months after we used the review report to honestly confront our mistakes, the DA is proving the naysayers wrong.
Today, more South Africans than ever before understand that the DA trusts and has faith in the people of this country, and that our singular mission is to give more power to the people rather than to our incapable state. They know it because, throughout the lockdown crisis, they have seen it for themselves.
Whereas the ANC has consistently hidden the data about the coronavirus from citizens, the DA has fought to tell them the truth because we trust that they can handle the truth.
When the ANC enforced a military curfew and deployed 75,000 soldiers alongside police to brutalise citizens into submission instead of educating them on how to protect themselves, the DA fought back. We did so because we trust the people enough to know that they can take care of themselves without surrendering their civil rights and the ability to feed their families.
When the ANC made it illegal for anyone but our incapable state to feed the hungry, the DA went to court and won.
And while the ANC immediately went on a spree of looting Covid-19 relief funds, discriminated on the basis of race, and criminalised the personal care industry, the DA went to court and helped wherever we could so that people could get the relief and assistance they were entitled to.
Rather than cower from it, the DA is also the only party that is embracing the digital future thrust upon us by the pandemic. Whereas other political parties have effectively suspended internal democracy – and while the ANC and EFF are disgracefully trying to use the coronavirus as an excuse to postpone their date with destiny in the 2021 local elections – an overwhelming majority of the DA’s federal council members voted this past weekend to go ahead with our digital congress at the end of October.
True to our foundational principles, the DA is preserving and deepening our internal democracy by truly embracing the digital post-coronavirus world. Unlike any other party in South Africa, the DA has proven our mettle during this crisis, and we are emerging from it stronger than ever.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our beautiful country. The true extent of the devastation caused by the ANC’s lockdown crisis, and their failure to build health capacity, is only now starting to emerge. South Africa is now registering more coronavirus cases than nearly any other country on earth. At the same time, over three million people have already lost their jobs, and our unemployment rate is likely to soon hit 50%.
It is also increasingly clear that Cyril Ramaphosa will go down in history as the most devastatingly weak president in our democratic history.
Never before has South Africa needed a strong DA like they will need us during the coming months and years. Fortunately, the DA has used the past nine months to do many of the hard yards required to better serve the people, as the full horror of the ANC lockdown crisis becomes increasingly clear.
By overwhelmingly voting to proceed with our Congress in October, the message from the DA to South Africa is loud and clear: after all the hard work we’ve done to equip ourselves with powerful new engines and to repair the holes in our fuselage over the past nine months, we are ready to open up the throttle, reach for the sky once more, and rebuild South Africa from the devastation of ANC government, once and for all. DM
John Steenhuisen is a candidate for the position of federal leader of the Democratic Alliance.