What will we choose?

2010-07-24 12:01

In the 16 years since 1994, our politics has changed almost beyond

­recognition. The National Party has disappeared, there have been four state

presidents and the ANC has split – although it remains numerically strong.

The

party I lead, the Democratic ­Alliance (DA), has grown from one with ­seven

seats in Parliament to the official ­opposition with 77 seats.

We now govern a

province, a metro and a number of municipalities. It has certainly been an

exciting ­decade-and-a-half.

It is impossible to predict what will happen in our politics in the

next four years as we head towards the 20th anniversary of our ­democracy.

As

Warren Buffet once said, the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the

windscreen.

But I believe that, whatever happens, the next four years will

determine whether or not South Africa becomes a ­successful democracy or a

failed state.

There are two paths we can follow: we can either become an

open-opportunity society for all or we can become a closed, crony ­society for

comrades only.

What do I mean by this?

The open-opportunity society is one where politicians are prevented

from abusing their power by the people, who are empowered to hold politicians to

­account.

It does this by ­defending people’s rights and extending their

opportunities ­under a constitution that prevents corruption and limits the

scope for power abuse. It ­extends learning and economic opportunities to

improve the lives of many ­instead of the ­politically connected few.

The opposite is the closed, crony society for comrades only.

This

is the direct path to the failed state.

We have had enough ­experience on our

­continent to know the path to the failed state starts with “cadre ­deployment”

(another term for cronyism), which ­inevitably leads to ­corruption, the

­destruction of the ­economy and the triumph of corruption. ­

Zimbabwe is the

clearest and most ­recent ­example of this regression.

In 2010, South Africa is somewhere ­between these two scenarios.

This is why the next four years leading up to the 2014 ­national election will

be so decisive as the ­outcome will determine which path we take.

The great hope for our country does not lie in any one political

party. This is because the choices available transcend party politics.

There are

people in all parties who want to ­prevent South Africa from ­becoming a failed

state.

They understand the consequences of the path taken by the ­current ruling

clique.

There are many ­voters for whom the choices are becoming clear.

They ­understand that politics is neither a choice ­between race groups nor a

­battle ­between the old ideologies of left and right.

It is about whether

people are ­given fair chances to succeed and the role the state can and must

play in that.

This shift opens up exciting opportunities with the potential to

transform our politics forever.

A fundamental political ­realignment is ­under way already.

The

fragmentation that characterised opposition politics in the past is making way

for a more ­co-operative ­approach, ushering in a new era of ­coalition-building

around shared values.

Many within the ranks of the opposition agree that it is time to

advance unity in order to save ­democracy. As a result, by 2014 the political

landscape will look very different.

The next four years also give us a chance to show South Africa what

the philosophy of the open-opportunity society can achieve in practice.

We have

already demonstrated in the City of Cape Town that it means less corruption and

more service delivery.

We have, for instance, shown that opening up tender processes and

extending opportunities has achieved more broad-based black economic empowerment

than the previous system under the ANC, which manipulated the awarding of

tenders for the benefit of a few politically connected cadres.

Now that we govern in the Western Cape, we have the chance to show

what we can do at a provincial level.

Our plans to improve education, public

health, housing delivery and create jobs are ambitious but the results are

beginning to be felt already.

This is perhaps why, in a recent survey, 63% of ANC supporters

(compared with 66% of DA ­supporters) said that the DA ­government in the

Western Cape was doing “fairly well” or “very well” – up from 48% when the ANC

was in power.

These are exciting times, filled with hope and promise for the

future but we will not become complacent. We have come a long way and there is

yet a long road ahead.

» Zille is leader of the Democratic Alliance and premier of the

Western Cape


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