The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
More sun than clouds. Mild.
The stage bearing DA leader Mmusi Maimane's face at the party's election manifesto launch in Johannesburg.
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For the better part of the last decade the City
of Cape Town has been the pride and joy of the Democratic Alliance; an example
of good governance.
In 2008 then mayor Helen Zille was voted
the best mayor in the world and early last year Patricia de Lille was awarded a
key position in the Global Parliament of Mayors.
The party used this model to govern in coalitions
in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg. The DA is in effect
controlling the major metropolitan areas of the country. Their mission has
always been clear: Where we govern, we govern well, so that the people of South
Africa will see the DA is a party that delivers services to everybody.
That is until it became clear that their
flagship municipality is about to run out of water.
It’s difficult to keep track of what’s
going on within the DA run City of Cape Town. Mayor Patricia de Lille stands
accused of eight charges of "governance failures", for which she will
now be investigated by the DA’s Federal Legal Commission. The city manager Achmat
Ebrahim suddenly resigned and a transport official, Melissa Whitehead, was suspended after allegedly covering up
irregularities in which De Lille is implicated.
Last week DA
leader Mmusi Maimane propelled himself into the eye of the storm with a highly
publicised town hall meeting. On social media some people compared it to a
church service, with Maimane as the preacher and the rent-a-crowed (mostly DA supporters) as the congregation hanging on
his lips. Finally, we were going to get answers and a practical plan for Day
got a regurgitation of information that was already in public domain and the
event turned into a spectacle culminating in a motivational speech to avoid Day
I get the
fact that politicians want us to remain optimistic and avoid Day Zero, but that
is not what the people wanted to hear. We wanted a solid plan that does not
involve the blame-game; we know national government did not play its part, but
that is not helping us right now.
This is not
the behaviour one would expect from a party who has hammered the ANC countless
times about their incompetence. If the tables were turned and the ANC run eThekwini
Municipality (Durban) ran out of water, you can be sure the DA would have been
all over the situation to cast blame to the ANC.
There was also a glaring omission in the
line-up of speakers: De Lille. The DA's federal executive has ordered its city
caucus to formally hand over leadership of the city's drought response to
deputy mayor Ian Neilson and mayco member Xanthea Limberg. Even though the
allegations are not linked to the water crisis, the DA still felt the need to
strip the mayor of her responsibilities.
Days after the event News24 did an
interview with Neilson where he couldn’t even answer basic questions about Day
Zero. How is this supposed to instill confidence in the DA as a party of good
What will this mean for the DA? A day is
long in politics, but I doubt that I will eat my words if I predict this
debacle will cost them dearly in the 2019 elections. With a weaker ANC headed
by Jacob Zuma, they managed to increase their support in the past few
elections. "A vote for the ANC is a vote for Jacob Zuma," is the
mantra they spread.
But the tide has turned. Suddenly there
will be no more Zuma to be blamed, their own handling of the water crisis will
hover over them and voters will have determined if they made a tangible
difference in the metros where they govern.
Cyril Ramaphosa might not have a magic wand
that will wave away all of the ANC's problems (systemic corruption, state
capture, lack of moral leadership), but he has instilled a renewed sense of
optimism in the minds of many voters. And this is where the DA is currently
failing. Their handing if the water crisis is not reassuring to millions of
citizens that they are indeed competent to govern the Mother City (and by
extension the Western Cape).
Are we not holding the DA to a higher
standard, you might wonder? De Lille has after all proven she did not use
public funds at her private residence inappropriately and nothing conclusive
has come out of any investigations. Compare this to the ANC's track-record and
you would be correct to say that a DA run city is not as bad as many ANC run cities.
doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t criticise the DA. They are in government and they are accountable to the
citizens. The moral scales between the DA and the ANC might not be equal, but
no party is above scrutiny. It’s time we move away from party loyalty; let’s be
loyal to the people, the voters, the citizens.
This should be a wake-up call for the DA –
get your own house in order before you start pointing out the mistakes of the
If Day Zero comes, it will forever be known
that Cape Town became the first international city to run out of water – not
whilst the ANC was in government, but under the supervision of the DA. Let that
sink in for a moment.
- Joshua Carstens is a content producer at Health24 and a Masters students in Political Science at the University of Cape Town.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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