Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has said the results of last week's local elections show that more and more South Africans want a "non-racial, shared future".
Zille was speaking at a Women's Day commemoration breakfast at the District Six Museum in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The former Democratic Alliance leader said she was thrilled with the election results after her party received the most votes in both Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane for the first time.
"I was very thrilled with the election from last week, and thrilled for one main reason.
"Despite the polarisation, all the race-baiting, all the intolerance that has been shown in our country over the last year, the people spoke and said they want a united, non-racial shared future, and that is enormously powerful."
Young women targeted
The breakfast was aimed at addressing some of the key issues affecting South African women.
"The face of feminism has always been rooted in biology, where young women are the targets of a lot of attention that destroys their options later on in their lives," Zille said.
"The biggest challenge for young women is to get an education, get a skill set so they can make autonomous choices about whether they want a partner, whether they want to have children and with whom.
"How we incentivise and protect young girls is the focus of the debate today, and not be victims and targets because of their biology."
Zille also proposed a radical new way of incentivising young girls, but admitted that the proposal would be hit with a few challenges.
"This is not an official policy stance, so don’t quote me out of context SABC," she joked.
"But I'd suggest any women that passed matric and has never claimed a child grant can get free higher education. It will be a massive incentive.
"It's not a policy proposal, but if it were it would be deemed unconstitutional because it discriminates against men.
"But we're trying to solve a key issue and it would go to the heart of uplifting women."
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Zille also said the challenge of balancing budgets means important issues will always be traded off for others.
"The reason we can't subsidise thousands of pre-schools for instance, is because it's a trade-off. We have to balance the budget.
"We have to prevent preventable diseases. This is not a private choice. It has huge public consequences.
"But 80% of our health budget is spent on treating preventable diseases. That is a terrifying statistic."
Zille said government's challenge therefore is solving issues at their core so that billions aren't spent on treating symptoms.
'Racists in the country'
When asked to address the topic of racism in the country, Zille said, "There are a lot of racists in South Africa today. I believe that racists come in all colours.
"I was a big supporter of Fees Must Fall, but when it came to the Fallist movement itself, I started reading. I believe the Fallist movement is a thin veil for scapegoating in a complex society.
"The bottom line is this, it's hard to admit, but there are racists in the country.
"There have also been those who have used the race card to avoid tackling very important public issues.
"Fortunately the electorate is not falling for it anymore."