The party memorialised those who died tragic deaths through a large billboard in Johannesburg. It lays blame on poor governance by the ANC, writes Solly Malatsi
On Wednesday, the DA unveiled a billboard in Johannesburg with the message that “The ANC is killing us”.
It has since been discussed on many public platforms, with South Africans debating the content of the billboard.
The aim of the billboard was to highlight how the victims of the Marikana and Life Esidimeni tragedies, as well as children who drowned in pit latrines, have not only been forgotten by the ANC, but died because of the negligence of the governing party.
One of the prevailing criticisms is that the DA is politicising the grief of the families who lost loved ones in these tragedies.
This could not be further from the truth.
We can’t gloss over the fact that nearly 200 people died in horrific circumstances as a consequence of decisions made by the ANC government.
It is precisely because we care about the victims that we erected this billboard.
Why now? The DA has been fighting for the victims and their families since the first time we learnt about the tragedies.
Our record on speaking out on behalf of victims speaks for itself:
The DA was at the forefront of trying to avert and expose the Life Esidimeni crisis.
In February 2016, we raised the issue with the health committee of the Gauteng legislature, proposing a six-month extension of the contract to avoid a disaster.
That September, the DA called for then-Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to be dismissed after reports of fatalities first emerged, and in November questioned Gauteng Premier David Makhura and members of the executive council in the legislature about the patient transfers.
In February 2017, the DA got the oversight committee to probe the premier’s role in the deaths, then numbering 94, and a month later pushed for patients to be moved from unlicensed non-governmental organisations.
In January last year, the DA opened missing persons cases for 62 patients and advocated compensation packages to be finalised for the families of victims.
The party also tabled a motion of no confidence against Makhura in May and called for the probe to be finalised.
Letters were sent to Makhura and Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa, demanding legal action against those implicated in the tragedy so that they could personally pay a share of the R159 million to the relatives of those who suffered and died.
In November, the DA followed up on the 21 patients who were still missing.
The DA and its leader, Mmusi Maimane, have visited Marikana every year since 2013.
Since the massacre, we have called for political responsibility to be assigned to former police minister Nathi Mthethwa and operational responsibility to be assigned to former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.
We have also called for a full criminal investigation into all those responsible for the killings, as well as the attempted cover-up by senior police officials.
Furthermore, we have called for the process of reforming the SA Police Service to be accelerated through the implementation of the recommendations made in the Farlam commission report, including the demilitarisation of the police service, the need to reform public order policing, as well as the acknowledgment of the need for better police training.
In Parliament, the DA has proposed legislation that compels labour unions to take responsibility for the actions of their members during strikes and force them to act to prevent strikes from turning violent in the first place.
We have demanded fair compensation for the dependants of the victims of the Marikana massacre.
The party has called on both former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare August 16 as Marikana Memorial Day.
The Western Cape department of education has eradicated pit toilets at all schools in the province.
The department is also using its comprehensive maintenance infrastructure programme to build extra toilets at schools where pupil numbers have increased, despite the massive infrastructure budget cut by the national government.
It is clear that later this year we will be faced with an important decision: reward the ANC for its callous indifference and chronic failure by giving it another five years in power or vote for change and chart a new course for the country under a DA-led government.
We simply cannot afford to not talk about the tragedies when we face such a monumental decision about the direction of our country.
The ANC has called our politics “bankrupt” and insinuated that we are making “a mockery of death”.
It is disingenuous of the ANC to infer that we are using the lives of ordinary South Africans for political point-scoring.
After two years, there are 21 Life Esidimeni patients who are still missing, while Mahlangu and Makhura are still ANC bigwigs who seemingly got away with incompetence.
As a party, we will continue to fight on behalf of all South Africans, especially those who are vulnerable.
As the official opposition we have a responsibility to hold government accountable and secure dignity for those who died because of the actions of the ANC.
It is precisely because we want to give dignity to the victims and their families that we undertook this initiative.
The ANC conveniently wants us to forget these tragedies, but we won’t. We will never give up.
Malatsi is DA national spokesperson
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