She told delegates that “change is coming” to the Eastern Cape, adding that it would be a great tribute to former president Nelson Mandela if the metro named after him, became the first to be governed by the Democratic Alliance.
An upbeat Zille said that something’s happening in this province, a buzz of blue energy as she put it, “a sense of excitement and expectation heading towards the 2016 local government election.”
Read her full speech below:
Something is happening in this province. Every time I’ve come to the Eastern Cape — before, during and after our election campaign — I have felt it.
There is a buzz of blue energy here – a sense of excitement and expectation as we head towards 2016. I don’t know if it is obvious to those who live here, but to an outsider who returns here regularly, it is palpable.
Election 2014 – and specifically the DA’s performance in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro – triggered something in the province: a newfound belief that anything is possible. Not only possible, but probable. A new beginning can start right here in 2016. It is going to happen because we will make it happen.
While much of the post-election attention was understandably focused on Gauteng and our tremendous growth in its three metros, there is something even more special about our performance here.
This is because the Eastern Cape is still referred to as the heartland of the ANC. The ANC thinks it owns the Eastern Cape. It’s their sacred province, where their history runs deep and allegiances have been set in stone across generations. Nobody touches the ANC in the Eastern Cape.
Except, that’s exactly what you’ve done. Unthinkable a few years ago, the DA is now a viable alternative to hundreds of thousands of voters in this, South Africa’s second largest and third most populous province.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago in a SA Today newsletter titled “Nelson Mandela Bay – the Next Big Thing”, where I unpacked a litany of challenges and obstacles thrust on the metro by an inept and uncaring ANC local government.
These obstacles – ranging from maladministration and corruption to shaky electricity supply and a revolving door of mayors and city managers – has left Nelson Mandela Bay with a broad unemployment rate of almost 37%. If you look at the whole province, it’s even worse, at over 44%.
This is clearly an unsustainable situation.
Until recently, the people of the Eastern Cape voted with their feet. A staggering quarter of a million people left the Eastern Cape for other provinces between 2006 and 2011. It’s the only province in the country that has seen a net loss of people since the turn of the millennium.
But now people have enough faith in our democracy to have started using their vote at the polls, to say “enough is enough”. Between 2006 and 2014, the ANC’s support in Nelson Mandela Bay dropped from 67% to 49%. During the same period, support for the DA climbed from 25% to 40%. You don’t need to be a statistician to understand what’s happening here.
We are fast catching up with the ANC. And once we’ve caught up with them, we will overtake them.
But this success of ours is not limited to Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. The DA now has put a full five municipalities in this province in contention.
Among these, one that we have already governed for eight years, is Baviaans – a municipality we took from the ANC in 2006. Mismanaged, under-serviced and crippled by debt, this was a municipality in a state of crisis when we took over.
What the DA did to turn this municipality around is nothing short of a miracle, particularly when you take into account how the ANC at provincial level tries to put every obstacle in the way of DA local governments.
Another key municipality in the region is this very one in which we are gathered this weekend. Our performance here in Kouga in the national and provincial election – where we brought the ANC under 50% – shows that the municipality is ready to return to the DA. Back in 2000, we won Kouga fair and square, but lost it two years later through floor crossing.
Isn’t that typical. Only through a system that allowed the ANC to entice DA councilors away, did they manage to win control of the municipality. This was not a reflection of the will of the people. Within two years, the ANC had undone all the DA’s hard work in turning Kouga around, and brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.
But now the people of Jeffreys Bay, of Humansdorp, of Patensie have had enough. Kouga is once again ready for a DA government.
All these municipalities on the Western edge of the province – including Nelson Mandela Bay Metro – are close enough to the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town to know what a DA government can do. You can’t stop the news from spreading.
But perhaps the most unexpected growth has come in the Eastern part of the province. Deep in the rural heartland of the ANC – in the former Transkei – the DA grew from only two councilors before the 2011 Local Government Election to sixteen councilors after 2011. We now look set to more than double this tally in 2016.
This will be a heavy blow right to the solar plexus of the ANC in the province. Because if we can grow at this rate deep inside their fortress, there is no telling what we can do elsewhere. They know this. They see us coming, and there is very little they can do about it.
Many of the voters in the East of the province are among South Africa’s poorest people. They have suffered under the triple blow of past apartheid policies, then of ANC ineptitude combined with tribal fiefdoms that undermine their rights.
But these are also the people whose family members travel to Cape Town to work. They know all too well that their lives can be better. Again, you can’t stop the news from spreading.
The ANC is the old. The DA is the new. We’re seeing this more and more. The old is dying and the new is being born. It is emerging every day before our eyes.
We see it in the results of recent by-elections. We see it on the NMMU campus, where DASO swept to victory. We see it the pleas from the unemployed and from businesses, big and small, for a stable, predictable, honest government to come and unlock the potential of this slumbering giant of a province. We know the agriculture is seen as the job generator of this century on our continent, and right here we have some of our most fertile soil and greatest potential, that the DA can turn into growth and jobs if we govern. This great province that has produced some of South Africa’s greatest leaders can do so again. It would be the greatest tribute to the greatest of them all, Nelson Mandela, if the City named after him were the first to be governed by the DA, so that we can restore his values and enable the giant to awake and become as great as we know it can be.
The ANC has nothing more to offer here. Their demand for unquestioning, unconditional loyalty along racial lines sounds more hollow by the day. They’re running scared.
So it is hardly surprising that there is this great sense of anticipation amongst the DA and its supporters here in the Eastern Cape.
And it is no coincidence that there is an equal sense of panic amongst the ANC. You deploy your troops where you fear the biggest attack, and the ANC has deployed their biggest guns recently to campaign in vulnerable parts of the province.
But we have bigger guns. Some of our best leaders also come from the Eastern Cape and they are ready. uAthol Trollip yinkhokheli yokwenene.
He can lead the team that can stand up to the ANC and their dirty tricks. He has faced it all before. He is ready for every dirty trick in the book. The ANC does not play fair at the best of times. When they are running scared, they will fight for their political lives so that they can continue stealing and looting.
But this will not stop the DA. We have the track record, we have the people, we have the policies, and now we have the momentum too.
Change is coming to the Eastern Cape.