Election 2016 always had the potential to be the most important election since 1994. And it has certainly turned out that way. South Africa’s political landscape has altered forever. Our country has achieved something hugely significant and historic. We have made important progress in consolidating our democracy, with voters getting to better understand the power of their vote to hold governments accountable. The ANC can no longer act with impunity. Last week’s results will mean better government wherever the DA governs, and it will mean better government from the ANC too – because they know now that voters can and will punish them if they continue to govern badly.
Thank you to all voters who made history on Wednesday 3 August. Thank you for placing your trust in the DA. We will endeavor to repay it with honest delivery to all South Africans, regardless of whether or not, or for whom, they voted. We are ever mindful that we are servants of the public, contracted by you, the voters, to deliver corruption-free, efficient government for you.
These electoral results present the possibility of the DA governing South Africa’s key economic hubs and making a tangible difference to millions of lives. That, ultimately, is why the DA exists. We fight elections, and try to win them, so that we can improve people’s lives, extend opportunities, and make South Africa a more prosperous, fairer society.
When I first became DA Leader in May last year, we developed Vision2029, our vision of what South Africa will look like after ten years of DA government. Key to realizing that vision was achieving the following objectives in these elections: retaining the City of Cape Town with an increased majority, winning Nelson Mandela Bay, bringing the ANC below 50% in Johannesburg and Tshwane, and growing our share of the national vote.
These objectives have been achieved and there have been some incredible additional successes. The DA has the possibility of forming governments in councils in eight of the nine provinces in South Africa. We have truly broken out of the Western Cape. We are now a party of national government.
Also of huge significance, the ANC is down to just 54% nationally, by far their worst election results ever. This puts them within just four percentage points of falling below the 50% mark and gives us a very realistic chance of being the biggest party in a national governing coalition in 2019, which will position us to realise our Vision 2029.
Our challenge now is to form workable coalitions where we have brought the ANC below 50%. We are still at the negotiating table so I cannot yet give any definitive update. Wherever we are the largest opposition party, and can lead a potential coalition government, we are attempting to do so. Though we are prepared to walk away if we cannot establish functional coalitions that enable effective government.
However, I do not think this will be the case. I think that at the local level, the DA and other parties have much in common. We all want to shatter the ANC’s patronage network and stop corruption. We all want to make delivery to the poorest communities our top priority. We all want to stimulate local economic development. So I am confident that we will form practicable coalitions that enable us to show the country what it means to have an honest, accountable government that respects the rule of law, observes the separation between party and state, and serves all people.
The vast majority of South Africans have never been exposed to such a government. Not under apartheid, and not under the ANC. And my prediction is that when they are exposed to a government like only the DA can deliver in South Africa, then they will want more of it. Cape Town, where the DA won a resounding endorsement of 67% last week after setting out a decade ago in a seven party coalition, is a case in point.
The negotiations underway will shape the future of South Africa. The DA is determined to embrace coalition government. South Africa does not have the time to wait another ten years until we can win elections outright. The clock is ticking for South Africa, and we have to unseat the ANC nationally within the next few years or, as Kgalema Motlanthe said the week before the election, “there may be nothing left to salvage”.
Coalition government is, after all, a normal and even healthy part of the democratic process, enabling a plurality of opinions and voices. Many governments around the world operate on the basis of coalitions. Germany is the poster child for coalition government, but there are plenty of other examples including India, the UK, Denmark, Finland, Canada and Indonesia. A coalition is not a merger; the participating parties do not lose their identities in any way. But they are compelled to cooperate and work together to seek the path that best serves the broadest range of interests.
We have spoken in good faith to all parties and they now need to consult their constituencies before regrouping. I feel very positive that we will find each other and make it work. Indeed, it has to work if we are to position South Africa for a successful future. I am hugely encouraged by the fact that all participating parties are committed to doing what is best for the people of South Africa, rather than what is best for individual politicians.
This election has changed the trajectory of our politics, arresting our slow decline into kleptocracy and heralding a bright future of shared prosperity. The results make possible what many still believe to be impossible. But as Madiba said “It always seems impossible until you do it.” And do it, we will. Election 2019 starts now!
By Mmusi Maimane