Democratic Alliance (DA) Federal Leader Mmusi Maimane believes his party should not only speak about change, but also offer hope to the majority of South Africans.
He expressed the expectation that South Africa is entering a critical phase where politics will move away from personalities to rather focus on policies that can grow the economy.
“The discussion missing from South Africa today is the discussion about our future. What is our tomorrow? What is our dream?” he asked a recent Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) forum. “The choice in the next election is stark: between a patronage organisation, and an open organisation which is driven by hope and change.” The country must move away from the divisive rhetoric of the liberation movement and towards a phase of constitutional democracy he added.
Economic policy and land reform
South Africa must agree on how the economy is to be structured, Maimane said. The DA’s major task is now to ultimately shift its constituency to the poor and unemployed living below the poverty line in order to “become the party for those who are left behind. I am doubtful that we invest enough into the sense of anger of those who are left out,” he said.
The party’s economic policy believes the state must be the employer of last resort and focuses on city-led economic growth. Deconcentrating and demonopolising the economy are key to breaking down the ‘two nations’ narrative he said.
“It is an injustice that a government that still has nine million unemployed people, killed people in Marikana and allowed the Life Esidimeni tragedy to occur, can continue to claim legitimacy as a government that cares about poor people.”
On the subject of land reform, Maimane said he didn’t believe the Constitution is the obstacle in achieving land reform: “There are many aspirations that sit in the Constitution, one of them the aspiration in Section 25 which speaks to the question of private property. However, the land debate cannot separate the question of justice from the need for economic growth.”
Maimane said land tenure in rural communities means security of tenure should be given to the families occupying the land. “It should never be the state owning it, but security should be given to the family so no chief can remove them whenever it suits him.”
Individual property rights are central to the party’s land policy he explained: “We must urgently make a U-turn from the EFFs policy of state owned land. We must give the land to individuals and let’s allow them to thrive.” Urban land reform also hinged on title deeds, he said. “I am tired of going into areas that are defined by race. We must give people title deeds to allow them mobility. When people own the land, they invest in it.”
While Maimane said he believed South Africa’s political future lay in coalitions, he cautioned that coalition politics is hard work, as “not every party is interested in government. It is hard work to govern, you have to deliver and be accountable to citizens.”
He said the DA was able to be in coalition with the EFF in a number of metros as they both “agree that South Africa needs change.”
Towards a constitutional democracy
It was time for South African politics to enter a post-liberation era movement and move towards a phase of constitutional democracy.
Historically, liberation movements become obsolete because they leave people behind, Maimane explained. These movements go from mass movements to elite once they adopt policies that exclude the majority for the benefit of the few. It is not in the interest of liberation movements to exit the liberation, as they have to keep people in a perpetual struggle in order to hide their own failures, he added.
Under such a system, the opposition is seen as the enemy, rather than a constructive partner in a democracy.
“The DA wants to be the party that breaks that cycle. Our constitution is not perfect. It has many challenges. It has limitations. But we must ultimately have a non-racial offer and the rights of individuals must stand.”
“Unless we charter a vision about tomorrow of a non-racial, market driven, capable state, we will be stuck in this loop.”
Accountability and an active citizenry
Maimane said citizenship is ultimately about behavior, and urged those with the privilege of education to “interrogate the data. We must interrogate the extent of the information that allows politicians to get away with rhetoric. Post truth is pre-fascism and we must hold politicians to account.”
He cautioned that society was losing its ability to actually ask for accountability. “I urge you to get involved, ask better questions, and understand what the role of the state is. We are not deliberately asking what our future is. We must all get involved with politics and frame what a capable state looks like going forward.”
Maimane added that political leaders often incite political conflict in order to advance their own agendas. “We must ask better of our leaders. We must hold to account those who mobilise on violence and hate. We are not asking enough of our leaders and we must take a much tougher stance on those who advance hatred,” he concluded.