“People power, not government power” - John Steenhuisen
A few days ago, we held the most impressive elective and deliberative congress of any political party in South African. It was the most impressive because of the particular circumstances in which it occurred in, amidst a prolonged global pandemic. Despite the uncertainty, our party provided clarity and effective leadership in delivering an inclusive congress with 35 hybrid venues and about 1000 people online in a two day conference. To the presiding officers, Greg Krumbock and Desiree van der Walt, the Chairperson of Federal Council Helen Zille, the Chief Executive of the Party Simon Dickson and all the professional staff, public representatives and members of the party involved in making this congress a success - a huge public congratulations to you. Again, we showed how our party is a step ahead of the rest.
At the Federal Congress, the DA emerged with a new leadership and resolve to take the party forward into the future. I wholeheartedly congratulate the newly elected leadership, in particular John Steenhuisen as our Federal Leader and Helen Zille as the Chairperson of the Federal Council. I wish you all the success and lend my full support to you in doing everything I can to continue to help us build a new majority for South Africans who desperately need us to succeed.
To those colleagues who may have contested and lost their elections, well done to you. Tribute belongs to brave souls who step forward with conviction, taking risk and giving the world their ideas and contributions. Our party benefits from those endeavours.
The DA belongs to no individuals, but to its membership. It’s membership has spoken with a resounding loud voice at our congress with a clear mandate. And so, with a renewed mandate, our party took its first marching orders from the leader during his acceptance speech when he said, “People power, not government power” is the essence which separates the DA from the ANC.
South Africans continue to be stuck in the mess of a government that is unable to resolve the economic and jobs crisis, and an ANC which presides over a failing state. This as young people continue to feel hopeless.
Listening to debates of late in parliament and the actions of the government, one would be mistaken that this is our countries state of affairs. In my mini-plenary debate earlier this week where I debated the portfolio committee report on the transformation charter in the tourism sector, I set out the difference between ANC and the DA in real clear government policy terms which give effect to our direction for South Africans
At the core of it, the ANC ultimately believes in empowering government to decide and control the fortunes of people, and in the end only empowering, again and again a small group of connected cronies. We believe in reducing the size and powers of government, giving quality services to people and a helping hand to those who need it most. Ultimately, we believe in empowering people with jobs and the chance to determine their future.
So where do we differ in that quest as the ANC ramps up its talk of transformation in the tourism sector, through an intention to focus on rural areas, small towns and small dorpies.
They say, small guest houses, bed and breakfasts, lodges and other businesses must pay exorbitant annual fees for star grading by the tourism grading council, favouring big business and established companies. This has been identified as the largest roadblock to new accommodation businesses, especially amongst emerging entrepreneurs in the market. We say, star grading must be completely free fo charge, supporting new jobs and businesses to give those left out a chance in the economy.
They say, tourists from all the major countries in the world cannot fly to South Africa to spend their money and support our local restaurants and hotels that have suffered during the lockdown and had to retrench people. They say, even if they test negative for the corona virus upon entry, we do not want those tourists, a clearly illogical position. We say, as long as they test negative, and we have the health capacity and a very high recovery rate for the virus, tourists must come to our country, respecting basic health protocols and help build our economy. We need them to save our tourism jobs and create new ones.
They say Airbnb has created too many new jobs and builds up our hospitality capacity in such a threatening manner to established big business who have to go through many rules and costs to exist. And so, they want to add new regulations with the Tourism Amendment Bill and to create new costs so that it's difficult for all businesses to exist. We say, cut back on as much regulations and costs as possible so that we empower current and new businesses to grow and employ more young people still suffering the effects of apartheid and poor ANC governance.
These are just some of the policy choices which separate the ANC and the DA. Which give real and meaningful effect to the difference between “people power, and not government power”. And as we move towards the up-coming bi-elections, the local government elections next year and the future, this choice will be clearer. As government moves to prop up their own airline, give themselves more powers and make more rules, we must remember that they do not empower the people previously excluded or stuck in rural areas, they only empower their governments. That is the difference between them, and us.