DA Leader Mmusi Maimane debates the President’s State of the Nation Address
in Parliament – 14 February 2017
Honourable President and Deputy President
Fellow South Africans
The weight of our history lies heavy upon all of us. We must never forget past injustices. And we must put right the wrongs of the past.
Four days ago we commemorated Nelson Mandela’s historic speech on the Grand Parade upon his release from prison 27 years ago.
As we reflect on the state of our nation, we need to ask ourselves: How many South Africans enjoy the freedom that Madiba spoke of on that day 27 years ago?
Three days ago we marked the 51st anniversary of the forced removal of people from District Six.
People were wrenched from their homes and families were ripped apart.
I am sure all of us in this House will join me in saying, never, never and never again.
Yet two weeks ago, a story broke in our news of people torn from their lives and their families right here in a democratic South Africa.
We heard how thousands of mentally ill patients were carted off to unlicensed NGOs without telling them or their families where they were going.
We heard how 94 of these patients tragically died of starvation, dehydration, diarrhoea, pneumonia and seizures.
This ANC government – under this president – did that.
From the Marikana 34 to the Esidemeni 94, this government has turned against the people of this country.
This is a murderous government.
When we proposed a minute’s silence to mark the tragic deaths of the Esidimeni 94, the ANC said no.
At a stroke the ANC showed what it really thinks about the vulnerable members of our society.
You see, the only thing this party cares about is power. It cares about getting rich.
It cares about big projects like the Arms Deal and the Nuclear Deal that are conceived because, in the words of President Kgalema Motlanthe, they offer opportunities for certain people to make money.
It cares about the perks of the office – the cars, the travel, the blue light convoys.
The ANC has stopped caring about ordinary South Africans.
The ANC has turned from liberator of the people to the enemy of the people.
On Thursday evening we gathered to watch the President’s State of the Nation Address.
Long before we entered the chamber, it was clear that this government wasn’t on the same side as the people.
Streets were closed off and barricaded for miles around this precinct.
There were riot police and razor wire on every corner.
There were snipers on the rooftops.
There were soldiers with automatic rifles pacing up and down Parliament Avenue.
This wasn’t the State of the Nation. It was the State against the Nation.
The ANC on the one side and the people on the other.
The liberator turned oppressor.
The enemy of the people.
In his novel “1984”, George Orwell said: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
We saw a glimpse of this future on Thursday night, and it looked very much like our painful past.
The police in riot gear.
The deployment of the army.
The screams of female Members of Parliament as they were punched and kicked.
A boot stamping on a human face.
South Africa will never forget what happened on Thursday.
And we will never forget the reaction of the man at the centre of it all.
The President who stands accused of 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
The President who built his house – his monument of corruption – on the backs of the poor.
The President who is selling our country to foreign agents.
We will never forget how he laughed.
How he laughed at the violence visited upon Members of this House.
It was the laugh of an enemy of the people.
The ANC has become the party that Chris Hani warned about when he said:
“What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benzes and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and to gather riches.”
While the connected few gorge themselves on caviar and champagne, the young people of this country are yet to taste the fruits of freedom.
They are the ‘born-frees’, but they are everywhere in chains.
They have been forgotten by the ANC, the enemy of the young people.
They are our Lost Generation.
The lost generation is the nearly six million mainly black young South Africans who can’t find work.
The lost generation is the half a million mainly black children who disappear from our education system each year.
The lost generation is the three million South Africans under the age of 25 who are Not in Education, Employment or Training.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey released today tells us that a further 340,000 youths have joined the ranks of the unemployed in the past year.
When the President stood on this podium to talk of radical socio-economic transformation, he wasn’t talking about saving this lost generation.
Don’t be fooled by the language in President Zuma’s speech. His project, and that of the ANC, is the accumulation of personal wealth.
Noble causes like land reform and black economic empowerment have been corrupted for the benefit of the ANC elite.
When the President talks about accelerating land reform, what he really means is more dodgy deals for ANC cronies.
He’s talking about narrow-based land deals like the Limpopo farm that Minister Nkwinti lined up for his ANC friends.
R130 million rand of public money went to enriching two ANC cronies while 31 farm workers went unpaid and a productive farm fell into disrepair.
When the President talks about BEE and the Black Industrialists Programme, what he really means is a scheme to make 100 of his closest friends and family very rich.
The President said nothing about the government’s plans for a trillion Rand nuclear build.
We all know the ANC is forging ahead with a nuclear plan that will enrich the President and his friends on a scale of looting not seen in our country before.
President Zuma wants us to believe the MPRDA Bill and proposed State Mining Company will benefit the people.
But we all know these are just moves to line ANC cronies up with lucrative mine deals – moves that will scare off investors and threaten thousands of jobs.
On Thursday we heard about the same old failed nine-point plan, sprinkled with a bit of stop-gap populism like land expropriation, talk of a state-owned mining house and threatening the banking sector.
Mr President, are you really so afraid of the EFF that you need to steal their policies?
You must know that these policies will lead us down the same failed path as Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
The fact is that your plans have been tried, tested and failed wherever they have been implemented.
When you only look backwards, that is where you will end up. And South Africa cannot go back to the past.
We need to look towards the future.
The young people of this country want a future they have a say in. They don’t want to be dependent on the state in a shrinking economy.
They want to be independent, with opportunities they can use to be truly free.
The South Africa we are building will put these young people first.
And so the DA has started mapping out a Rescue Plan for the future we believe in – a Rescue Plan for our Lost Generation.
Fellow South Africans,
We will build a lean, efficient state tasked with creating opportunities for people, instead of the bloated, corrupt state that is only dragging us backwards.
We will harness the energy and passion of the thousands of committed teachers and principals to lead the charge in turning our schools around, while shielding our children from SADTU’s destructive influence.
We will invest in training existing teachers and recruiting more teachers with excellent skills, particularly in maths and science.
We’ll explore the feasibility of bringing back teacher training colleges, and make it easier for excellent teachers from other countries to help plug skills gaps in our education system.
We will look at ways to give parents a greater say over their children’s education by exploring the feasibility of a school voucher system.
And, to ensure that teachers and principals are supported and held accountable for the performance of their learners, we will seek to create a National Education Inspectorate.
We will ensure that school-leavers improve their chances of finding work through a host of diverse education, training and internship options.
Those qualifying for university will be able to access funding through an expanded National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Our poorest students will be comprehensively supported, and the missing middle, who cannot secure funding or bank loans, will receive support proportional to their family income.
We will also aim to give matriculants who don’t qualify for university a free year of technical and vocational training.
To increase the quality and quantity of our higher education institutions, we will invite universities with an international presence to open campuses locally and partner with local universities.
One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to employing young people is lack of experience in the workplace.
To bridge this study-work divide and equip graduates with the necessary skills, we will invest in a private sector apprenticeship programme as well as a nation-wide government internship programme across all departments.
But preparing the youth for the job market is just one half of the equation – the supply side.
The other half is creating a demand – an expanding labour market to absorb these millions of young South Africans. And this means sustained, inclusive economic growth.
We will approach growth and job creation not as a government problem with a government solution, but as a partnership with businesses large and small.
Only the private sector can create jobs at the scale and pace South Africa needs, which is why we will radically reform the labour regime to support job creation – especially for low-skill labour-intensive small businesses.
We intend to turn South Africa into a nation of entrepreneurs. The small, medium and micro-enterprise sector will have our full support because this is where 90% of our job-creating potential lies.
We will do everything we can to minimise the regulations they face, including exempting both small businesses and young people from minimum wage legislation.
We will start a Jobs & Justice fund, like Singapore and Colombia have done with much success, to give entrepreneurs access to the capital they need to start and grow businesses.
We will invest in the kind of infrastructure needed for inclusive economic growth, and not the projects designed to generate kickbacks.
We will stop the nuclear deal, and open the electricity grid to more independent power producers. And we will invest heavily in broadband and integrated transport systems, as we are already doing in the Western Cape.
We will look to partly privatise State Owned Enterprises by offering shares to employees and excluded South Africans, as well as to the private sector.
This will free their boards from capture by politically connected elites and give South Africans capital to gain access to the economy.
We must adopt a once-empowered always-empowered policy for the mining industry, and we will reject the investment-killing MPRDA Bill.
For us, Black Economic Empowerment will be about mass inclusion, rather than elite re-enrichment. It will reward companies that put young black people through school, that mentor them, and that offer them apprenticeships to grow their expertise.
We will empower South Africans by giving them ownership of the land they live on through the transfer of title deeds, and we will identify the vast tracts of government-owned land for redistribution.
We will also incentivise commercial farmers to establish farm equity schemes whereby workers share in the ownership of existing, successful farms, allowing for a progressive transfer of ownership and skills.
We recognise that inclusive economic growth requires a peaceful, healthy society along with an honest, caring and capable government.
We will add an extra 50,000 police officers to the police service and we’ll train them and resource them properly. We’ll ensure they’re on the streets, active and visible in their communities, instead of behind desks.
We’ll bring back the specialised police units to face the most serious crimes head-on. Some of these, particularly drugs and gangsterism, are really our lost generation’s cry for help.
We will build a caring state that will protect all our people, and particularly the most vulnerable in our communities – people such as the Esidimeni 94.
Unlike the government’s National Health Insurance, Our Health Plan won’t bankrupt the country and can be rolled out in half the time.
It will vastly improve maternal and child health, offer efficient ambulance services for all, accelerate the building of clinics, fix broken hospitals and provide a free basket of basic health services to every single South African.
Ours will be an honest, capable state. Not one that militarises our parliament. Not one that deploys the army to protect a corrupt president.
We will stop corruption. We will trim the fat of our bloated, inefficient state by halving the number of ministries, capping spending on consultants, making tender processes transparent and cutting government perks like travel, vehicles and VIP protection.
Through clean, honest government, we will make our metros attractive to investors, turning them into places of growth and jobs.
The DA has inherited metros saddled with widespread corruption and bloated administrations. We will turn these cities around and make them work for all.
Ours is a dream of a South Africa in which black, white, coloured and Indian all contribute to our nation’s prosperity.
And if 2016 taught us anything, it’s that there is a movement of South Africans who share this dream – who will sweep this government out and bring change.
The weight of our history lies heavy upon all of us.
We can choose to remain trapped in it, or we can choose to transcend it.
In the words of the Reverend Jesse Jackson: “At the end of the day, we must go forward with hope and not backward by fear and division.”
We will move this country forwards instead of backwards.
We will work with the people of this country and not against them.
We will bring hope to the lost generation.
I thank you.
Ke A leboga.