How the City of Cape Town’s record over the last five years provides a template for a truly free South Africa.
This booklet documents an important chapter in our country’s history. One day, future generations will recognise that what started in Cape Town in the local election of 1 March 2006 was a watershed for our country.
For the first time since 1994, citizens removed an incumbent political party through the ballot box. The voters understood their power and they used it. This is the bedrock of any sustainable democracy.
The DA-led coalition that came to power during March 2006 wasn’t perfect. No government ever is. But we did succeed in arresting the City’s decline and turning it around, moving step by step in the direction of development and progress. No individual can take credit for this. It was a team effort. It was the result of hard work and commitment on the part of every member of the Mayoral Committee and a great many councillors. And it was due, in no small measure, to the dedication of the many City officials who view public service as a calling, not just a career. Above all, it was the choice of the majority of citizens of Cape Town.
But dedication and hard work alone were not enough. The foundation of our achievements was the fact that we applied a political philosophy that works wherever it is implemented. We call it the Open, Opportunity Society for All. In such a society, the role of the state is to give citizens the space to be who they want to be and the wherewithal to be what they want to be. The state does not try and control peoples’ lives, but it does do for people what they cannot be expected to do for themselves.
And it recognises that an efficient public sector depends, above all, on appointing people who are fit for the intended purpose of their jobs.
The antithesis of this is the closed, crony society for the politically-connected few. In this system, the state is captured by figures in the governing party to dispense patronage to their political contacts through tenders and ‘jobs for pals’. Institutions that promote transparency and accountability are shut down or taken over, because they threaten the survival of this patronage network.
The political contest in South Africa is between these two competing political philosophies. And it is no exaggeration to say that the outcome will determine whether or not we succeed as a nation. That is why The Cape Town Story represents a watershed in our history. It documents how the DA turned around a city in decline as a result of the closed, crony system. More than that, it shows how policies that promote openness and opportunity can, over time, have a profound impact on peoples’ lives.
Our work in Cape Town is far from done. We have a long way to go before we can say “mission accomplished”. Far too many people still live in poverty, there is still a huge divide between the rich and the poor. There are still people living without access to basic services. There is still much we can do to improve their lives.
But, as The Cape Town Story shows, we are moving in the right direction. If we can keep doing so, more and more people will understand that our guiding philosophy — and the policies that emerge from it — are the key to a successful South Africa.