Monday, December 6, 2010

DA @ Work 5 December 2010

5 December 2010

A Weekly Newsletter from the Leader of the
Democratic Alliance:

Heading in the right direction, step-by-step

As we look towards another election year in 2011, it is worth reflecting on the challenges ahead. At our Federal Congress earlier this year, I said there were two ways a political party can grow in a complex plural society such as ours. An easy way and a hard way.

The easy way is to mobilise around race and abuse patronage to entrench power. The difficult way requires convincing South Africans that politics is not a contest between race groups, but a choice between policies that offer different pathways into the future. This is what the DA is trying to do. And because we have started winning elections at local and provincial level, we now have the opportunity to demonstrate what this difference means where we govern.

It is an enormous challenge. It takes a long time to turn a government around, and an even longer time for the impact to be felt at grassroots level. Progress happens in incremental steps, each imperceptible on its own, but with a gradual cumulative effect over many years. Sometimes there may even be relatively big leaps – such as the Western Cape’s recent “full house” of clean audits (a first in our democracy). Yet this would hardly count as “service delivery” for people living in shacks. They would probably say: “So what? Where is my house? What has the government done for me?”

The fact is that most South Africans do not link poor financial management and corruption with poverty and service delivery failure. Almost everybody knows that the ANC is corrupt, but many will continue to vote for it anyway.

Another profound irony is that the more services are delivered, the higher people’s expectations become, and the more dissatisfied they often are. I was particularly aware of this during the summer months of my tenure as Mayor of Cape Town, when complaints poured in from ratepayers in some upmarket suburbs about the rate of the grass growth on the verges!

Contrast this with a recent visit I undertook to a rural village in Limpopo. There I was deeply moved to see the excitement of villagers receiving their first functioning communal tap, supplied by a local farmer. The government water system has never worked and people have had to buy water from the few villagers who have boreholes. Access to a single communal tap with free water will fundamentally change their lives. Yet, despite the absence of the most basic service delivery, over 90% of the people there continue to vote for the ANC, election after election.

Where the DA governs, free basic services (water, electricity, sewage, refuse removal and rates rebates) are taken for granted, to the extent that many people do not even recognise these things as service delivery. Not long ago, at the launch of a newly completed housing project in Cape Town, I was met by angry protestors holding placards reading: “We demand an extra room”.

Against this background it was significant that Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale recently made it clear that the government cannot provide a free house for everyone who demands one. Acknowledging that the established approach to housing delivery is unaffordable and unsustainable, Minister Sexwale said it was essential to grow the economy so that people could get jobs and contribute towards their own housing.

This new approach is described as “incremental” housing development. It involves a partnership between the state, communities and individuals. The days of government delivering a finished product to passive recipients are drawing to an end.

As important as Minister Sexwale’s statement, was the recent acknowledgement by Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, that it will take two decades to address backlogs in education. This realistic assessment comes against a background of her equally important acknowledgement that education for most young South Africans has declined since the advent of democracy.

In this context, it is encouraging and significant to know that improvement is possible. This week, the renowned international management consultancy, McKinsey and Company, released a report titled “How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better”. It included Western Cape schools in its study of the world’s 20 steadily improving education systems.

Senior educationists attribute the Western Cape’s gradual improvement to the introduction (during the DA-coalition’s brief tenure in provincial government ten years ago) of externally moderated literacy and numeracy testing for children in grades 3 and 6 (we have now included grade 9 learners as well). The initial pitifully poor results, measured against international benchmarks, literally “shocked” education practitioners into action to improve the outcomes. This has led to a marked improvement, particularly in literacy (up by 17% over the period), prompting the province’s inclusion in the McKinsey study on school improvement.

There is still a very long way to go, but it is encouraging to know we are heading in the right direction. It is equally encouraging that Minister Motshekga has now followed this “testing” model in the rest of South Africa.

This past week marked a further watershed for education development. It will have an even greater impact on continuous improvement than the grade 3, 6 and 9 testing.

On the evening of 30 November 2010, the Western Cape Provincial Legislature approved the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Bill. In ten years’ time, this moment will be recognised as a catalyst for quality improvement in education. In the week ahead, it will be my privilege to sign the Bill into law. It will come into effect on 1 January 2011, marking the start of a new era in effective education management.

The significance of the Bill is that it introduces real accountability into our schooling system. Principals and their deputies will, for the first time, have performance contracts directly linked to the learner outcomes achieved at their schools – against set targets. This provision will strengthen the provincial government’s ability to apply appropriate school improvement strategies, provide the necessary support – and act decisively against schools that consistently under-perform. The Bill reintroduces school inspections in the classroom to ensure that teaching and learning take place at the standards required. In short, the Bill enables real and meaningful intervention to arrest and reverse education decline.

As with all meaningful reform, it will take time to see the results. But with sufficient political will and managerial competence, there is a good chance of the impact being felt by the end of our current term, which is now only three and a half years away!

In the meantime, TV news continues to be dominated by the tripartite alliance’s seemingly endless parade of commemorations and events, characterised by obsolete rhetoric and an obscene waste of money. This trend will escalate towards the election, as the ANC pulls all the emotive levers to extend its control, entrench race-based thinking, and obscure the real policy choices for South Africa.

We have no option but to continue on the difficult path we have chosen. We will continue to do what we can, where we can, to improve peoples’ lives, one step at a time. If we can make the impact of our policies felt where we govern, issue by issue, we can offer a real alternative, break the shackles of race, and secure South Africa’s future.

Yours Sincerely,

Signed Helen Zille

Every year, the Democratic Alliance (DA) produces a Cabinet Report Card reflecting our assessment of the performance of the members of the Cabinet, in keeping with our constitutionally mandated oversight role as the official opposition. President Zuma is one of the weakest performers in his own Cabinet. Minister of Women and Children, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, who earned our only zero score. One of the stars of the Zuma administration is Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, who is quietly and judiciously going about undoing all the damage done to this department by some of his predecessors.


Public service: Baloyi praises DA-run Western Cape for 100% submissions compliance rate

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes Minister of Public Service and Administration Richard Baloyi’s open praise for the DA’s Western Cape administration, which he has applauded during a presentation on non-compliance of Directors-General in respect of the Financial Disclosures Framework Act. Minister Baloyi cited the DA-governed Western Cape’s 100% compliance rate in its submissions in terms of the Act as a powerful example of what happens when the right “management” and “political authority” are in place.


Road Accident Fund: Major restructuring needed to save organisation

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned that recently released details regarding the RAF’s indebtedness are only the tip of the iceberg. The fund has technically been insolvent for many years now and despite several interventions (R2.5 billion in additional appropriations; a cap on claims) the fund is still battling with a backlog of over 300 000 claims amounting to over R42 billion, said Stuart Farrow, Shadow Minister of Transport.


16 Days of Activism: Getting the basics right to protect women

The 16 Days of Activism provides all South Africans with an opportunity to take heed of the domestic violence that still ravages our land, and which particularly affects women and children – even while they should be enjoying the peace of a democratic dividend. Continuing with our focus on the 16 Days of Activism, the Democratic Alliance (DA) proposes that the Zuma administration consider implementing a range of practical measures that can have a profound effect on curbing domestic violence against women.


Find out more about the Democratic Alliance on our website.
Help realise the Open Opportunity Society for All by donating to the DA.
Contact the DA leader or your local public representative.
Read previous editions of SA Today on our website.

Comments by Sonny

In the end the ANC will destruct itself!!

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