Bigger, blacker alliance of democrats

During the first 10 years of democracy in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance made two quantum leaps forward.

The first was when the then-Democratic Party moved from being a vocal but small opposition party to becoming the largest opposition party in Parliament and the official opposition to the African National Congress-led government.

The second has occurred in recent months, as the DA progressed beyond mere opposition and began to form the core of an alternative government to the ANC.

With our Coalition for Change with the Inkatha Freedom Party and other parties, we are challenging the ANC for power at every level. And ours is not an opposition for opposition’s sake.
Through our policy programme, we have outlined comprehensive and radical alternatives to the government’s approach on critical issues.

In the next decade I believe that the DA will take two more crucial steps ahead.

The first is that we will move from being the core of an alternative government to being the core of a government in power.

Already we form part of the provincial government in KwaZulu-Natal, and we govern or co-govern in many municipalities.

We will build on these foundations, starting with the 2004 election. We will become the key partner in governing coalitions in more and more provinces and municipalities, and we will increase our relative size and strength in legislatures and councils across the country. Our national delegation in Parliament will also grow and will lead a formidable opposition bloc in the National Assembly.

By 2014 we intend to lead a new governing coalition that will replace the ANC in government at the national level.

At the same time, the DA will be taking a second step: electing a party leadership that better reflects the diversity among DA members.

Already the DA’s members speak a wide variety of languages and embrace many different religious faiths. We are a colourful microcosm of the Rainbow Nation; more than 80% of the members of the DA Youth are black.

Our task is to train and promote more and more of our young leaders so that they can take the reins of the party. I have made a personal commitment to this task and to ensuring that our party lives up to its non-racial, multicultural ideals.

By taking these two major steps, the DA will cement its place in South African politics and strengthen the edifice of South African democracy.

The ANC will continue to lose support over the next decade as it becomes more top-heavy and as it attempts to centralise power even further. As the “liberation dividend” fades, the ruling party will be held to account for its governance.

We will continue to win support from the people — and grudging support from the ANC — for our policies. Just as continued pressure from civil society and the DA helped push the government into announcing a plan for a roll-out of anti-retroviral drugs, we will use our political muscle to re-define the national agenda around pressing issues such as job creation, poverty, crime and education.

As we do so, the DA will take its place among the new wave of democratic parties throughout the African continent that are challenging the old liberation elites and demanding new policies that give substance to the ideals of political freedom and economic prosperity.

Already, we have gained the respect of African and Commonwealth leaders who support our concept of a “road map” to democracy in Zimbabwe. We will continue to promote a vision of African solidarity that emphasises peace, human rights, democracy and good governance.

Tony Leon is head of the Democratic Alliance

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