DA: For an open society

To equip citizens to develop their full potential, the DA fosters better health and education, wages war on poverty and crime and defends the Constitution, writes Helen Zille

The Democratic Alliance’s 2009 election campaign is based on a package of carefully costed and mutually reinforcing policies that give practical expression to our vision of an “open opportunity society” for all. In such a society citizens are equipped with the tools to exercise freedom, take advantage of opportunities and develop their full potential.

Our policies address our top five priorities: to eradicate poverty; improve the quality of education; improve the quality of healthcare; fight crime; and protect and defend the Constitution.
These are all equal priorities.

The only way to eradicate poverty is through sustained job-creating economic growth and a significantly improved education system. Our economic policy promotes low inflation, a minimal budget deficit, lower taxation, a deregulated labour market, enterprise zones and opportunity vouchers. To assist new entrants into the labour market, we will provide all grade 12 school leavers with a wage subsidy for 12 months. We will boost labour-intensive export-oriented industries.

Quality education and skills development are essential tools. We will set performance targets for teachers and schools and reward good performance. We will make dysfunctional schools work better by establishing task teams and a mentoring programme. We will introduce a per-child pre-school state subsidy (weighted according to parental income) and encourage community-based early childhood education.

Our policy on social development is also aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty. But for the DA, welfare is a hand-up, not a hand-out. We emphasise opportunity and responsibility. For example, to ensure that children living in poverty benefit from a child support grant, the legal guardian of a child would have to prove that the child has attended school at least 85% of the time; been taken to a clinic for regular health check-ups, and received all his or her vaccinations.

Our health policy aims to attract more qualified healthcare personnel in public service and improve the quality of public healthcare by adopting the methods of private healthcare. We will bring private, public, community and NGO healthcare providers together to meet specific targets in three years.

Our chief goals are to increase: the percentage of children vaccinated against common childhood illnesses; the number of clinics offering HIV testing; the TB smear conversion rate; and the number of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving nevirapine.

Crime destroys lives, families and communities and a nation’s economy. To prevent crime, we will increase the number of police officers to 250 000. We will employ 30 000 more detectives. To ensure there is sufficient evidence to prosecute cases effectively, we will increase the number of forensic experts. We will establish a national register of police resources to identify areas where shortages are most acute. To reduce court backlogs, we will employ 500 more prosecutors and establish 24-hour courts.

Finally, the DA will emphasise the need to defend the Constitution, currently under assault by the ANC. We will strive to prevent the ANC from attaining a two-thirds majority.

We will strive to win provincial power to demonstrate our policies of the open opportunity society in practice.

Helen Zille is the national leader of the DA and mayor of Cape Town

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