Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille unveiled an ambitious election manifesto in Polokwane in Limpopo on Sunday, promising to:
- Deploy 250 000 "properly trained" police officers to the streets to fight crime.
- Train 15 ?000 more teachers each year, ensure each child has a textbook for every subject, on time, every year.
- Increase the National Student Financial Aid Scheme budget to R16-billion so that no student is denied education because they can’t afford.
- Create one-million internships for young jobseekers.
- Implement a youth wage subsidy that will benefit 423 ??000 young people in its first three years.
- Invest 10% of gross domestic product? in roads, railways, ports and water, and communications infrastructure including fast, reliable internet.
- Create six-million "real and permanent jobs" in addition to seven-million expanded public works programme job opportunities that will serve as "a step up the jobs ladder" and;
- Stop politicians and their families from doing business with government and opening up tender processes to public scrutiny.
Zille, clad in a royal blue skirt and a white jacket to match her party's colours, told supporters that this year's election and the failures of President Jacob Zuma's administration in the past five years have created an opportunity for the DA to govern South Africa.
"There is a new mood sweeping our country," Zille said. "Despair is making way for hope. We must seize this moment. We dare not fail because so much depends on the courage of every South African to choose change."
The DA's policies on land reform and broad-based black economic empowerment (BEE) have come under a spotlight recently, with the party being accused of ignoring injustices and inequalities of the past with its "equal opportunities for all" focus. This equal opportunities campaign now appears to have been dumped. Zille sought to convince potential DA voters that this is not true, while putting an emphasis on the creation of decent, permanent jobs.
DA supports broad-based BEE
As part of the land reform programme, the DA promised to support share equity schemes that give farmers shared ownership of the land they work.
"We will put an extra R10-billion into ensuring successful, sustainable and productive land reform," Zille said.
The DA reiterated that the DA supports broad-based BEE that creates jobs for more people instead of creating a few billionaires "because the apartheid government denied millions of black South Africans access to economic opportunities".
BEE under the DA government would incentivise companies to create new jobs, implement training schemes and give workers a stake in companies they work for, Zille told supporters who filled Polokwane Showgrounds.
While the DA would rather have people getting into "real jobs" instead of depending on social grants, Zille said the DA would not stop social grants if it was in power.
'Not just promises'
"These are not just promises," Zille told the crowd.
"We have already taken these steps where we govern [in the Western Cape, the only province the DA governs]. This is why DA governments receive the cleanest audits, get the best scores for service delivery to the poor and have the lowest unemployment rate in the country."
Though the ANC-led government was criticised throughout several speeches, Zille sought to alienate Zuma from former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki's administrations.
"Under presidents Mandela and Mbeki South Africa made progress. They had a good story to tell," she said, taking a jibe at the ANC’s "we’ve got a good story to tell" election campaign.
It was at this time that basic services like water, electricity, sanitation and housing were rolled out, said Zille.
"Things changed, right here in Polokwane in December 2007. At its elective conference that year the ANC elected a new leadership. That was a moment when a great political movement lost its sense of direction. It was hijacked by leaders who care more about themselves than the people they are meant toserve."
The DA will try to reduce the ANC’s election majority and is prepared to go into a coalition with smaller parties if that will unseat the party that has governed South Africa since 1994. National elections are scheduled to take place on 7 May and with Sunday’s election manifesto launch, the DA has officially kicked off its national campaign.