Mmusi Maimane’s speech at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg.
My fellow South Africans,
These words written by Sankomota three decades ago could have been written for us today.
We have a date with destiny. We have, before us, a moment described so well by Winston Churchill. We’ve been tapped on the shoulder and asked to do something great – something fitted to our talents.
This is our moment in history. It’s now or never.
Fellow South Africans,
Let me begin by sending my deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the devastating floods that swept through KZN and parts of the Eastern Cape.
This was a stark reminder of how close we are to the edge. We dare not ignore these red flags on climate change any longer.
What a wonderful sight this is here in Dobsonville today! If you want to know how far we have come as a party, just look around you.
The incredible energy here tells me one thing: We have the momentum. We are ready to bring change!
The DA is bigger and stronger than ever before. We are more diverse than ever before. We govern in more places than ever before.
We are united in our mission of building one South Africa for all.
The DA is the only party for all South Africans, and you will find us everywhere, from Durban to Dobsonville, from Chatsworth to Carletonville, and from Motherwell to Mitchells Plain.
We are young and old, black and white. We are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and non-believers.
We are men and women, gay and straight. We’re in cities, we’re in villages and we’re on farms.
Street by street, ward by ward, town by town, we are turning this country blue. And it is thanks to people like you: our blue wave of activists, volunteers and advocates for change.
Thank you to our staff members. Thank you to our public reps. Thank you to those who serve in our many governments.
Thank you to the thousands of men and women who put on the blue T-shirt every week and go out there to tell the DA story.
Thank you for your bravery. I know that challenging the status quo is never easy, but you are proving our critics and the pollsters wrong.
Thanks to you, millions of South Africans already wake up every day under a DA government.
You are the reason we’re going to bring change to the Northern Cape.
You are the reason we are going to bring change to Gauteng.
You are the reason we can retain the Western Cape and challenge the ANC nationally.
You are the reason we will ultimately choose a better future for South Africa.
I thank you, and our country thanks you.
I personally want to thank my family, and my Lord and Saviour who has protected me throughout this time.
Fellow South Africans,
On Wednesday we have an appointment with history. An appointment we must honour, because there is so much at stake.
It is a moment that comes round once every five years, when citizens are called upon to do something great.
I know South Africans are scared about the future. All of us – black and white, young and old – are worried about what tomorrow will bring.
We worry about the country we’re leaving for our children. We worry about what opportunities there might be for them one day. We worry if they will be safe.
As a nation we worry more than most, and we have good reason to.
We also have good reason to feel disappointed. To feel let down by the people who were meant to deliver and protect our freedom.
One can’t help but wonder how the generation that sacrificed so much for our freedom throughout the struggle would feel about how things turned out today.
How would they feel about the R1.2 trillion that was stolen during state capture?
How would they feel about all the waste and excess – the wealth and the cars and the VIP bodyguards – that were claimed like some kind of reward?
Just think how different South Africa could have looked today if it weren’t for this greed.
Think about our children who go to school hungry, only to sit in crowded classrooms where teachers either can’t teach, or simply don’t turn up for work.
Think about the girls who drop out of school because they cant afford sanitary towels.
These children will have nothing to show for twelve years of schooling. Half of them won’t even write matric. Their future was stolen before it even began.
Think about the 57 people who are murdered here every single day. Farmers and farm workers, brutally killed.
Or the 110 women who report that they have been raped, not to mention the hundreds that don’t report it.
Our homes have become prisons, whilst the criminals sit at home.
Think about children and mothers sleeping on hospital floors.
Think about 144 mental health patients who died at the hands of their government at Esidimeni.
Think about 34 striking miners who were shot down and killed by the hand of their government at Marikana.
Think about all the men and women in our cities, towns and villages who have no hope of finding a job. That number is almost 10 million, and it grows every day.
Think about the millions of homes without a single income. Homes where there is often nothing to eat because the month is just too long for a tiny social grant.
Four out of every ten homes must live like this.
I have seen this in many provinces. Over the past few months I travelled to every corner of South Africa, and I witnessed the best and the worst of our country.
I met incredible people committed to building our country into something truly great, but I also saw the despair that poverty brings. And I saw this in far too many places.
I met a woman in Douglas in the Northern Cape who told me she has been hungry for as far as she can remember. She had nothing to eat in her house.
It was heart-breaking, but she represents half of our country. Over 50% of our people live below the poverty line, and this number is getting bigger.
We are on borrowed time in this country, using borrowed money. But all things borrowed eventually run out.
We will run out of diesel at the end of the elections, and the lights will go out.
And we will certainly run out of money at a growth rate of just 0.8%.
Life is getting hard for citizens. Vat is up, fuel is up and the cost of living is going up.
We are in deep trouble. We‘re beyond the point where we can say, “your side of the boat is leaking”. All of us are now drowning.
Fellow South Africans,
I am angry. I am angry that the very people who were elected to lead us, ended up stealing from us. And what’s most offensive is that they stole from the poor.
They took the money that was meant to make life liveable for our most vulnerable citizens, and stuck it in their pockets.
The ANC were once the leaders in the struggle for freedom, but today they stand directly in the way of freedom for millions of South Africans.
They were once a movement, but today they are a monument – a mere relic of the past.
They were once our liberators, but today we need to be liberated from them.
That is why I’m angry.
And now they’ve elected a leader who wants you to believe he has just arrived in time to save us. But he was there all along.
Cyril Ramaphosa was there, as Deputy President, when the state was looted.
He was there when Zuma and the Guptas were protected in vote after vote after vote. His name is recorded in these votes as one of those who betrayed us.
This is a man who has taken no action against those in his party responsible for the Esidimeni deaths.
This is a man who called on the police to take action against mineworkers striking for a living wage. The next day 34 of them were killed.
This is a man who watched the looting of Eskom and Prasa, while he was tasked with fixing these institutions.
This is a man who took bribe money from Bosasa, and allowed his son to take their money too.
He wants a country where all things are nationalised – healthcare, the Reserve Bank, pension funds. I see the coalition towards this is strong. They are already offering each other cabinet posts.
Cyril Ramaphosa is no saviour. He is part of the ANC that caused so much despair and suffering these past 25 years. And now they want another five years to loot.
Is this what we want for our country? Or do we want a different outcome?
Because that is the simple choice that lies before us: We can either choose five more years of corruption and empty promises, or we can change.
We can either choose a future no different to our present, or we can choose a future with at least one job in every home, food on every table and opportunities for our children.
I know my answer to this: We need change, and we need it now.
But, fellow South Africans, here’s the thing about change: It is never easy. It’s uncomfortable. It can be scary.
Change requires us to leave behind everything we’ve become used to and step into a place we’ve never been before. It asks us to take the road less travelled.
We are told, by those who want to hold on to power, that we must fear change. They tell us change will paralyse our country.
They tell us coalitions don’t work. They tell us to mistrust each other. They tell us that our problem in this country is our different races.
They want us to fear change so that we keep things as they are. But we dare not listen to them.
We need to find, within ourselves, something stronger than fear. And that is hope and bravery. Hope to see a better tomorrow, and the bravery to march towards it.
If South Africans had been driven by fear in the past, then Apartheid would still be in place. But people were driven by hope instead. And so they showed courage and they opted for change.
Our moment of courage is now.
Maya Angelou once said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
If we want to undergo our own transformation as a country into something better – something more beautiful and more fair – then we have to be prepared to go through this change ourselves.
It is a normal and necessary part of any democracy.
And while I know it’s scary, this change has already begun.
We are no longer the South Africa of 1994. Our country has changed. And parties have also changed – some for the better, and some for the worst.
I am extremely proud of the DA’s growth over the past 25 years.
We went from a small party to an opposition party, and then a party of government.
Growing from just 1.7% in 1994 to a party that governed four metros after the 2016 election has allowed us to touch the lives of millions of South Africans with our brand of clean, honest government.
In this time we also changed to reflect the incredible diversity of our country.
Today you will find the DA in every community, fighting for the rights of all South Africans.
You will also find us at the heart of coalition governments, as we build a strong centre in South African politics, free from the divisions of the past.
The DA represents the future of our changing nation. We may not be perfect, but we’re honest, we work hard and we have a plan to completely reform our country.
It has been shown that 15 of the 20 best-run municipalities in South Africa are governed by the DA.
Fellow South Africans, this is the change I hope for:
I want to reform our politics so that people of all races can work together towards one goal, instead of retreating back into separate corners.
It’s not a choice between different flags; it’s only one. One South Africa for all.
Ours must be a country where the rights of minorities are defended by the majority. Because our project is no longer freedom fighting, but freedom protecting and enhancing.
I want to reform our economy so that we can break down the walls between the insiders and the outsiders.
I want every home to have at least one job. That way all South Africans will have the dignity of an income, and there will be food on every table, every day.
We can’t have our children become pensioners who leave school only to sit around the house living off someone’s pension.
I want to reform our government to make it efficient and honest. Because the one we have now with its massive cabinet and its bloated SOEs will bankrupt us.
I want provinces to run police and passenger rail services. And I want cities to stand at the forefront of economic growth.
Smaller, more local and more transparent – that’s the government I want.
And I want to reform our society so that we value life and family and community once more.
I want people to live close to work opportunities, so that migrant labour doesn’t tear families apart.
I want girls to finish school. I want our mothers and our sisters to be safe from abuse at home. I want all who live with HIV to have access to medicine. And I want child grants to increase so that they can sustain our children.
That is what this country will look like under a DA government, and I am proud to say we are ready to deliver this. We have grown into this role.
The DA has changed, and for the better.
But now you need to change too.
You need to be brave and perhaps do something you haven’t done before when you go to vote on Wednesday.
Because I’ll tell you this about bravery: It always pays off. Sometimes not immediately. Sometimes only for a next generation. But it is always rewarded.
Our hero, Caster Semenya, has had to be very brave throughout her athletics career. She’s had to put up with the kind of humiliation and suffering that we can hardly imagine. But she has remained strong.
And one day, 20 years from now, we won’t be discussing the IAAF and its rulings. We will be discussing the fact that little girls can compete freely – that they can be who they are and run where they want to. Thanks to her bravery.
Our history is full of brave people who paved the way for others to live better lives.
Helen Suzman’s bravery in Parliament, where she was a lone voice for many years, made life better for South Africans.
Rosa Parks’s bravery on that bus in Alabama 64 years ago changed American society forever.
It takes guts to be one of the first to stand up for change.
I know there are many of you here today who know exactly what I’m talking about.
But we can’t let this weaken our resolve. We must stand tall and let the world know that we care about our country, and that’s why we choose change.
We will not be guided by the fear that makes us stick with what we know. We will be guided by our hope for a better tomorrow.
My fellow South Africans, our hope in this country – our only hope – lies with the DA.
But in choosing the DA, I don’t expect anyone’s loyalty for life. I’m not even asking you to like the DA.
I’m only asking you to give change a chance.
I’m asking you to lend us your vote for the next five years. That’s it. Five years at a time.
When we reach the end of this period, judge us. See if we did the things we said we’d do.
If so, then lend us your vote again for another five years. But if we didn’t – if it turns out we broke our promises to you – then fire us again.
Your vote is your power, but only if you use it right.
Your vote cannot simply be an expression of who you are: your race, your language, your culture or your religion.
It has to be an expression of what you want for your country, for your future and for your children.
Your vote has to say: “I will not be abused by anyone, even if it is a party I love. I will not allow them to take away the future of my children. I will be brave and I will choose change.”
So I want to propose a deal today – a contract with you. In return for your vote, I pledge that a DA-led government will do these things:
We will put an end to the corruption that has ruined our country and betrayed our people. Any politician or official found guilty will go to jail for 15 years.
We will lift our failed economy back into real growth. Not the ANC’s best-case scenario of 1% or 1.5%, but proper, sustained growth that will create millions of jobs.
We will cut the size of the state, reduce the cabinet by half, and trim away all the luxuries that this ANC government has become used to, so that we can increase child grants to living grants.
The days of living like kings at the expense of the people will be over.
We will transform the South African Police Service into a well-trained, well-equipped and highly motivated crime fighting unit. People will be safe in their streets once more.
We will defend our Constitution against anyone who seeks to destroy it.
We will defend every right contained in it, for every single South African. Including the right to own property, as we have already done in Johannesburg, Tshwane and the Western Cape, where more people are now land owners under the DA.
We will uphold the Rule of Law. This means one set of laws for all.
No matter if you’re the president, the president’s son, a cabinet minister or a wealthy businessman or woman, if you commit a crime you will face the consequences.
Unlike this government who sends their guilty to parliament instead of jail. I say let’s use our votes to put them in prison, not parliament.
We will cherish the young people in our country and make it our top priority to give them a future worth living for.
This means fixing education, fighting drugs and gangs, and opening every possible door of opportunity for them.
And we will never, ever divide the people of this country and mobilise them against each other.
We will never return to the days of “us and them”. Our South Africa will be inclusive, unified and strong.
That’s my pledge to you. That’s my side of the contract. In return, I will need your vote.
This is not a popularity contest. It’s not a pageant. This about competence. I’m not asking you to marry me, I’m merely asking you to employ a government with a proven track record.
If I dishonour this contract, then you have every right to walk away from it. Then you have every right to fire the DA. But let us first prove to you that we can do this job.
Because I know we can. I have no doubt that the DA can turn South Africa around.
We have already done so wherever we’ve had the opportunity to put together a government and implement our policies.
Without fail, DA governments in towns, in metros and in provinces have proven that we are the only party that gets things done.
We are the only party that brings real, tangible change to people’s lives.
We are the only party committed to building capable and honest governments.
And we are the only party that can put a job in every home.
That is all that matters when you go to make your mark on Wednesday.
We have to choose change, or we will lose everything we once thought possible for our country.
I know this is hard for those who have only ever known one party. I was in that position too once. But looking back now, embracing change was the best thing I ever did.
We stand on the shoulders of those who turned against liberation movements and chose change.
I read a quote the other day that said: “Great things never come from comfort zones.”
We need to step out of our comfort zone if we want great things for our country.
We must look to the future when we make our choice on Wednesday.
We must think of our children when we make our choice on Wednesday.
But above all, we must be brave when we make our choice on Wednesday.
I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.
Let us remove this ANC government in Gauteng.
Let us remove them in the Northern Cape.
We can even do so nationally if everyone who supports the DA turns out to vote.
Let’s go and write the first chapter of our new story.
Let’s use our democracy the way it was meant to be used.
Let’s vote for our hopes, not our fears.
Let us be brave and give change a chance. We must all turn out. All voters.
O dutse o phuthile matsoho.
Afrika, hayi hale!
O re o shebile dintho tsa mahala.
You gonna wait forever!
O phutile matsoho,
O shebile banna ha ba sebetsa,
We cant now gare phute matsoho.
This is your moment.
Let us live and strive for freedom in South Africa our land!
- Mmusi Maimane is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s official opposition.