How world sees SA: Amanpour chats to Maimane – A watershed moment.

Don’t kid yourselves, the world is watching. BBC’s HARDtalk and CNN may not have South Africa as its lead story but they’re picking about. And Amanpour speaking to Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane enforces this. And how far has the DA leader has come from the #AskMmusi days. He followed in the well worn footsteps of America’s social media king Barack Obama, and since then the #ThisFlag movement north of the border, has further highlighted the power of this medium, when used correctly. And as the Zapiro cartoon suggested back then, Maimane is still riding the wave. But the challenges are there, and despite the party winning four of the eight major metros in August, now the hard work begins and the spotlight’s on them, says Nomura’s Peter Attard Montalto. Poverty, joblessness, access to services…the list goes on. Amanpour tackles some of these challenges in the interview with Maimane, talking about the country’s watershed moment, and has South Africa shifted to a ‘non-racial movement’? It’s another tick on the pastor’s handbook. The interview with Amanpour is transcribed below. – Stuart Lowman

Amanpour: Something extraordinary is happening under the global radar over there in South Africa. The ANC has dominated South Africa’s politics since the end of Apartheid. Synonymous with Nelson Mandela, the party has represented a new dawn for the nation. Fast forward a couple of decades, though. The ANC has trodden a path of broken dreams and promises. Poverty, corruption, and inequality all thrive with the country on the brink of economic recession. South Africa’s main opposition – the Democratic Alliance – says that it offers an alternative. The party prospered at last month’s municipal elections, posting victories in Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, and even Johannesburg. Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the Democratic Alliance joins me now from Cape Town. Mr Maimane, welcome to the program. How surprised are you and how much of a ‘watershed’ moment would you say this is for South African politics?

Mmusi Maimane: Good evening and thank you so much for having us. It’s an absolutely critical moment in South Africa because in a world where you often see (in Africa) many liberation movements stay in power for continuous periods of time; in many of the major metros in South Africa, this has meant a significant change. It has been a ‘watershed’ moment in that out of the eight metros/big cities in Johannesburg that have such a big contribution to the economy, the Democratic Alliance is now the party that governs four of those. More than that, the dream of a party that is representative of Black, White, Indian, or Coloured South Africans – of all races – can finally come in. Finally, the electorate can stand up and say, “In the 22 years, subsequent to 1994’s dream of Nelson Mandela, they will still affirm their vote for a non-racial movement”. I think these are profound moments in our country and they certainly signal a very important step towards the 2019 National Elections at which, South Africans will go to the polls to elect a new president.

We’ve listed some of the issues: the poverty, the endemic corruption, and the country potentially on the brink of an economic recession. What do you attribute your victories to? Is it the anti-establishment feeling that is sort of going around the world or is it step-by-step strategy on your part?

In many ways, we sat back and looked at the economic climate in South Africa. It is absolutely a dire situation when you’ve got nine-million South Africans battling to find work. This presents a very, very difficult situation for many people back here at home. One of the things that we needed to be clear about was to offer an economic plan. A plan that said, “How do we stimulate micro-enterprise? How do we make sure South Africa is investor-friendly? How do we take the democratic project to a point at which, when we talk about change, it’s a material change from the hegemony that the ANC is, which has gotten the idea of a closed crony society to one that is open? One that says, “How can we take the big cities like Johannesburg and make sure that they’re investor-friendly?” South Africans heard that message and in fact, our election campaign really anchored itself on the idea of change, and people came out and did that. We also, as I said earlier on, made an offer on non-racialism. One of the critical distinguishing features is that both the ANC and the EFF went out and said, “You’d have to vote as an expression of your race as opposed to an expression of your ideas and ideals.” We took it and said, “Non-racialism is still an anchor of our democratic project.” It was proven that many South Africans still have a great appetite for it.

Well, you raise an issue, which the critics have been throwing at you. Certainly, the ANC and others have said, “Actually, this party is mostly White. Yes, you are a Black South African and you’re leading this party but actually, it’s not really for the Blacks.” You’ve just answered that and the elections have answered that but one of your fiercest critics has been Julius Malema – the leader of the EFF. He had criticised the DA and yet, I believe that in Johannesburg, you were able to win there and appoint the Mayor because he went into an alliance with you. Are you comfortable having that firebrand in your alliance?

Look, the arrangement is a unique one in that we have a proportional representative system here in South Africa so in many ways, the EFF have not officially come into a coalition with us. They simply said, ‘For you to elect the Mayor, we would then vote in support of that” so they may not support our policies or the key debate points that are going to come on board. Another debate about the Budget and whether we can pass a plan that seems to address the issues of the people of Johannesburg. As we stand at the moment, we are in no formal coalition agreement with the EFF. They remain in opposition, which I’m very comfortable with because ideologically, we could never agree on many issues. However, going forward into this next election cycle and passing Budget: I think both we (the DA) and the EFF can at least agree on one key thing – that (a) it’s better for change to happen away from the ANC and (b) the principles that we’ve agreed on is to say, “How do we govern for the poor? How do we ensure that in fact, we build an economy that’s growing and creates more jobs? I think it is wise for them to be able to say, “We’ve shown that we’re not a corrupt party. We’re a party for all South Africans” and so I welcome the opportunity they’ve allowed us to have to govern in Johannesburg, even as a minority government – to be able to steer that city towards a prosperous city for all people.

You mentioned corruption. Obviously huge allegations and charges being levelled at the President and many whom they called his cronies in the ANC. In particular, the world is watching this internal fight go on in South Africa: Pravin Gordhan, your Finance Minister. Would you say he’s broken the law? Zuma has been trying to remove him/prosecute him. What is your view on him and would you retain him in your administration, should it come to that?

Look, our view is simply that no one individual is above prosecution. No-one has pronounced ‘guilt’ on the Finance Minister. We’re simply saying that if there is a case he needs to answer for, the National Prosecuting Authority must be able to charge him appropriately. It must be able to investigate him, should they need to do so because we must never create a culture where anybody is above the law. Furthermore, what we’ve seen in South Africa, which is a much greater challenge is the State capture done by the President, and the use and abuse of the State. I think that in that particular instance…it’s for that reason that I’ll be going to the Parliamentary Process to request that there be an independent investigation, to ensure that we deal independently with the stance (or if you like, the war) that is seen to be taking place between the Finance Minister and the presidency. The long-term trajectory of this issue says, “How do we stabilise South Africa’s economy to make sure that there’s certainty for investors?” Should it have to come to a question about whether there could be a new administration in place, I certainly think that Pravin Gordhan has proven himself as a very competent individual. He has proven himself able to make tough decisions in the face thereof. What South Africa needs at this point in time, is stable leadership in the presidency. If it came down to a choice, it’s very clear: you can’t have a corrupt President at the top who has captured the State and is using State institutions to persecute people with prejudice. Therefore, we do need a strong change at the top to make sure we stabilise South Africa’s economy going forward, so that it becomes a place in which investors – globally – can feel comfortable putting their money into.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance. Thank you very much indeed, for joining us.

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