SA’s “hinge-of-history” moment – DA leader John Steenhuisen on why 2024 could be the year of change…

Many people see South Africa’s national election next year as a “hinge-of-history moment”. That is the belief of Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen who speaks to BizNews from Clarens in the Free State where has been engaging with local communities. Steenhuisen hopes that the upcoming historic National Convention of Opposition Party leaders will result in the setting aside of petty differences; egos being left at the door – and a blueprint for building a new majority. As for the recent National Dialogue on Coalition Governments lead by Deputy President Paul Mashatile, Steenhuisen says: “I think it’s a startling admission from the ANC that they are going to lose the majority next year.” However, he says there is consensus that coalitions have to be stabilised so that large parts of government are not paralysed because of poorly crafted or messy coalitions that are standing in the way of service delivery. Highly motivated by his journey through the Free State, he says: “…as heartbreaking as it has been, it’s also been absolutely inspiring to see how communities are stepping in where government has retreated”. – Chris Steyn

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Highlights from the interview

Many people see South Africa’s national election next year as a “hinge-of-history moment”. 

That is the belief of Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen who joins BizNews from Clarens in the Free State where he is engaging with local communities.

Sharing their hopes for a coalition government, Steenhuisen says: “So I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm. I think there’s a lot of desperation as well on the ground for some form of change; something that’s going to break the log jam of despair, of unemployment, of low growth and break through; something completely different and new that’s going to change the dynamic in South Africa. 

“So, I see people who are desperate, but I also see people who are very, very hopeful that things can come right. And that’s why there’s so much riding now on the Moonshot Pact, not to damage that hope, but to kindle that hope, where we can excite people to register and importantly, excite them to vote next year and show them that for the first time in 30 years, the votes are really going to count.”

Read more: John Steenhuisen: How the DA will beat EFF and the fragmenting ANC and win in 2024

Commenting on his expectations for the outcome of the upcoming historic National Convention of Opposition Party leaders, Steenhuisen says:  “My hope is that we can put aside petty differences, we can leave egos at the door and come up with a blueprint that’s going to show us how to build a new majority in South Africa so we can get South Africa off this terrible, low growth, high debt, unemployment trajectory…

“I’m more inspired now after the last two days that South Africans have the best intentions and the best ideas. And that is nothing wrong with South Africa that can’t be fixed by everything that’s right with South Africa. We just need a government who is going to be on the side of the people and works for the people instead of enriching itself, and instead of seeking opportunities to enrich connected individuals.”

Reflecting on the recent National Dialogue on Coalition Governments lead by Deputy President Paul Mashatile, Steenhuisen says: “I think it’s a startling admission from the ANC that they are going to lose the majority next year. And that obviously gives me great hope for the Moonshot Pact; that we will be able to build that new majority and sweep them out of office next year.

“I think everybody agrees that we have to stabilise coalitions and find ways to do that; that coalitions are going to be with us for certainly the short- and medium term in South African politics – and we’re going to have to learn how to navigate them. 

“We obviously can’t end up with situations with large parts of government paralysed because of poorly crafted or messy coalitions that are standing in the way of service delivery.

“…and we must learn how to manage them properly so that the people receive the services and that we build professional civil services that can carry on operating despite the fact that there may be coalition negotiations underway, or a civil service that’s able to navigate changes in political administration.”

Read more: BN@10: Herman Mashaba – Count me out of any coalition that includes the criminal ANC

Deeply inspired by his journey through the Free State, Steenhuisen says:  But as heartbreaking as it has been, it’s also been absolutely inspiring to see how communities are stepping in where government has retreated. 

“…in Frankfort, being able to sit with rural Free State who have been able to electrify with private infrastructure a town, and are able to provide the electricity. And…I saw what I think is the solution to our energy crisis: green energy, but community owned, community operated and infrastructure belonging ultimately to the community.

“And then secondly, to see as well where the SAPS have failed to keep farmers safe on their farms, but also to protect livestock and the lives and livelihoods of farmers and farm workers… Again, the community have stepped in the Bethlehem control room, which is keeping this community safe….

“And I think this is going to be the key to unlocking how we save South Africa ultimately, and that is by ensuring that we all pitch in and do the things that government is not doing and take power back for communities away from government.

“I’ve seen the power of communities and the power of people. Imagine if these people had a government that was working hand in hand with them and not against them.”

*Steenhuisen’s visit follows a series of interviews done by BizNews on the long standing problems with governance and security in Free State towns, particularly in Clarens around surrounding areas:

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