DA’s charm offensive begins in earnest

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si DA Launch9469 Independent Newspaper Limited PARTY BOSSES: Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille and DA leader Helen Zille pose in front of the party billboard that they unveiled at Freedom Park during the launch of the DAs new economic policy and jobs plan. Picture: Masi Losi

Marianne Merten

DA leader Helen Zille today launches the first billboard in the party’s “Working for change. Working for jobs” campaign in Soweto as part of a six-week drive involving posters, sms alerts and pamphlet drops to popularise its policy plan for 8 percent economic growth.

It comes after yesterday’s launch of the DA’s “Plan for Growth and Jobs” at Freedom Park in Tshwane – the opening salvo in the 2014 elections campaign through which the party wants to extend governance control from the Western Cape to Gauteng and the Northern Cape, while becoming the official opposition in KwaZulu-Natal.

“If the DA is elected to national government so that we can implement this plan – let me stress, we have to be elected to national government to have the power to implement this plan – there will be more work for more people,” Zille told about 500 party faithfuls who were dressed in blue DA T-shirts at Freedom Park’s Gallery of Leaders.

Central to the DA’s policy plan – it is the first time the party has widely canvassed members’ input – is the youth wage subsidy for young people to get a foot in the labour markets, where hiring and firing would be made easier. By cutting red tape, doing business and setting up small enterprises would be made easier, while extensive infrastructure spending would be accompanied by job zones in, for example, ports to attract investment.

Education also features prominently, with undertakings to ensure quality teaching and sufficient textbooks. Cutting the cost of water, electricity and fuel prices is aimed at helping South Africans cope better with increasing living costs.

Zille’s keynote speech was preceded by several DA leaders’ short addresses on key policy points: parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko spoke on small business, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille on infrastructure spending, federal chairman Wilmot James on education and finance spokesman Tim Harris on economic growth.

A video was shown featuring Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech after being sworn in as president in 1994, and also dirty, potholed roads and shoddy living environments with a person holding up the ANC election posters promising “A better life for all”.

Also featured was sushi king Kenny Kunene surrounded by bikini-clad women, and Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi, representing the trade union federation that the DA says is among the privileged insiders.

De Lille received a rousing welcome, but the loudest appreciation was reserved for Zille for whom supporters sang “Helen Zille, my president” to the tune of the ANC chant “Yo Zuma, yo my president”.

The DA has also adopted the soccer substitution signal, used by groups in the ANC to show their wish for leadership change.

Later Zille said voters had the choice of the DA’s “very comprehensive, costed plan” or the ANC’s “confusion” and “incoherence”.

However she acknowledged that many of the DA policy proposals were not necessarily new, but were also contained in the National Development Plan spearheaded by the national Planning Ministry in the Presidency.

She pointed out that the plan appeared to have been abandoned by the ANC, which at its June policy conference did not adopt a single resolution reflecting its content.

While a core group of DA MPs was central to developing the policy plan, James and Harris criss-crossed the country to canvass members’ input. Most interactions were at provincial party level, but provinces were expected to consult their regions and branches.

A number of party outsiders were consulted, including academic and author Greg Mills, Adcorp’s Loane Sharp and academic and activist Mamphela Ramphele, and the plan was also taken to London, where it was canvassed at the SA High Commission’s trade mission, the Lib-Dem members of the House of Commons and with business.

While a number of SA businesses gave comments, it appears that only Investec was happy to be mentioned publicly.


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