Lusikisiki - The exodus of people from the Eastern Cape is the biggest possible vote of no-confidence in a government, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.
Speaking at the DA's 2019 elections manifesto launch in Lusikisiki, Maimane said "If you really want to see the difference a particular party can make in government, then you must compare it to another party in government. You must gather facts on the performances of both of them, and hold these facts up alongside each other. That’s only way to judge a governing party. Not on promises. Not on ideology. Not on distant history. Only on the facts of its track record," he said.
"I want to look at two neighbouring provinces – the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape – so that we can make an informed decision about their respective governments. The Eastern Cape has had an ANC government since the dawn of our democracy in 1994, and the Western Cape has had a DA government for the past 10 years since it took over from the ANC in 2009."
The two provinces shared many similarities. They were similar in size, population numbers, both had long rugged coastlines and beautiful interiors that ranged from semi-desert Karoo to towering mountain ranges.
They had similar key industries on which their economies depended. Tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing employed the vast majority of people in both provinces. They even spoke, for the most part, the same languages.
"But that is where the similarities end. Because when it comes to the lived experience of the residents of these neighbouring provinces, they might as well be two different countries. Even just driving across the boundary, you immediately feel the difference beneath the wheels of your car," Maimane said.
One of these provinces had spent the past decade fighting its way back to prosperity and opportunity for its people, while the other had slipped further and further back into poverty and despair. One was a place to which people flocked in search of a better life, while the other was a place that people had to leave to survive.
"More people leave the Eastern Cape each year than any other province in South Africa. Since 2006, more than 1.5 million people have abandoned the Eastern Cape in search of a better future elsewhere.
"This exodus of people is the biggest possible vote of no-confidence in a government, whether they leave in search of work, for access to healthcare, for better living conditions and basic services, or for education opportunities for their children. It is a shameful reflection of a government that has collapsed this province," he said.
"Moving from one province to another is a very clear vote. It is a vote for a government that is caring, capable and corruption-free, and it is a vote against a government that has betrayed the trust of the people.
"I know the potential of the Eastern Cape. I used to run an NGO in Keiskammahoek that helped with the development of farmers. I know how fertile this province is – it could be the backbone of our agriculture sector. I also know the enormous potential that lies in tourism here, as well as manufacturing. The Eastern Cape should be booming. There should be a job in every home, in every village.
"But instead people have been leaving the province of their birth because there are simply no opportunities for them or their children here. They leave where they cannot see a future, and they go where they think they can build a better life for them and their families.
"And one such place is the Western Cape, a province that attracts more and more people each year from all over South Africa. And the reason for this is simple: People go where they are confident life will be better.
"People go where the government doesn’t steal public money, where it will spend its budget on the things that improve living conditions. Things like basic service delivery, infrastructure, education, and healthcare," Maimane said.
People went where they knew there was a chance of finding work. The expanded unemployment rate in the Eastern Cape was almost 47 percent. This meant that one out of every two adults could not find work. This province had the highest unemployment rate in the whole country.
In the Western Cape the expanded unemployment rate was less than half of this, at 23 percent. No other province came close to this. This was a full 14 percent below the national average of 37 percent, he said.
There was no reason why the Eastern Cape could not make the same turnaround that the Western Cape did 10 years ago. There was no reason why it could not also be a place of growth, jobs, and opportunities – a place where people came to instead of leaving.
"All it takes is a government like the one in the Western Cape. A government that genuinely cares, a government staffed only by capable candidates and a government that does not tolerate the theft and mismanagement of the people’s money," Maimane said.