DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - It is not in South Africa’s interest at all to give the African National Congress a stronger mandate, regardless of what some commentators may write, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.

"If we truly want to reform our politics – and thereby reform our country – the best thing we can do is to bring the ANC below 50 percent," he said at the DA's Freedom Day celebrations in Johannesburg, during which the party also launched its proposed "Jobs Act".

Over the course of these 25 years of ANC government, life had become harder for poor South Africans. Far more South Africans had joined the ranks of the unemployed, and many more now lived below the poverty line. More South Africans lived in homes without a single income and had to survive off small grants and remittances, he said.

More children dropped out of school before matric. More South Africans were victims of crime, and particularly violent crime. And everything from transport and food to electricity and petrol cost "way, way more, even accounting for inflation".

"Twenty-five years of ANC rule had been devastating for our country and its people. But it’s also been disastrous for the ANC itself. The former liberation movement that once promised South Africans 'a better life for all' bears no resemblance today to the one that was once headed up by Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela," Maimane said.

What used to be a movement for liberation had now become a monument to a bygone era. But this was the natural life cycle of all liberation movements. They were born, they struggled for freedom, they were rewarded with a period in government, and then, after failing to make this transition, they died.

"Throughout Africa we have seen this countless times – liberation movements that sink under the weight of their own corruption and greed, eventually making way for the next phase of a nation’s democracy," Maimane said.

"Like other liberation movements on the continent, they go along with the conventions of democracy, but they never really buy into them. They pretend to honour the Constitution, because that’s what you do, but they’re not committed to it. They go along with elections because this is what a democracy requires, but they see the results as a foregone conclusion. They pretend to advocate for a free and independent media, but they view the public broadcaster as a party mouthpiece and they expect flattering coverage in the press.

"Many people, who notice these tendencies and see where the party is heading, say that any opposition to the liberation movement must come from within the movement itself. That it must somehow cleanse and heal itself, as we supposedly saw in Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF, and now with the ANC. But this is nothing other than factionalism. It just describes a new group’s turn to eat," he said.

The transformation of liberation movements was often quite dramatic. Many of the ANC leaders of 25 years ago would have been appalled at what the party had become today. In 1994 they had a crop of credible leaders – untempted at that stage and thus untainted. They valued free and fair elections, and seemed to understand that power lay in the will of the people. In contrast with this, the ANC of today had resorted to racial mobilisation and fear-mongering to delay the inevitable electoral defeat. 


"That’s where we stand with our country right now. We need a fresh start. And this cannot possibly come from within the ANC. It has to come from outside, or else we’re only talking about the swapping of factions.

"It has become clear that the economic reforms needed in South Africa cannot come from an ANC government stuck in the past and committed to a worldview long abandoned by the rest of the world. The ANC government’s idea of sweeping state control and state-led growth belongs in a time long gone," Maimane said.

African News Agency/ANA