Zille delivers a fiery farewell State of the Province address
News / 16 February 2019, 11:25am / ASANDA SOKANYILE
Cape Town - Twelve State of the Province Addresses, Twitter storms, unwashed hair and leadership battles. These are but a few of the memorable moments that marked the decade-long tenure of outgoing Western Cape premier, Helen Zille.
Zille has been a formidable opponent and arguably the fiercest opposition party leader.
The firebrand politician delivered her swansong address yesterday and used the opportunity to highlight the successes the DA achieved since she took office in 2009.
But it was not business as usual for Zille as the ANC “occupied Wale Street” to deliver what they dubbed “the real Sopa”.
The road leading to the provincial legislature was turned into a sea of black, green and yellow as a truck with loudspeakers blocked traffic and hundreds of ANC supporters from various areas endured the heat to listen to local ANC officials. The more than 300-strong crowd was addressed by the ANC premier candidate and provincial election head, Ebrahim Rasool, Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich and ANC Western Cape acting chairperson Khaya Magaxa.
Rasool told the crowd the ANC has filed a class action suit against the City of Cape Town and the DA government for increasing water tariffs.
“Those who water their big lawns must pay more, not those who want to wash themselves; those who use the water for their pools must pay more and not those who use the water to cook. That is the class action we are filing against the DA,” he said.
Rasool assured those gathered that corruption in the country would be rooted out. “Under Ramaphosa we are cleaning up and the Zondo commission is leading the way,” he said.
Ehrenreich accused the DA of not affording children in poor communities the opportunity to attend schools in affluent areas.
Meanwhile, drama unfolded inside the legislature when the ANC staged a walkout after Zille said the province had made significant gains in the educational sector and had, over the past 10 years, spent R171 billion on education, skills development and social opportunities for youth.
Magaxa raised a point of order, stating there were “still 6000 pupils who are not in school”.
During her tenure, Zille’s controversial tweets rocked the party, while in 2008, the DA and Zille, who was then mayor, faced criticism over their response to the 2008 xenophobic attacks in Cape Town.
In 2016, while returning from Singapore, Zille commented on Twitter that the legacy of colonialism was not all bad, because of the infrastructure and institutions it left that South Africa could build on.
Yesterday, Zille said during her term in office the DA had made improvements in education, service delivery, health care and infrastructure.
However, provincial ANC secretary Faiez Jacobs disputed this, saying: “Under ANC governance between 2004 and 2009, the Western Cape economy grew faster than in the period of DA governance. That’s right. Under the ANC the Western Cape grew by an annualised 5.5%, but under the DA it’s been 1.9%.”
Zille hit back, saying the Western Cape had been the only province to receive a clean audit since the DA took over in 2009. “At 83%, the Western Cape received the highest number of clean audits in South Africa in 2018/19 across all entities and departments. Today we are the cleanest government in South Africa; quite a turnaround from the situation of zero clean audits when we took office in 2009,” she said.
Zille, who in 2011 gave herself the Xhosa name Nontsapho to better relate to the party’s followers in townships, also applauded her government for having been able to spend 82% of its budget on service delivery to the poor.
“We have expanded social services to the disabled, our youth, the elderly, and those in need of protection and provided substance abuse treatment, and counselling. We’ve quadrupled the number of young people benefitting from youth development services, specifically through our social development department, from 5600 in 2009 to 19400 in 2018. We have supported land reform like no other province, made more South Africans home owners through title deeds and refined a game-changing model for well-located housing opportunities, which we know can be replicated countrywide,” she said.
Outside the legislature, 69-year-old Jennifer Stevens spoke of how she felt she had been let down by the DA-led government. “I have been going to their housing offices for the last five years; they send me from pillar to post and all I need is a place to stay.”
Stevens said she had applied for social housing, but every time she visited the provincial Human Settlements Department she was told there was nowhere to accommodate her yet.
“I am on the verge of living on the streets; my daughter and son-in-law don’t have space for me; their house is full. The DA government has taken away the last of the little hope I had of getting a home.”
Meanwhile, the Good party will officially launch Patricia de Lille’s campaign to become the next premier of the Western Cape in the city centre today.