DA interim leader John Steenhuisen in a statement on Monday said he wanted to gauge the state of the country on the Day of Reconciliation.
He said the country still had a long way to go.
“Twenty-five years into our democracy one would have hoped that the scars of our divided past were well on their way to healing, and that the symbolic freedom of 1994 would have translated into a real, substantive freedom for millions of South Africans who had been locked out of opportunity and the economy. But the reality is that ours is still a country beset by crippling poverty and deep divides.”
He denounced people who would “drive wedges” between South Africans because “many in our country still benefit from keeping us mistrustful of one another”.
“There are many for whom conflict, blame and resentment are powerful weapons with which to cling to power.”
He said the majority of people wanted a South Africa “shared by all and with opportunities for all”.
“Our challenges may be daunting, but they are not insurmountable. If we act now, and if we harness the power of all those who want what’s best for South Africa, we still have enough time to overcome these challenges. This will require a new kind of coalition that truly has the interests of ordinary South Africans at heart.”
The DA recently suffered the devastating loss of control of the Johannesburg metro, with the same outcome seemingly inevitable in Tshwane despite a legal challenge against a vote that removed their mayor there too. The EFF has stopped supporting the DA, which had earlier adopted a report recommending the party should stop working with the EFF despite the EFF being the kingmakers in both metros.
Said Steenhuisen: “Some will point to the collapse of the coalitions and voting agreements in certain metros as proof that coalitions do not work in South Africa. But that is simply not true. Coalitions do work, as long as the partners stand in agreement on the core objectives and principles. This means that they have to agree on building an inclusive economy around sustained economic growth, they have to agree on clean, corruption-free governance and they have to respect the Constitution and the rule of law. With that as an unshakable foundation, we can make any coalition work for the people.”
He said the DA had made a “very complex coalition work in the City of Cape Town back in 2006, and we came very close to doing so in Nelson Mandela Bay”.
“But there, as in Johannesburg and Tshwane, it became clear that the forces of corruption and patronage would do anything to undermine clean, accountable governance. We all learnt some tough yet valuable lessons about partnerships that don’t share the same intentions.
“If we want Reconciliation Day to become a celebration of a unified and reconciled South Africa, as opposed to a reminder of how far we still have to travel, then we have to start building that country today. And we have to learn to turn our backs on those who don’t share this vision.”