Why I'm standing for DA candidacy for Gauteng Premier

Makashule Gana says we must reignite Mama Winnie’s struggle for freedom with the ‘fierce urgency of now’


Ndza khensa Mufambisi wa ntirho

My fellow DA leaders,

Members of the media present

Fellow South Africans

Ladies and gentlemen:

I’m a plain speaker. I’ve invited you here today to announce that I will be putting my name forward as the Democratic Alliance candidate for Gauteng Premier, and to trigger the country’s most important election campaign.

The 2019 election will be a pivotal moment for the country. As our DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, said on Sunday, we must win Gauteng. Mmusi’s call was that we must win, not because we are ambitious for office, but for its potential to make South Africa more equal, more inclusive, more prosperous and more responsive to the challenges of the changed global order.

I believe that we can and know that we must win Gauteng, which is why I am availing myself to be the Gauteng Premier Candidate for the DA.

This is not a decision I have taken lightly. It has been 16 years in the making. I have been a member and activist at the community level for the DA.

I have proudly served the DA at all levels of government.

My journey started as a councillor in Johannesburg to a seat in the National Assembly, and I now serve in the Gauteng provincial legislature.

I am a social liberal through and through. The DA is forever imprinted in my political DNA.

The experience that I have gained has prepared me for the role of Premier of Gauteng. I am ready to lead Gauteng. Like a marathon runner that I am, who has trained unceasingly, I am ready to scale the political mountains.

I am ready to deliver a famous victory not for me, but for the voiceless majority of Gauteng, who have been marginalised and ignored for far too long.

I have invited you here to join me on this journey; to be history’s change-makers with me, not chance witnesses, just looking on. 

It is time, my fellow citizens, to come back to where we began, to remember where we promised to go - together, as a province, and as a nation.

When we defeated apartheid, we rejoiced, and the world rejoiced with us.

 We became a beacon for the world, a light of justice and a model for the future, for everyone -everywhere.

It is in this spirit of ethical leadership that I asked you to join me here today. I believe South Africa must reinvigorate the spirit of non-racialism that bought Nelson Mandela to power nearly 25 year ago.

I believe we have a duty to honour the legacy of Ma Winnie, the mother of the nation, who completed her marathon race last week.

Mama Winnie’s sacrifice reminds us that the world which so many now take for granted was won by struggle. It is a great source of pride to us that her struggle is so entwined with the story of this province.

And today we must reignite Ma’s struggle for freedom with the ‘fierce urgency of now’. We cannot wait, we dare not sit idly by and miss the opportunity for powerful change. Yes, we must continue to work against the forces that would gobble up the precious progress that we made. We must be vigilant and steadfast. The dream of a non-racial South Africa still lives on despite the storms that often threaten to overwhelm us. I know this, you know this and together we can work towards this. 

2018 holds many obstacles that Gauteng must face. But they have a common thread. Most have their roots in our failure to do as much as we should have done to build a non-racial economy and society. This is not the time to make accusations or cheap political points.

Often, we feel like the most conflicted nation in God’s creation, blessed and cursed in equal measure. Blessed with life and beauty, cursed by racial divisions and bureaucratic stumbling.

It’s hard to define us, and even harder to keep us down. We are blessed with a spirit of enterprise and Gauteng is still the most developed economy in Africa. We always make the best of every situation, no matter how tough.

This is the complex backdrop to my story.

I am the story of what I would like to see for every child in this country. I grew up in one of the country’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Yet, ours is a country that I could become a proud parliamentarian by my twenties. I married a beautiful woman, and we have two children, of whom I am unreasonably proud.

Every instinct in me was sharpened by the daily injustices of apartheid, as much as they were by triumph of the human spirit to overcome them.

I entered politics to help pull down South Africa’s ‘Walls of Jericho’: the social and economic legacy of apartheid. I took up the good fight to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all her people; for the many and not just the few.

So today, democrats, I say that it is not enough simply to say that we acknowledge apartheid; it is the economic and social legacy of apartheid that needs to be acknowledged and with which we need to deal a strong and decisive blow once and for all.

I stand before you because I am not satisfied with the pace of change in the country I love. It’s not nearly fast enough, and in many significant ways, South Africa is going backwards.

 Old trends can be like the power of the river, when we stop moving forwards, the current pulls us backwards. It is our job to never relax back into old habits and to keep pushing forward.

We must push forward because, to this day, Gauteng’s broken society bears deep wounds.

The evidence of this is clear. It is astonishing that even today we Gautengers of different races, cultures and languages know so little about each other, isn’t it?

In Gauteng, we are still separated by the circumstances of our birth, the healthcare we receive, the schools our children go to, the careers we pursue, where we worship and even by how, in the end, we die. These social and cultural systems are the connective fibre of our province, and we must work together to change these institutions.

If we are to give non-racialism real meaning, we need to convince the poorest of the poor, the true victims of apartheid, that Gauteng is genuinely a better place today.

Our province must compare more favourably to apartheid in terms of living standards, and this means more jobs. Economic freedom is the most important condition for fixing our contract of non-racialism. 

I have asked my campaign team to “think the unthinkable” in crafting an alternative economic vision for Gauteng in 2018; one that truly builds a non-racial and inclusive economy for all.

I am not an economics guru, but I have resilient principles that inform my politics. I have a vision for Gauteng based on true dignity for every citizen. As a social liberal, I believe dignity is the God-given right of every person to provide for themselves, their family and their loved ones.

I believe that our society is only as strong as our most vulnerable citizen and our guiding principle must be: how do we give the life of a high school dropout meaning and purpose? We must not promise this woman hope for tomorrow but hope for today!

As a millennial, I also know that South Africa must rise to the challenge of a technological revolution in which ‘big data’ and robotics are transforming our industries.

The narrow definition of people actively seeking work puts the unemployment rate in Gauteng at 28%. This is over one in four people without work.

This statistic, however, masks the true face of the crisis. The traditional pathways to employment are shifting in our uncertain world. This changing workplace requires new skills and thinking. Access to the dignity of work requires bold leadership if we are to ensure this essential freedom for all South Africans.

It starts with our children. A child’s learning begins before birth, and the most critical period in a child’s development occurs within the first five years of life. The quality of learning experiences at home and school during this period often has a life-long impact on later learning success, behaviour, and health. 

The leaders of the world’s most innovative economies have staked their future on early education by investing in early day care centres.

I will be revealing proposals to provide publicly financed charter schools to raise the standards of our poorest students from the townships with open enrolment and school choice. This is a great model of public-private partnership that serves to incentivize the creation of top performing schools.

I will not until children the from the townships and informal settlements receive the highest quality of education, and no longer will they have to wake up in darkness to travel to the former model C schools.

My 2019 vision is to position Gauteng as Africa’s top business centre and tourist hub: a visionary province that creates real work opportunities and delivers good services for all. 

If I can borrow a phrase from our wonderful Herman Mashaba: “if Gauteng works, South Africa works”. I am ready to build a Gauteng that works so that South Africa can work. 

In our ‘whole of society’ vision, proper investments in our children will allow young mothers to return to work.

My government will empower women entrepreneurs in the townships to establish the early learning centres as public private initiatives.

We will also support aspirant entrepreneurs that prioritise women in applying for start-up finance, including accessing funding and know-how expertise from educational organizations.

We need to entirely reimagine the purpose of fair work for all as the old ways of creating jobs are becoming obsolete.

Drawing on international best-practise, my administration will adopt a subsidised wages scheme for people who are in training.

A DA led Gauteng will make it much easier for businesses to employ South Africans by cutting through the excessive red tape and restrictions that hold entrepreneurs back by preventing them from launching new businesses and accessing start-up capital.

 There is of course a legitimate concern that South African citizens are struggling to find work in the hospitality industry and security sectors.

Illegal immigrants are often recruited for these jobs. This fans the divisions within our society and increases xenophobic attacks. I detest these attacks on our African brothers and sisters.

We must not only be tough on xenophobia, we must be tough on the elements that cause it.

As a party, we’ve already pledged that province-owned land and buildings will be audited. Affordable commercial spaces for small businesses, artisans, and shops will be identified and leased out at the lowest available rental to create our own Kigali, Melbourne or London.

New jobs are mainly created in the rich soil of dynamic businesses. We will provide expertise to assist businesses to evolve from start-ups to scale-ups.

Acting as a grand facilitator, we’ll also partner large, sector-focused companies with smaller businesses that want to grow.

And we will look at setting up a Provincial Entrepreneurial Strategy Forum with representatives from all sectors of society, working to connect aspirant entrepreneurs to microfinance and loans.

Wherever we govern, large supply-chain and procurement tenders are carved up into a set of smaller contracts. This is so many more SMEs can then bid for them successfully, especially for first time entrepreneurs. This is real distribution.

 Growing up in the village, I know one economic truth: when you share the cake, it grows.

We have an energizing vision to transform our entrepreneurial culture, so that a taxi driver can become a taxi company owner. In a domino effect, her job will become vacant for a jobless single mom.

Ladies and gentlemen: it’s time to “think the unthinkable” in our journey to build a non-racial economy for a non-racial Gauteng.

And that’s why we draw fresh hope today.

We are not alone in this trial to end racialism, as today when we read the news, we see conflicts and protests around the world which are achingly like our story. We are alone, however, in our history of defeating the enemy of apartheid. We know what doesn’t break us makes us stronger.

We, as South Africans, have a unique and powerful past from which to draw our inspiration and our courage. My dream is to lead this province into the promised land of a non-racial reality, and to provide an example of hope and leadership for the rest of the country.

The end of apartheid inspired a generation, we must go back and recall that memory of exuberance, and we must rekindle our commitment to the struggle for economic freedom. Our province, our nation, our future generations depend on it.

In Conclusion, I would like to thank my wife who has been a pillar of strength in my political journey. A special thanks to my Provincial Leader, John Moodey for his support and guidance.

Most importantly I want to thank our DA activists and members who continue to inspire me to do more. This journey to 2019 victory we started together and together we will make it happen. Together we have worked to ensure that the people of Midvaal continue to experience the DA delivery government and together the residents of Tshwane and Johannesburg are enjoying quality services delivered by DA led governments. I am convinced that together we will win Gauteng. I am ready to lead the campaign on the ground and I am READY to lead Gauteng as a Premier in 2019.

I thank you