POLITICS

Ramaphosa must challenge dogmas of past - Geordin Hill-Lewis

DA MP says these consign poor black SAns to permanent tenancy and dependency on state (19 Feb 2018)

Speech by Geordin Hill-Lewis DA MP in the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address, Monday, 19 February 2018

Mr G G HILL-LEWIS: Deputy Speaker, let me start by saying that our colleague, David Maynier, has had a personal tragedy in his family this afternoon and he is unable to be here. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time. I also want to say that it is wonderful to speak in this debate for the first time as a Member of Parliament with a President who is actually presidential and I congratulate you, President Ramaphosa, on your election last week as President of the Republic of South Africa.

We are now emerging from a nine-year long nightmare which has shattered public trust in us in this institution, shattered the economy and shattered the lives of millions of ordinary people in South Africa. There must still be consequences for those who were responsible. There can be no immunity for any person.

While the wheels of justice turn, - as they will - it is up to us in the here and now to pick up the pieces and rebuild. We can fix South Africa and we can do it now. After his own country had just emerged from a long period of self-inflicted harm and divisiveness, the great American statesman Abraham Lincoln said:

Our occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our circumstance is new, so we must think anew and act anew.

Indeed, Sir, our occasion is piled high with difficulty.

We have weak economic growth, we have little money left and that little we had we used to bailout state-owned enterprises, we have budget deficit blow outs and a ballooning national debt. Moody’s has triggered us for a review for a downgrade, circling us like sharks, monitoring our every move and ready to downgrade us to junk status.

We are left with millions of people, most of whom are young people who do not have jobs and have given up looking for jobs. Again, we are left with millions of people, most of whom are young people, who live without dignity in the pain and struggle of daily poverty, without independence, without hope and without freedom. Those are the people, the left out and the forgotten, who need us to fix South Africa now. That is why President Ramaphosa was right to call on us to seize the moment to make a meaningful difference in the lives of ordinary people in our country. He set out a vision of a new path for growth and employment. Indeed, our case is new and we must think anew and act anew. Tough decisions and bold leadership is required. We must be prepared to challenge the dogmas of the past which are not suited to our stormy present.

The President will need to challenge the dogmas of the past that still define policy in his own party and which are not suited to our stormy present; dogmas which consign poor – mainly black South Africans - to permanent tenancy and dependency on the state and not as empowered individuals imbued with their own agency and potential; and dogmas which see more state as the answer to everything rather than more creativity, innovation, competition and efficiency. We have a window of opportunity now, Sir, to challenge that which has been received wisdom over the last ten years and think afresh. Let us seize that moment.

Summits, conferences and dialogues are not sufficient to inspire hope among unemployed young people. It will take bold leadership to say to your union colleagues that the youth wage subsidy is the very best way to get young people into jobs now - not five years from now, right now. [Applause.] It will take bold leadership to slash the size of your government, cut the waste, the luxury and the thousands of esoteric programmes that suck resources and redirect those billions to the youth wage subsidy to help young people to get into work now. It doesn’t matter what party the idea comes from, Mr President. All that counts is whether it works. The youth wage subsidy does work. If you bring a Bill that establishes a national and scaled up youth wage subsidy to this House, you will see first hand of our commitment to renewal, Mr President.

Deputy Speaker, the greatest courage of all will be required to uproot the corrupt system that has been carefully built over this past decade in his own party. That corrupt system is walled-in and buttressed and well defended. It has police officers, prosecutors and tax officials on its side in doing its work. It is a fortress and will require all of your effort and all of your boldness to tear down. And let me say, Sir, that we will help you and we are already helping you. Where we won government in 2016, we are tearing down this corrupt system.

In Johannesburg, Mayor Herman Mashaba, is investigating R14 billion in corrupt tenders. He has charged more than 400 officials already. Many of whom have been arrested - are in prison. In Tshwane, Mayor Solly Msimanga, has reduced irregular expenditure by R600 million in one year. Just as we will applaud every effort you show to seriously root out this corrupt system, so we hope that you will support our efforts to fight the corrupt system in your party and in the state where we are able to do so.

It is true, Mr President, that we are entering a period of renewal. Not just a renewal of hope, but also a renewal of thinking. As the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans, wrote to the church in Rome wrote to the church in Rome, be transformed by the renewal of your mind. This must be a time for new ideas about how to give hope to young people.

Let us not fall back on the dogmas of the past. Let’s reject the currency of populists and demagogues who take up. Let us take up the serious work of building a prosperous shared future for all. Let us make the argument with confidence and passion that the Constitution is both our cornerstone and our guiding light. With some bold and courageous leadership, drawing on the best ideas in the country, no matter where they come from, we can give hope to the millions of young South Africans who do not have jobs. Let’s fix South Africa, now. [Applause.]

Source: Unrevised transcript, Hansard.