The Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Finance, Tim Harris, addressed South African Londoners on Thursday night on the issue of South African’s economy and DA priorities for the upcoming general election.
Harris began by highlighting three areas of the DA’s manifesto; three reforms which he believes can have a â€œhuge effect” on the country. The first related to â€œtackling the problem of underperformance” and driving trade. The second involved the scrapping of exchange controls which Harris called an â€œapartheid relic”. â€œThe existence of the controls boggles the mind,” he added. His third point dealt with privatisation. Harris, who believes the country is â€œnot spending enough, maintaining and building infrastructure”, stated that the DA will find â€œinnovative ways” to get assets into the hands of â€œordinary South Africans”. Some of these ideas, while already in the National Development Plan (NDP), have not been addressed, he said, using the example of accountability of teachers which has been greeted by â€œa deafening silence from the ANC”. The reason the NDP is not being implemented, he said, is because â€œgovernment leaders are fundamentally opposed to it”.
The second half of Harris’s speech offered five reasons for optimism about South Africa, the first being Africa’s potential and the DA’s hope to â€œopen up South Africans’ eyes to opportunity”. Secondly, â€œwhen government and businesses work together, they do extraordinary things”, he said, using the World Cup as an example. Thirdly, he referred to South Africa’s resources and ingenuity, able to make the country internationally competitive. Fourth, South Africa should not be â€œobsessed” with the idea of beneficiation to the extent that the country is not experiencing growth, but rather resources should be exported and â€œthen we will see investors starting to come”, he said. Finally, Harris mentioned the â€œincredible growth trajectory” the DA has experienced in recent years. The party is expecting between 20 and 30% of votes in the upcoming national elections.
One of the final issues Harris addressed involved an ‘insider/outsider’ division in the job market. He believes the ANC are not protecting those who are unemployed and unrepresented by unions. According to Harris, the employment rate can grow by 8% in ten years with the â€œright reforms”. Addressing the controversy on everyone’s mind, he stated: â€œThe R200m Nkandla upgrade personifies everything that’s most corrupt about the ANC.”
He concluded his talk by looking towards the election. Mentioning challenges such as the collapse of the Mamphela Ramphele deal, competition in the form of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and possible Western Cape complacency, Harris remained confident in the DA. â€œOur election objectives are definitely in sight for next month,” he said.
Before handing the floor over to questions, Harris referred to ANC monopoly over the media in the run up to the elections, giving it the term the â€œANC squeeze” since, he said, the ANC â€œsqueeze us with a show of force”. However, Harris is confident that, â€œthis time”, the DA will have the TV coverage and the radio ads so that the public will know that â€œyoung black people marching on the streets” for the DA â€œis a real thing”.