The following remarks were delivered today by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the announcement of the DA’s Premier Candidate for the Eastern Cape. Maimane was joined by DA Eastern Cape Provincial Spokesperson, Mlindi Nhanha.
It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the DA’s candidate for Premier of the Eastern Cape for the 2019 election, Nqaba Bhanga. For the past year, Nqaba has excelled in his role as Provincial Leader in the Eastern Cape, and it was an easy decision to ratify his nomination as Premier candidate.
Nqaba, along with an experienced team, will spend the next months taking the DA’s message of a prosperous, inclusive South Africa built on a foundation of Freedom, Fairness, Opportunity and Diversity, to all four corners of this province. He will speak to thousands of people young and old, black and white, in cities, towns and rural areas, about what they want from a government, and what the DA can offer them.
As we have seen in recent elections, and particularly in the 2016 local government elections, what happens in the Eastern Cape is of major significance in the country as a whole. The ramifications of what happened in Nelson Mandela Bay – where the ANC was unseated by a DA-led coalition in 2016 – continue to reverberate throughout our country, and the recent attempt by the ANC/EFF alliance to steal back the city is testament to the high stakes involved here.
Spearheading the DA’s battle for this crucial province, Nqaba will carry on his shoulders the responsibility of building on this recent growth and offering the people of this province a realistic alternative to the ANC government. I will also ask Nqaba to continue the battle we have been fighting on behalf of the community of farmers in Gwatyu, to ensure that those who have been living on and working this land can finally see it transferred to them.
Having worked closely with Nqaba during his time as Provincial Leader here, I have full confidence in his abilities to deliver these results.
Nqaba might not have started out with the DA, but it soon became clear to him that there is only one party that can deliver the kind of South Africa our people deserve. He has made the same political transition that so many voters have made too. He moved to the DA from Cope in 2014 after having met Athol Trollip the previous year where they spoke at length about the urgent need for change in the province, and particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay. In May of 2017, at the DA’s provincial congress in East London, he was elected Provincial Leader.
Politics and leadership have always been part of Nqaba’s life. As a teenager at Port Elizabeth’s KwaZakhele High School, he was elected regional chair of COSAS. He would go on to become an ANC youth leader as well as SRC President at what was then known as Port Elizabeth Technikon, which is today part of Nelson Mandela University. It was there that he qualified in public administration and, later, obtained a post-graduate qualification in maritime studies.
Nqaba later served as the national secretary general of the South African Student Congress (SASCO), before becoming the youth leader of the breakaway Congress of the People (COPE). He would go on to become a COPE Member of Parliament before his encounter with Athol Trollip convinced him to switch to the DA.
Nqaba is a son of the Eastern Cape, born in KwaZakhele, Port Elizabeth, on 28 August 1977. At 41 years of age, Nqaba is part of a new generation of DA leaders who bring with them the energy and the vision to rebuild our country after decades of misrule under the ANC. This province and its people mean everything to him, and he has proven himself over and over as a humble and committed servant of the people.
This energy and vision is already visible throughout the province, and particularly on university and college campuses, where DASO has made massive inroads into territory previously closely guarded by SASCO and the ANC.
In fact, the intellectual heartland of the ANC, Fort Hare University, today has a DA-led SRC. The significance of this is huge when contemplating the future of this province. Along with Fort Hare, DASO has also recently won the SRC of the TVET Port Elizabeth campus, as well as showing considerable growth on the various campuses of Walter Sisulu University.
There is an undeniable swing towards the DA among young people of the Eastern Cape, and this bodes well for the future of the province. It means that young people here are thinking critically about their choices. It means they no longer accept the historic allegiances of their parents as a given, and they are taking control of their future.
This is the kind of momentum that Nqaba will look to build on as the DA positions itself as the next government of this province and, indeed, the country.
But he will know that there is no time to waste. If ever there was a province that bears the scars of years of corruption and neglect, it is the Eastern Cape. Mud schools, bucket toilets, dry taps and a health system that borders on dysfunctional paint a picture of a failed province that has been bled dry by the corruption of the failed ANC.
The Eastern Cape has the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 35,6%. If you include those who have given up looking for work, a staggering 46% of the province’s people are unemployed. That is 1 in every 2 people. It is a shameful crisis that only a new, DA-led government in this province can start to fix.
Education in the Eastern Cape is wrecking the futures of the province’s young people, delivering a standard of education that leaves most young people unable to find any work. The lowest matric pass rate in the country, the highest drop-out rate in the country, the lowest university entrance pass rate in the country – on every measure, the Eastern Cape is right at the bottom. If there is one thing Nqaba will have to focus on obsessively as Premier, it is the complete systemic collapse of public education in the province.
For many young people, the Eastern Cape has become a place to leave in order to survive. The sheer number of people – and particularly young people – who vote every year with their feet to seek their future elsewhere is testament to the failure of the ANC government here to offer them hope.
Having failed in education, healthcare, basic service delivery, crime prevention and job creation, the ANC’s only remaining tactic is to change the names of towns throughout the province in the hope that this will sway voters, and distract from the looting that is taking place in these very towns. But people aren’t naïve anymore. They know this isn’t real change. They know you can’t eat a new town name. They want the kind of change that brings jobs and restores hope.
They want the kind of change that the DA-led coalition government managed to bring about in Nelson Mandela Bay in just two short years. Since Athol Trollip’s administration rescued NMB from the ANC in 2016, the metro went from R2 billion in debt to a R165 million surplus. During this time they eradicated 60% of the province’s bucket toilets, tripled the number of EPWP jobs, introduced a highly effective Metro Police service and terminated corrupt contracts to the value of R650 million.
Under a DA-led government, Nelson Mandela Bay went from the second-least trusted metro to the second-most trusted metro, after Cape Town, according to the South African Customer Satisfaction Index. If that’s what the DA can do in just two years in NMB, imagine what they can do for this province.
I have full confidence in Nqaba Bhanga to not only deliver this message of change to the people of this great province, but also to run the Eastern Cape as a Premier who cares, who understands the challenges our people face here and who can lead a dynamic DA team that will bring total change here.