1 + 1 = win

Henry

By Helen Zille, chairman of the DA’s Federal Council

On the night of Cape Town’s crucial municipal election in 2006, I called at the eleventh hour to bring out DA voters who had not yet voted.

I dialed the home number of a voter in an upscale suburb, and a woman answered. She confirmed her name. I then politely said it was a call to remind her to vote before 9pm when the polls close.

“Do they still make that black mark on your thumbnail?” she wanted to know.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well,” came her reply, “I just had my nails done today, and I don’t vote if they do.”

Uncharacteristically, I managed to avoid telling her what I thought of her. Instead, I politely said, “Every vote counts. Please make the effort.”

I don’t know if she ended up voting. But I thought back to this incident when I was waiting for the vote for mayor in the city council chamber on March 15, 2006.

If we had kept a 7-party coalition, and the PAC had stayed out of the vote, I could have been elected mayor with one vote.

One voice. A single seat in a council of 209.

This is how I was elected mayor almost twenty years ago, a journey that ultimately resulted in both the Western Cape and the city winning with a clear majority.

South Africans must understand the “Power of One”. After all, we won the quarter-final, the semi-final and the final of the 2023 Rugby World Cup by one point in each game. In fact, if every DA voter in Gauteng could persuade just one other person to vote DA on 29 May, we would get a clear majority in the province. One plus one = win.

Many analysts label this, our 30th anniversary election, as the most important since 1994. This is true for many reasons, but especially because it provides an opportunity for South Africans to save our country.

The DA slogan in this election was very carefully considered: When we say “Save SA, Vote DA” it is much more than a slogan. It is a call to action. This may be the last opportunity to save some of our provinces, and our country, from bankruptcy and permanent decline.

The DA (and I) are often controversial. It’s because we tell the truth, even if it offends people. We consider it essential to speak the truth so that everyone hears, so that no one can say in ten or twenty years: “We didn’t know! Why didn’t anyone warn us?”

We don’t want to be wise after the event.

If analysts and journalists had the honesty to do a proper retrospective analysis of the political controversies the DA has been involved in over the past 30 years, they would conclude that the DA was right, and the pundits wrong. Think of cadre deployment, BEE, state creation and “Stop Zuma” to name just a few. We were never afraid to fight back.

So when we warned South Africa that our democracy (represented by our flag) would go up in flames if an ANC/EFF/MK/PA coalition came to power, we broke the sound barrier and drove our point home: Just the DA can restore our flag and all that it represents. We will be proven right about this too. Also about our opposition to the NGV, and the Bela Act.

But this election is not primarily about what we oppose. It is about our record in government. It is just a simple fact that where the DA governs, we root out corruption, grow the economy, reduce unemployment, maintain infrastructure, provide clean water, fix roads, keep street and traffic lights working, remove garbage and ensure that toilets flush. In provincial government, we make sure that schools and hospitals work. And it makes a huge difference to every single person’s quality of life.

Many people living in the Western Cape take these services for granted. If I could take all Western Cape voters on a bus tour of the Free State, North West or the Eastern Cape, it would be easier to convince them that what they have is worth protecting through their vote.

Which brings me to one last little story. When I was prime minister, maybe a decade ago, I received a phone call from a resident of the beautiful university town of Stellenbosch who complained that the town’s parks department always planted the same flowers in the traffic islands in town. I was stunned for a moment. She explained that she was a keen gardener and rattled off a list of hardy plant specimens that she thought would make a nice change.

That’s when I really understood the meaning of the phrase “to complain with a white bread under your arm”.

And let’s not be like the person in the immortal song, who only realized what he had when it was gone.

Your vote is decisive. Use it.

This column is a paid promotional article by the Democratic Alliance