Address by Anthony Benadie MPL, DA Provincial Leader, on 7 March 2015 to the Democratic Alliance Mpumalanga Provincial Congress 2015, Ingwenyama Lodge, Mbombela:
My Fellow Democrats,
Our Federal Leader – Helen Zille
The Federal Chairperson – Wilmot James
The Chairperson of the Federal Council – James Selfe
The Provincial Chairperson – James Masango and the entire Provincial Leadership
Distinguished guests and friends of the DA
Professional Staff from National Head Office and the Province
Delegates to our Congress, my family present here today
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It has been 7 years, 7 months and 14 days since I was bestowed the great honour of leading our party and I stand before you today, as your Provincial Leader for the last time.
The past almost eight years has been the most fulfilling, most rewarding, most inspiring, most humbling, the proudest and the hardest working experience of my entire life. Throughout my term of office, we have travelled an incredible journey together. I have served you to the best of my ability, never taking your support for granted and never placing my interests before that of the DA.
It has been a journey that brought across our path fun, laughter, friendship, loyalty, trust, political growth, celebration and victory and experiences that I will never forget, and which I will cherish for the rest of my life.
We have seen colleagues excel individually, going beyond the call of duty to serve their community, we have seen the rise of some of the best constituencies in the country, our province, through your efforts Mpumalanga has been recognised as one of the best provinces in the DA, we have led the way in our campaign techniques – from our battle busses – travelling thousands of kilometres to every corner of our province, our blue blitz’s and blue wave weeks, effective administration and our ability to make serious inroads into ANC strongholds and indeed winning ANC wards.
Over the past eight years we have consistently grown our voter base and in 2014 achieved our best election result yet. We in Mpumalanga have been instrumental in shaping the future of the Democratic Alliance. Indeed we have been through some good times.
But, it is not in the good times that my or our collective leadership was tested, but rather when we found ourselves in the eye of the storm, in the heat of the fierce political battles, in the face of relentless ANC onslaughts, whether it be in our councils, the legislature, our parliament, general elections or by-elections, it was in the face of verbal and often physical assault where we stood our ground.
It is the making of the tough and difficult decisions that our leadership was most tested. Whether it be the many external challenges, like having to deal with the defection of our colleagues – who we trusted – to the ANC last year, whether it be standing up for our values and principles in the fight of bringing South Africans together, while the ANC remains determined to drive the racial divide amongst the people of our nation, or whether it be having to deal with the arrogance, aggression and intimidation by the ANC which threaten the very fibre of our democracy, or whether it be some of the internal difficulties we have faced, managing our professional staff and helping some of them along, intervening in dysfunctional or struggling constituencies, to the effective implementation of the PDMS and that unpleasant task of having to stand up and tell a colleague that, due to their continuous poor performance, there was no longer room for them in the Democratic Alliance.
Yes, it is in those difficult times, that not only was our leadership tested, but it was in those difficult times that we began shaping the future of the Democratic Alliance.
And, as I stand before you today and proudly look back over the past nearly eight years and I am proud of what we have achieved, we did what we had to do to get the job done, we are the winners, we are growing and we are shaping the future of South Africa.
But, I can tell you confidently that in good times or bad, never a day went by where we were in it alone.
Allow me then to pay tribute to those who have stood by us as we began and continue to shape the future.
First and foremost I pay tribute to our formidable leader, Helen Zille. From the very first day of my election as leader Helen, you have been an inspiration, a guardian and a shining example. You have led the way with distinction and your personal contribution to the growth of the DA is immeasurable. Not only do we salute you, but I am grateful to have served our party under the guidance of one of the greatest political leaders our country has ever had and when the history books about South Africa’s political realignment and our electoral victory is written, your name will be on every page.
Secondly, I can attest that no provincial leader can be successful or cope with the complexities, challenges and difficulties that come with this job, without the support and guidance of James Selfe. James I thank you for your guidance and mentorship during my term. You are indeed the greatest unsung hero of the Democratic Alliance.
So too, much of the success that we have achieved as the DA in Mpumalanga, is thanks to the unwavering support of the professional staff at our National Head Office. No doubt, working with Mpumalanga was not always easy, but the support from our former CEO Jonathan Moakes, our new CEO Paul Boughey and in particular the Chief Operations Officer Liana Van Wyk – who has had to endure a lot from me over the years – has made our province the success that we are today. I say thank you.
To my fellow provincial leadership team, nothing I have achieved would’ve been possible without you.
To our Provincial Chairperson, James Masango who has worked with me for at least 15 years, and was by my side every step of my leadership term, always willing and able to advise and stabilise any situation, I am forever grateful. And today, James is here as Provincial Leader elect, and I categorically state to this congress, as I have said to James in private, and declared publically, that I support his candidacy for Provincial Leader 100%, and I will be there to support you, in the same way you were there to support me, and I will work to make you succeed.
Our Deputy leader, Jane Sithole, thank you for your support and friendship over many years. Our journey together in the legislature has just begun and is far from over. So too, as I have declared to you publically and in private, I 100% support your uncontested candidacy as Provincial Chairperson. I have no doubt that you will excel at the job, and I remain ever committed to work by your side to ensure your success.
To Sonja Boshoff (Deputy Provincial Chairperson), Henro Kruger (Provincial Finance Chair) Jos Pretorius (Provincial Fundraising Chair) and Stephan Greyling (Chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee) – you have done a spectacular job. Thank you for your endless contribution to my leadership and the success of our province. You are legends of our cause.
To every professional staff member with whom I have had the privilege to work, thank you for your endless commitment. You are in so many ways the backbone of our party and while your contribution is often thankless, I can assure you that no action has ever gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
To all of you, the delegates, the soldiers of the Democratic Alliance, our success and growth is a direct result of your exceptional commitment to our future. While there were times when the pressure was really on, your execution of the task at hand, is what has led us to be where and what we are today.
Lastly, allow me to thank my entire family, my beloved wife Johan-Lee and Son, Xavier for enabling and allowing me to serve the party and our province in the way that I have. Your sacrifice has been the greatest and I will remain ever indebted to you. I love you with all my heart.
While everything I have said has contributed significantly to our efforts of shaping the future, our task is not yet complete. The future is not yet shaped and the DA has not yet won. Today we start a new journey.
And when we say that we are shaping the future, we need to have a complete and deep understanding of what that future is. We must be able to internalise how that future looks and feels. How that future impacts not only on us as a political party, but how the future that we shape, impacts on the lives of every South African.
It is a future that requires of us to believe in ourselves, to believe that the DA can win and to believe in the people of our country, driven by an intense and burning desire to win national government.
It is a future that requires of us here, today and now, to understand and believe that our provincial contribution to the DA’s national vote is significant and ever growing and it is only with our belief and yearning to grow our support in the province that the DA can win nationally.
It is a future where every South African understands our purpose and vision for our beautiful country, what we offer them and how we will fulfil our promise of a better South Africa.
It is a future where the circumstances of one’s birth, does not define your destiny in life.
It is a future where every child has an equal opportunity of receiving the best quality education, a future where every South African has access to quality health care,
It is a future where no young person is denied the opportunity of tertiary education because of their financial constraints and it is a future with abundant job opportunities.
Because only when you have a job are you truly empowered and are you able to restore the dignity of your family and yourself.
Yes, I speak of a future where we have a nation of honest, hard-working individuals, with stable families, living within their means, with caring parents raising their children together.
It is a future, free from corruption, where the resources of government are aimed at uplifting the poor and supporting those who cannot fend for themselves, rather than the enrichment of a few elite.
We can shape a future where starting a business is made easy, and where the collective efforts of our nation’s people pave the way to a prospering society.
And yes, a future where a DA government is close to its people, listening and supporting them, committed to realising the South African dream, of a united, non-racial and prosperous country.
My Fellow Democrats we can shape that future and make it real. However, we will not shape the future with our words, but instead we will shape the future through our actions. To do so requires of us to roll up our sleeves, to get into the thick of the fight to bring about true freedom and a better life for all South Africans.
That is a future I want to be part of, that is the future I envisage for our party, our country and every South African and it is because of my belief that we can succeed in shaping that future that I raise my hand today and say I want to help shape that future.
Shaping that future starts here, now, today. And to put actions behind my words, I am proud to announce to this congress, to the Democratic Alliance across South Africa and to every South African, my candidacy to be elected as the DA’s Deputy Chairperson of the Federal Council when the party’s Federal Congress meets in Port Elizabeth in May this year.
I am of the firm belief that in my career of 16 years in the Democratic Alliance, my years as a councillor, my 11 years as a member of the Provincial legislature and the past nearly eight years as your leader, what I have learnt from you and our magnificent province and what I have learnt and can still learn from our Federal Leader Helen Zille and the Chairperson of the Federal Council James Selfe, ideally positions me to contribute in the shaping of the DA’s future and the future of our country.
My candidacy amplifies the important contribution of smaller DA provinces to our national cause. The DA’s debate is not whether we win the Western Cape or Gauteng, but how do we shape a future where we will win the Western Cape AND Gauteng, and other provinces, metro’s, cities and towns across the country and right here in Mpumalanga, and ultimately how do we shape a future that bolsters the DA into National Government.
Fellow Democrats, it has been a humbling privilege to serve as your leader, you have shaped my life and I will cherish you forever. I bid you a final farewell as your leader, but not a good-bye. I believe in you and I believe in me, I believe in the Democratic Alliance, our beloved country and I believe in the potential of every South African.
It is with that belief as my foundation that I declare my readiness to serve in the national leadership of our party, because together, we are shaping the future.