The Democratic Alliance – South Africa’s largest and official opposition – believes it is ready to lead the country. Their confidence heading into the 2018 National Elections is high, officials say. The party thinks the many scandals affecting the ruling African National Congress (ANC) will work to its benefit. This is despite the many election mishaps the party have had themselves.
The DA Youth Leader Luyolo Mphithi is preparing to represent the party in parliament. He is number 15 on their parliamentary list – and cannot wait to carry out the party’s mandate. “On a political level so much of work has gone into advocating for young people to be on this list. I think the DA has done very well to put young people into legislatures before it became fashionable,” said Mphithi in an interview with The Daily Vox.
Party List Diversity
The DA’s motto for this elections have been about building one South Africa for all. Upon the release of their party list, the DA’s James Selfe called the list the most diverse and representative of South Africa.
“Our lists are diverse in every sense – race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, skills set, geography, class and the blend between youth and experience. When the people of South Africa look at the DA lists they will see themselves,” said Selfe on March 16.
When questioned about that, Mphithi maintained their list is very diverse. “The one thing to qualify what I am saying is if you look at any other list, it doesn’t show the diversity of South Africa,” he said.
According to Mphithi when the party look at diversity, they do not mean only race and gender. According to them they are speaking about diversity in its fullest context. “There are many different ways that we define diversity that might not be how South Africans or political parties see it. Our understanding of diversity is that it has to be in its fullest form,” said Mphithi.
As a youth leader for the party, Mphiti is happy with the amount of young people represented on the list. He said: “My primary role as the National Youth Leader is that young people find themselves represented in this lists both at a provincial and national level.”
The most important policies
Part of the mishaps of the DA’s election policies has been their reacting to the perceived failures of the ANC. Through their billboards and marches held the party has rather been highlighting the failures of the ruling party, instead of what they can do for South Africans.
Mphithi admits that the representatives of the DA do this at times. He has encouraged them to change their campaigning methods Mphithi said. He outlined what he thinks are the three most important policies his party have come up.
The National Youth Civilian Service
Mphitihi said his party wants to launch this service which is a one-year youth development programme for school-leavers. “Those are the young people that are always forgotten we want to actually speak directly to them,” he said. The service entails giving young people skills in different sectors.
There is a problem with the implementation of policy according to Mphithi. As they have rolled this out in the Western Cape and the City of Johannesburg where they govern, the party thinks they understand how the programme works.
“Young people are going into those centres. We want to have this on a bigger scale,” said Mphithi.
Failures of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)
The DA think NYDA has failed. They want more businesses to open in the country so that young people can get employment. Mphithi said entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged.
“What we are trying to say is that we need an agency and institution that will be focused on investing in startup companies in communal settings. We are trying to expand the urban boundary so that young people actually start their own businesses and have the support that they need in order to employ other people for those businesses,” he said. The DA are calling for the scrapping for NYDA and instead to have an institution that is focused on entrepreneurship.
The other policy from the party regarding young people is about changing the school curriculum. Mphithi feels there is no prioritisation of skills at school level. He wants schools to start speaking to investing skills in the agriculture, manufacturing and mining industry.
Mphithi said: “We are saying we need to relook at those key things and understand that the digital economy is important and align our skills so that we are speaking to the economy.”
Not Enough Focus on Climate Change
In responding to a question about climate change, Mphithi said his party does speak about but admits they have not spoken about the way it needed to. “I don’t even think the country has gotten involved in conversations around the impact of climate change on our planet. We need to do better than that,” he said.
As for what they do have in their policy, the DA want to look tackle climate change by incentivising eco-friendly buildings.
“We want to make sure that when people want to build factories or buildings they must be incentivised to ensure we have eco-friendly buildings.” he said,
Mphithi says spaces like forests and velds need to be protected.
Free Education for the Deserving
Mphithi believes that his party has a very simple policy on free higher education. They believe that young people who are deserving should be given bursaries. “I believe that there are some young people who can afford to pay. There are people who historical wealth and for whom R30,000 a year is nothing. I don’t believe that those people need to go to university for free,”said Mphithi.
As for the huge problem of accommodation that students at universities are facing, he said the DA’s mayor in the city of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, has started an inner city rejuvenation project. “In that project he speaks directly to student’s accommodation because he understands students don’t have accommodation and that’s why in the project a section of those buildings are purely dedicated to students alone.”
Mphithi says his party has taken many steps to solve the problems facing students in the areas they govern. He does admit that more can be done: “More can be done to help students and to make it more accessible in terms of financially.”
The state can’t own the land
In 2018 the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) introduced the motion to get Section 25 of the Constitution amended to allow for land expropriation without compensation. Ever since then the DA have vehemently opposed this. Mphithi said it is because there is no clarity on who will be the custodian of the land under expropriation. They do not agree with the state being the custodian of the land.
“Our policy is simple: we say that South Africans need to own their land. We [just] don’t believe that the state needs to have that responsibility,” said Mphithi. He says the government has failed with enterprises like Eskom and should not be given ownership of the land.
The party maintains that they believe Section 25 allows for adequate expropriation and does not need to be changed. They have raised questioned about the land the government currently owns and why that hasn’t been expropriated.
“The issue is not about us being against land reform,” said Mphithi. “Black people’s land was taken from them. There is no argument about that. We believe in constitutionalism and we support section 25 of the constitution.”
Securing the borders
One of the biggest campaigning platforms for the party has been the Secure the Borders conversation. They have called on the government and the army to have stricter controls so that immigrants do not come into the country illegally. The policy has been called xenophobic by some analysts.
For Mphithi he thinks there would be no xenophobia if the state was functioning as it should be.
“If we have confidence in the state, in the rule of law, in our home affairs department, in our soldiers that are at our border posts, and in our officials working in different departments then we are not going to question whether or not people are taking our jobs,” he said.
“When we had that confidence [in the state] we know for a fact that if there is a foreign national or immigrant in my community, they are here because they have the correct documents,” said Mphithi.
He does not think the “secure the borders” narrative is anti-African or xenophobic. “What we are saying indirectly is it’s about South Africans not having the confidence in this government and when we say secure borders we are saying apply the rule of law,” said Mphithi.
One South Africa for All
“I can say that the DA is trying to do something that is hard – we are trying to build a South Africa where everyone feels a part of it and no one feels excluded from it in any shape or form.” said Mphithi in closing.
He said the party understands that if the country wants to move forward, it can only be done together. “That doesn’t mean we negate and forget the hurt and continue lived experiences of people. That’s not what it means about a one South Africa for all. Within that project we need to deal with certain things that continue to persist in our society and make people feel like they don’t belong,” he said.
“One South Africa for All means so many things. It means bringing people who might not want to be together together. It’s not an easy thing to say and do but I can also respect the fact that we are trying to do that,” he said.