27th June 2015
Mmusi Maimane is the recently appointed Leader of the Democratic Alliance, the Opposition Party in South Africa. Before this, he was the leader of his party in the Johannesburg City Council, and in 2014, he ran for Premier in the province of Gauteng.
Q: Firstly, congratulations on your appointment. What are your aims for the Democratic Alliance (DA)?
A: Thank you very much. I have a very short focus: my predecessor [Helen Zille] made us a party of opposition, and my real task is to shape us into a party of national government. That’s a key focus for me, and another is to grow the party in areas that it hasn’t grown in before, so we can diversify, and build a party for all South Africans.
Q: What are your aims for South Africa as a whole?
A: South Africa can become the economic hub of the whole of Africa: we believe that we can build a growing economy that creates more jobs. We want to build an education system in South Africa where the teachers are accountable and the principles lead the schools, we want to build a safe country, so we talk about changing the police force into a police service, where the police serve the people. And then we want to build a party that upholds the rule of law, which upholds the constitution, which ensures better access for people to their rights, like healthcare. So we focus on building on those five areas: the constitution, healthcare, education, a safe South Africa, and a growing economy.
Q: To what extent do you think South Africans vote along racial lines?
A: People still do. South Africa has a history of being polarised and very racial. But ultimately if we are going to achieve change in South Africa, we have to break through and build a non-racial South Africa, an inclusive South Africa. So that’s going to be key if we’re going to achieve significant and sizable change in South Africa.
Q: In recent years the DA has been gaining ground on the African National Congress (ANC, who are the ruling party). How far away do you see a DA government being?
A: Three years. We hope that in 2019 [the next general election] we can see a DA government, and I think it’s possible. We’ve got to work hard, but our first task is what happens next year [the next municipal elections]. If we can win more local government elections, and win in key cities, then we can really set up a change for 2019.
Q: In the wake of various scandals, do you believe that high ranking members of the ANC, particularly President Jacob Zuma, have abused their office for their own personal gain?
A: Absolutely. The ANC is a patronage party and it is focused on benefitting its own network, its own friends, and the President is the kingpin of that. It is epitomised by the fact that he upgraded his house using 250m rand (about $20.44m) of state funds. This action showed South Africa that he doesn’t uphold the rule of law, and his key focus is in benefiting himself and his friends. So I do believe that that’s the case, and I think it’s a dangerous precedent for South Africa.
Q: Next year, I will be sitting my first set of public examinations. South Africa’s public examination is the Matric. What is your opinion of the pass rate of the Matric and of South Africa’s education system as a whole?
A: About 71% of people pass the Matric [however, consider that the pass mark is only 30%]. The problem is that only 50% of the people who start school actually take the Matric; the rest drop out. The bigger problem is that Matric doesn’t set up South Africans to be competitive all over the world. We want to ensure that there is an integration of South Africans, that they get better education, and we can improve the pass rate, so more people can have the option of going to university or partnering with people around the world.
Q: Finally, who is the most interesting person that you’ve met, and why?
A: Graça Machel [widow of Nelson Mandela and previous president of Mozambique, Samora Machel], because she’s had an amazing history with former heads of state, and being married to President Mandela. I think she’s the most fascinating person I’ve met.