Helen Zille was awarded the World Mayor Prize in October 2008

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Helen Zille - My aim for South Africa:
An open, opportunity-driven society

By Tann vom Hove, Editor*

26 April 2009: The African National Congress (ANC) won the 2009 South African elections convincingly but, nationally, fell just short of the two-thirds majority, which it easily passed five years earlier. The ANC also won in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces, the only exception being the Western Cape, where the Democratic Alliance (DA), led by Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, received 51 per cent of the provincial vote. Mayor Zille received a hero's welcome in Cape Town where she told her supporters that the DA had managed to reduce the ANC's grip on the country. "The results are very good for South Africa," she said.

Helen Zille, who will now become Western Cape premier, said she planned to use Cape Town and the province to showcase the DA’s abilities before making a stronger run at national government in 2014. She said she wanted to prove the DA would govern for all the people of the province.

At this election, she almost doubled the DA’s 2004 share of the vote in the Western Cape, increasing it to 51.5 per cent from just over 27 per cent five years ago. Final results from the Western Cape showed more than a million people voted DA compared with 425,000 in the 2004 election.

Interviewed after she was awarded the 2008 World Mayor Prize, Helen Zille described the fundamental difference between the DA and the ANC: “The key difference between the ANC and the DA can be summarised best in Afrikaans. I have not yet found a crisp English equivalent, and I think it is time to invent one!”

“The ANC stands for the Magstaat. The DA stands for the Regstaat. Everything else flows from that distinction. I will try to explain it as follows: The Regstaat is based on Constitutionalism and the Rule of Just Law. In a Regstaat, the key role of the state is to protect and promote everyone’s rights, to limit the ruling party’s power, and hold it to account. People also respect and protect each other’s rights. They have a choice between competing policies, which they exercise at elections. This is the basis of the open, opportunity-driven society for all, which ensures sure and steady progress in a context of freedom and development.”

“The Magstaat in contrast is based on the notion of the “higher law of the Party”. Mr Jacob Zuma, ANC leader, has repeatedly expressed this approach by saying that “the ANC is more important than the Constitution.” In a Magstaat, power is centralised and monopolised by a small clique who equate their control with “liberation”. The instruments of the state (from the police to the courts) are seen as an extension of the ruling party, and abused to protect and advance the interests of the ruling clique and its closed circle of allies. This approach is the basis of the closed, patronage-driven society that South Africa is becoming under the ANC. This sets the scene for a society’s slow but steady decline.”

Mayor Zille also expressed optimism about the future of South Africa when asked whether high crime and poor leadership at national level would result in many more South Africans emigrating. “I am actually more optimistic about South Africa’s future than I have been for a long time. I look beyond the surface of events, to identify the direction in which the currents are moving us. I am also in regular contact with leaders across the political spectrum to discuss developments, and future scenarios.”

“During the next few years, there will be a fundamental realignment in South African politics. The current political formations are obsolete and stuck in the past. The emerging divide in South African politics is between those of us who are working for an “open, opportunity-driven society”, and others who prefer the ‘closed, patronage-driven’ model.”

The dividing line between these two visions for the future runs right down the middle of the ANC. My role, as leader of the Democratic Alliance, is to help facilitate the realignment of politics so that all those of us, who support the vision of the “open, opportunity-driven society” can converge in the same political home. I also have little doubt that we will constitute a majority in South Africa. My aim is that this new political formation, of which the DA will be a core component, will win the 2011 elections in several major cities, and many towns, and then the national general election in 2014. This is a realistic scenario, and is the source of much of my optimism. It is certainly something worth working towards. This gives me a great sense of purpose in life, which is priceless.”

Seats in South Africa’s national parliament are based on election results. Parliament then elects the president. A two-thirds majority in parliament would have enabled the ANC to change the constitution without cooperation from other parties. Such a majority would have also allowed the governing party to pass legislation and set a budget without a challenge.

The new opposition party, which split from the ANC last year, the Congress of the People (COPE), achieved slightly more than seven per cent of the vote.  Party officials told reporters that said they were pleased with its performance.

South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission estimates that around 77 per cent of South Africa's 23 million registered voters turned out to cast their ballots. The African Union observer mission called the 2009 elections free, fair and transparent. Although the vote was peaceful in much of the country, a COPE official in Eastern Cape province was shot dead, in what party officials are calling a political killing.

Summary of election results:
African National Congress (ANC): 65.9%
Democratic Alliance (DA): 16.7%
Congress of the People (COPE): 7.4%

Eastern Cape
ANC: 68.8%
DA: 10.0%
COPE: 13.7%

Free State
ANC: 71.1%
DA: 11.6%
COPE: 11.6%

ANC: 64.9%
DA: 21.9%
COPE: 7.8%

ANC: 62.9%
DA: 9.1%
COPE: 1.3%

ANC: 84.9%
DA: 3.5%
COPE: 7.5%

ANC: 85.6%
DA: 7.5%
COPE: 2.9%

North West
ANC: 72.9%
DA: 7.5%
COPE: 2.9%

Western Cape
ANC: 31.6%
DA: 51.5%
COPE: 7.4%

Northern Cape
ANC: 60.7%
DA: 12.6%
COPE: 16.7%

* VoA News and local reporters contributed to this article

South Africa's new President Jacob Zuma

On other pages
Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille defending her job and beliefs
As Mayor of Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital and leading tourist destination, Helen Zille has already overcome an aborted attempt by the provincial government to downgrade her office and an attempted coalition coup since her election in March 2006. Elected as leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, with a background as a provincial and national legislator behind her, she was a finalist for South African Woman of the Year in 2003. Helen Zille has won the 2008 World Mayor Prize.

Zille’s role in public life began with a stint as political correspondent for the Rand Daily Mail, South Africa’s leading liberal newspaper during the apartheid era. While at the paper, she emerged as a leading anti-apartheid critic, famously exposing the circumstances behind Steve Biko’s death under police custody in 1977, which was claimed to have been as a result of self-inflicted wounds. She also made her name for herself at the height of apartheid as a member of the Black Sash white women’s resistance movement and as a peace activist in her adopted city of Cape Town. She then worked in public affairs as a public policy consultant and as director of communications for the University of Cape Town. More