Later this week President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the first state of the nation address of the sixth parliament, but the state of our nation was already revealed in three statistics released in May. Our gross fixed capital formation — in other words net investment — fell for the fifth consecutive quarter, our economy contracted 3.2% in the first quarter and our broad unemployment rate grew to its highest mark of 38%, or 9.9-million South Africans. 

We’re not attracting investment, which means we can’t grow the economy, which means we can’t create jobs. That’s the true state of our nation, and it is a direct result of two-and-a-half decades of poor governance brought about by the deployment of unsuitable cadres to critical government positions.

Our country has been crippled by poor governance, but in the DA good governance is our strength. It is our unique selling proposition. Honesty, accountability and efficiency are what set DA governments apart from all ANC-run cities and provinces.

South Africans are undeniably better off, on every measurable criterion, where the DA is in government. They have better access to basic services, they have a better chance of finishing school, they have a better chance of finding work, they have better access to health care near their homes, and they live longer. One of the reasons for this is that we have developed a model of governance underpinned by several important principles.

Today that number has almost trebled. About 15-million people wake up every day under a DA-led government, some of which operate under complex coalition arrangements.

First, while we firmly believe in the sacrosanct separation of party and state, this cannot mean that we only see our elected public representatives after five years in government. In our proportional representation system we have a contract with voters to deliver on our party’s manifesto. This means constantly monitoring our governments to ensure that this happens.

Second, we uphold the principle of a fit-for-purpose government. Our governments are not there to reward activism or to dispense patronage, and we abhor the notion of “cadre deployment” — the original sin of state capture. We follow a thorough selection process to ensure all those elected are able to serve in government.

And third, we believe in accountability. For this reason we assess the performance of all public representatives annually, including those who hold executive office. We have established mechanisms that review and remove bad councilors, MPLs and MPs. This makes the DA unique in the SA context.

These are the principles that ensure we hold up our end of the contract with our voters. And never before has this been more important. Three years ago the DA governed for about 6-million people through various provincial, metro and municipal governments. Today that number has almost trebled. About 15-million people wake up every day under a DA-led government, some of which operate under complex coalition arrangements. This places not only a heavy responsibility on the party, it also affords us a precious opportunity to demonstrate what we’re capable of.

Our model of good governance has seen us turn a deficit of more than R1bn in the Tshwane metro into an operating surplus within two years. It has seen the Western Cape achieve a broad unemployment rate that is a full 15 percentage points lower than the national average. And it has seen the Johannesburg metro create 119,000 jobs in 2018, compared with the 200,000 jobs lost by the previous administration over its five-year term.

Heading towards 2021 it is crucial that we are able to replicate and uphold this model of good governance across all DA-led governments through proper oversight, support, mentorship and an application of the lessons we have learnt. This is why we took the decision to bolster our governance unit by assigning the most experienced, most qualified person in our party structures to head it up.

In October, James Selfe will step down as the chair of the DA’s federal executive, a position he has held since 2000, to take up a new role as the chair of the party’s governance unit. His appointment to this new position reflects the importance of efficient and accountable governance to the future prospects of both our party and our country.

His responsibilities will include mentoring DA executive mayors, in line with the values of our party, and providing oversight over the programme of delivery in all DA-led governments. He will meet regularly with DA mayors and caucuses to provide mentorship as well as trouble-shoot issues in these governments.

His unit will be the point at which DA governments integrate seamlessly with the party’s executive, to ensure that wherever we have been entrusted by voters to govern we are able to deliver on the promises in our manifesto.

For the past two decades Selfe has spearheaded the DA’s fight to hold to account, in court, our government and those they deploy to the various institutions of democracy. His tenacious pursuit in the decade-long “spy tapes” case, as well as his fight to see off every unsuitable national director of public prosecutions over this period, has made an immense contribution to the integrity of our criminal justice system.

Now he has the opportunity to apply this same tenacity to a project that is arguably even more critical to the prosperity of our country. He will need to ensure that our governments are able to deliver safer communities, better services and a job in every home. Not only will this build resilient cities that are able to meet the changing demands of the future, it will also position the DA as a credible future government of this country.

The simple truth is that for SA to succeed the DA has to succeed. There can and will be no renewal under this ANC government — regardless of who heads it up, as we are now fast discovering. And so it will fall to a DA-led national government to pull our country back from the brink and realise our potential. About 57-million South Africans are counting on us to get it right, whether they know it yet or not. Our job now is to convince them.

We won’t attempt to win voters through populist pandering, as our opponents do. Our project is to build a strong, stable and nonracial centre from where we can rebuild our economy and our society into the SA we all once dreamed of. The way we will win people over is by demonstrating what we stand for and who we fight for, which makes the role of the governance unit one of the most important in our party.

• Maimane is DA leader.