An inability to achieve real reconciliation through economic redress is at the heart of national discontent, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said yesterday.

The Democratic Alliance’s vision was to build that opportunity, she said in the National Assembly during debate on President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.

To bring people together it was necessary to build a bridge across the divide between privilege and poverty that divided people along racial lines.

“We have to help people where they need it and provide real opportunity that will break down these inequalities. When we do that, we will achieve a real and lasting reconciliation,” Mazibuko said.

South Africa faced tremendous problems of crime, violence, and abuse. In many ways, these social disruptions had at their heart a lack of real opportunity in society.

There were other causes of these problems too. Crime was aided by the weaknesses in the very systems meant to protect citizens.

“We cannot hope to keep our streets safe when the shadow of corruption stalks the highest levels of our police service,” she said.

“We cannot take the fight to the criminals that plague us when we lack experienced management at all levels of our police service, and we cannot hope to have an effective service that complements an open and free democracy when our police are militarised, in name and in their actions.”

South Africans would not feel safe until they heard an honest discussion about crime at the highest levels of government.

They would also not have confidence in the health system or a National Health Insurance scheme until the fundamental problems threatening it were faced.

The problem in health was not the principle of access, but that the existing network of care was not adequately managed.

“What we need are competent and professional hospital managers who are not accountable to a bureaucracy but to the hospitals themselves.

“Real accountability and professionalism will go a long way toward addressing the deficiencies in healthcare.”

Mazibuko said it was necessary to focus on the two things that could create opportunity – education and the economy.

“The two are intertwined with each other, as they are with our failure or success as a country.”

Education was the only way out for most people who wanted to work to have a better life than the one they were born into.

On the economy, she said South Africa’s major problem lay in its competitiveness.

“We are less efficient than many of our emerging market competitors.”

South African labour was uncompetitive and labour productivity lower than the rest of the developing world.

“Our competitiveness has slipped in key sectors such as mining, agriculture, and manufacturing,” Mazibuko said.

“I propose that we take our economy from being an average performer with massive potential, to one that capitalises on our advantages to grow faster and assume the economic leadership role in Africa we should have.”

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