If anybody knows how fraught the worlds of business and politics can be, it would be Western Cape premier-elect Alan Winde: after all, he has extensive experience in both.
However, leading the Democratic Alliance’s 2019 election campaign in the Western Cape must have been every bit as thrilling and anxiety inducing as starting a new business.
The DA slipped marginally from 22.23% in 2014 to 20.77% in 2019 nationally and saw a slide from 59.38% to 55.45% in the Western Cape, the party held onto its positions as the official national opposition and the leader of the Western Cape Provincial government.
In this Q/A, Winde discusses his term ahead, his vision for the Western Cape and his thoughts on the DA’s former Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille as an opponent.
Who is Alan Winde, outside of politics and government?
“Ten years before politics … I was an entrepreneur. I started a number of small businesses doing everything from printing, to selling bicycles, to courier services, to boat parts. I became a business broker consultant after that and then in 1996 I campaigned in the rural elections as an independent candidate. In 1999 I joined the Democratic Party. I care a great deal for business, even though I’ve been a politician for longer than I have been an entrepreneur.”
What are your plans for water scarcity and energy?
“In 2014 we started with our energy game changer plan because at the time it was a bigger challenge than water for the province. Evidently, water remained a challenged that required our attention. We should have gone with water early. Moving forward we are all about enabling municipalities to supply and produce electricity … to take pressure off national government… If the Constitution allowed provinces or municipalities the power to produce their own electricity, we would be ready to spring into action. Under those circumstances you could see more businesses and households producing energy for themselves and feeding into the grid if they have more than they need. Then municipalities can buy from customers, which is a huge investment incentive.”
If you could only do one thing to boost the Western Cape economy and create jobs, what would that one thing be?
“If I could do one thing for the economy and jobs, I would reduce red tape significantly. We need more changes in the regulatory environment. Too much regulation has become about compliance with jumping through hoops and not getting things done. The visa requirements are still affecting tourism and need to be relaxed.”
Do you give much thought to the fact that you take over the Western Cape in a post-Brexit context, and how do you approach that?
“Yes, I think about that a lot. I am so glad we were energetic and upfront in addressing that with the UK while I was at Economic Development and Tourism. I mean, the UK is a big partner for us but we’re not that big for them. I think we can allow South Africa to negotiate at a national level and President Ramaphosa’s war room must be given space to act. The Western Cape will focus on keeping itself competitive and resilient. We won’t be the blade of grass that is ignored while the elephants fight. Wesgro helped us a great deal in preserving relations and we won’t stop.”
How do you feel about the challenges of this past election?
“It was a tough election. South Africa is a different place from five years ago. We are worse off than we were ten years ago. To some extent, I believe what happened in the US and the UK has come to characterise campaigning here. People are turning away from the idea of a rainbow nation and [are instead coming] with this message that seeks to divide society. We will continue to unpack how we did as a party.”
How do you feel about working with Patricia De Lille’s GOOD party in the legislature and the perception that the DA excludes black South Africans and women?
“It will be hard to show people that we can deliver for all South Africans in spite of the optics of the set-up (the fact that I am a white man). But as much as we look at the optics of the current leadership, I would like people to look at the amount of people of all races who engage with the Western Cape government through platforms like Open First Thursdays. Look at the business owners who come to us and thank us for the support that we have given them.
“[In terms of the legislature, it] will certainly be different, but I am looking forward to it. I take off my DA jacket and put on my premier blazer next week. Patricia De Lille didn’t get her 10%, but a seat is still a seat. I just hope that they’re actually there for the work of government. Small parties tend to be absent from the day to day work of the legislature.”