The DA is scolding voters. Why?

DA federal leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

DA federal leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 18, 2024


By Naledi Ngqambela

With the 2024 General Elections nearing and expectations of these being hotly contested, political parties continue to blaze their campaigns across the country and the social media space.

The most recent blow up between Rise Mzansi and the Democratic Alliance is instructive as to the mindset of the DA. It has taken to scolding voters and lashing out at challengers, real and perceived. What lies behind their recent petulant turn?

The DA won a majority in the 2019 Western Cape provincial elections following a win of 51.46% gaining twenty-two seats over the African National Congress (ANC) with 31.55% losing five seats in the legislature. Since the DA’s rise as the official opposition to the ruling party in the country, the party has said it supports and advocates for non-racialism, human dignity, as well as the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedom.

However, with the lived experiences of many black South Africans in the Western Cape, this is nothing but a dream yet to be lived.

Many South African citizens, particularly black people, would argue that the Democratic Alliance is a political party that continues to represent the privileged minority and that is one fact the party is not willing to admit, at least not at the moment. Statistics South Africa report in the 2021 Non-Financial Consensus of Municipalities showed that Western Cape municipalities outperform the rest of the country on every level of free basic service delivery.

In 2023, the Western Cape Government led by the DA received the best audit outcome in five years with 100% of their departments and entities receiving unqualified and this is according to the Auditor General Report for the 2022/23 financial year.

Voters in affluent districts may have little reason to complain about this. However, the lack of service delivery in the townships and black communities where there is overflowing sewage drains, blocked storm water drains and sanitation, poor refuse collection, poor access to decent housing and poor access to places of economic hubs due to spatial planning is not a true reflection of this.

The socio-economic status of people is inextricably linked to people’s standard of living, occupation, income, as well as wealth. And do clean audits and being voted best for service delivery in the country reflect the true realities of black people in the Western Cape? I think not.

This is the same party that is willing to do away with black empowerment policies such as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) to address injustices of the past caused by apartheid and a party that continues to demonstrate acts of racism and derogatory remarks towards black people in general and their previous leaders such as Lindiwe Mazibuko, Phumzile Van Damme, and Mmusi Maimane who was denigrated as a “hollow man” by DA acolyte Gareth Van Onselen in 2014.

Patricia De Lille was ousted from the DA in 2018 after leading the party to a 67% landslide victory in 2016 in the City of Cape Town. The DA losing such credible black leaders may unfortunately have led to their slow decline of voters in the Western Cape.

The recent tone of the DA to voters about voting for the party only to continue seeing a working government through service delivery reflects their continuous resistance to change and adoption of social democracy, shows little value and undermines voters because none of these reflect this on the ground.

Voters have come to the realisation that it is okay for their vote to change, and I think this is something the DA and its leader are not willing to come to terms with.

For years under this leadership, the situation of poor communities and black people has remained the same, perhaps even worse than before - instead the rich continue being richer, and the poor continue being poorer.

Why is it that John Steenhuisen thinks the possibility of a coalition government in the Western Cape opens doors for a corrupt coalition with the African National Congress, Patriotic Alliance, and the Economic Freedom Fighters? The DA leader further mentioned that smaller and new political parties were a way to distract voters.

I am of the view that such statements to voters shows panic and fear in the leader that voters may believe that shared power is not such a bad idea while Steenhuisen appeared to believe that power lies with a majority single political party and this being the Democratic Alliance in this case.

The Democratic Alliance uses tactics to score political points by lambasting political parties and forever masquerading through courts, working tirelessly to expose other party skeletons while addressing issues of power, collapsing leadership structures and racism in the party are at a snail’s pace.

As we prepare for the crucial elections on May 29, it is quite clear that South Africa stands at a crossroads, with challenges of democracy and governance increasing, the need for change has never been more urgent than now.

With the possibility of coalition governments looming in certain provinces which the DA has been advocating for over the past few years leading to the 2024 General Elections — which also explains the formation of the multi-party charter —it is surprising to make sense of the utterances made by Steenhuisen to its voters that if they want a government that is on the voters side, that provides jobs and electricity, voters should vote DA only on election day.

The opposition lambasting other political party motives for a coalition government when he said to voters: “You can either elect DA outright majority in the Western Cape, or you will get a coalition of corruption between the ANC, EFF and the PA – that will destroy this province just like it has done to the rest of the country.”

The idea of multiparty governance and democracy for the DA is becoming a slow reality as it faces a possible dwindling in voters as shown in recent polls – support for the DA is shown to be at 53% which is two percentage points less than the 55.4% received in the 2019 General Elections.

The DA has been in power since 2009 in the Western Cape and the campaigning, fast growth, and support of other political parties in the province may be difficult to fathom.

The leader of the opposition stated that all political parties had the right to question and contest the dominance of the Democratic Alliance as the leading party in the Western Cape, and I begin to wonder – is this not the perfect time for this?

* Naledi Ngqambela is a researcher and a writer. She writes in her personal capacity.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.