DA’s in­ter­nal woes may lead to voter back­lash

Mail & Guardian - - News - Di­neo Bendile

With only a few months left un­til the 2019 na­tional elec­tions, the Demo­cratic Al­liance this week found it­self be­set by a new cri­sis — its de­ci­sion to dis­avow broad-based black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment.

The neg­a­tive pub­lic re­ac­tion to pol­icy head Gwen Ng­wenya’s an­nounce­ment about ditch­ing the em­pow­er­ment leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing com­pa­nies is ex­pected to dom­i­nate dis­cus­sions at the next fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing.

The row over­shad­owed the an­nounce­ment of Cape Town mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille’s res­ig­na­tion, a move that may fi­nally draw a line un­der the dis­pute that has dom­i­nated a year of in­ter­nal dis­putes, pol­icy dis­agree­ment and coali­tion chal­lenges for the coun­try’s of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion party.

On Sun­day, DA leader Mmusi Maimane an­nounced the party had am­i­ca­bly re­solved is­sues with De Lille, who would be re­sign­ing as mayor at the end of Oc­to­ber.

This fol­lows months of clashes be­tween De Lille and the DA, in­clud­ing no-con­fi­dence mo­tions from her own cau­cus.

But De Lille has de­nied re­sign­ing be­cause of an agree­ment with the party and has threat­ened le­gal ac­tion against mem­bers she ac­cuses of de­fam­ing her.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers have warned that De Lille’s res­ig­na­tion could re­sult in voter back­lash in the West­ern Cape, where she en­joys a large fol­low­ing. But West­ern Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madik­izela told the Mail & Guardian this week that De Lille’s res­ig­na­tion of­fered the party a chance to mend re­la­tions with its sup­port­ers.

“As a leader I was very con­cerned about what was hap­pen­ing. I’m re­lieved, I must be hon­est,” Madik­izela said.

“I think the fact that we have reached a set­tle­ment and agreed to move for­ward is re­ally a re­lief for me be­cause it af­fords us an op­por­tu­nity to fo­cus on what mat­ters — ser­vice de­liv­ery and the elec­tion cam­paign for 2019,” he added.

“Most of our sup­port­ers have been say­ing ‘please sort this thing out, we are wor­ried about the in­fight­ing in the party. We don’t care who is wrong and who is right, we want you to re­solve the mat­ter.’

“There’s a per­cep­tion [among vot­ers] that when we fight among our­selves they don’t mat­ter. And then is­sues of ser­vice de­liv­ery be­come even more con­cern­ing for them when that hap­pens,” he said.

De­spite Madik­izela’s op­ti­mism, the party has been pro­jected to lose 31% of its sup­port next year ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Ip­sos.

The party has also faced crit­i­cism of its han­dling of the wa­ter cri­sis in Cape Town ear­lier this year.

The DA has dis­missed these find­ings.

Its prob­lems, how­ever, per­me­ate to the prov­inces.

Gaut­eng

In Gaut­eng, a prov­ince the DA has put much of its re­sources into win­ning, the party faces a loom­ing bat­tle about the se­lec­tion of premier can­di­dates.

The so-called black cau­cus, a group­ing of “pro­gres­sive” mem­bers in the party, is un­der threat be­cause of the rift be­tween premier­ship hope­fuls and once-close al­lies Makashule Gana and Solly Msi­manga.

Gana has said he felt be­trayed by Msi­manga, who is stand­ing as a can­di­date for premier, de­spite as­sur­ing Gana that he would not stand.

Di­vi­sions in this group­ing could prove fa­tal for the DA’s cam­paign, es­pe­cially as it tries to lure more black vot­ers.

Msi­manga has also been crit­i­cised for be­ing pre­pared to dis­rupt the con­ti­nu­ity of lead­er­ship in the Tsh­wane metro where he is mayor, should he be suc­cess­ful as premier.

Gaut­eng leader John Moodey has at­tempted to calm the ten­sions, say­ing Msi­manga was within his rights to stand for the po­si­tion.

He also said the party had enough ca­pa­ble lead­ers to re­place Msi­manga as Tsh­wane mayor if nec­es­sary.

“Solly was within his rights to avail him­self. And the party is within its own right to field him should it see him as the best can­di­date,” Moodey said.

“There is enough tal­ent in the DA, should Solly be the can­di­date and suc­ceed as premier, for us to be able to fill his po­si­tion in Tsh­wane with a very com­pe­tent in­di­vid­ual. That is not a con­cern for me.”

Moodey stressed that Msi­manga and Gana rep­re­sented the kind of ac­tivism and lead­er­ship that would al­low the DA to per­form well in Gaut­eng.

Eastern Cape

The DA con­tin­ues to face prob­lems in the Nel­son Man­dela Bay metro, where the party has long strug­gled to over­come the hur­dle of a dif­fi­cult coali­tion part­ner­ship with the United Demo­cratic Move­ment.

Nel­son Man­dela Bay mayor Athol Trol­lip faces the prospect of yet an­other mo­tion of no con­fi­dence brought by op­po­si­tion par­ties who have fre­quently ac­cused him of be­ing anti-poor.

Be­cause the DA ac­knowl­edges that it will prob­a­bly need coali­tions to take power from the ANC in next year’s elec­tions, pos­i­tive re­la­tions with other op­po­si­tion par­ties will be cru­cial.

The dif­fi­cul­ties it has faced in coali­tion mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties such as Nel­son Man­dela Bay and Jo­han­nes­burg, where it has strug­gled to pass bud­gets, might also de­ter vot­ers who might want to take a chance on the DA next year.

Calm­ing: The Demo­cratic Al­liance’s Gaut­eng leader, John Moodey, has tried to down­play trou­ble over a suc­ces­sion bat­tle. Photo: Paul Botes

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