Mmusi, Her­man need lessons

Mashaba and Maimane need to avoid the weak­ness that has af­flicted all op­po­si­tion par­ties since 1994: that of be­ing sim­ply anti-ANC.

The Citizen (KZN) - - Opinion - Syd­ney Ma­joko

Pol­i­tics is a dirty game. Ca­reer politi­cians learn the dirty tricks of their trade and how to sur­vive the power games that they play with each other. And, all too of­ten, a well-mean­ing en­tre­pre­neur en­ters the po­lit­i­cal arena with the naive hope that the good­will that car­ried them in busi­ness will fol­low them into the po­lit­i­cal world.

In lo­cal pol­i­tics, such ex­per­i­ments have re­sulted in spec­tac­u­lar fail­ures. Who can for­get aca­demic and busi­nessper­son Mam­phela Ram­phele’s spec­tac­u­lar en­try into pol­i­tics in the com­pany of He­len Zille, who some com­i­cally claim owns the kiss of death for black politi­cians within the Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA).

For­mer Joburg mayor Her­man Mashaba seems to have bucked the trend of busi­ness­peo­ple mak­ing a laugh­ing stock out of them­selves in lo­cal pol­i­tics.

In tra­di­tional DA fash­ion, Mashaba was parachuted in to be­come mayor af­ter the 2016 lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions. He talks a good talk and is a prac­ti­cal man who fo­cused on be­ing hands-on in­stead of fo­cus­ing on ide­ol­ogy. His prac­ti­cal ap­proach to solv­ing Joburg’s billing and in­fras­truc­tural prob­lems earned him the re­spect of those who are trou­bled by his clearly Afro­pho­bic ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion.

Now, he wants to launch a new party, to­gether with for­mer DA leader Mmusi Maimane, with whom he left the DA a few months ago.

SA has been ready for a new party since the days of the Congress of the Peo­ple (Cope). Cope, mainly for­mer dis­grun­tled rul­ing party com­rades, man­aged to grab 7% of the na­tional poll. But it un­rav­elled soon af­ter­wards.

Mashaba and Maimane would do well to study Cope’s case closely. The lazy way out is to ar­gue the fight be­tween Mo­siuoa Lekota and Mb­haz­ima Shilowa killed the party. But a party based on solid, achiev­able prin­ci­ples would not col­lapse sim­ply be­cause two lead­ers are fight­ing. It was when the rest of the mem­ber­ship re­alised the only thing hold­ing the party to­gether was per­son­al­i­ties, not val­ues, that they de­serted.

Mashaba and Maimane need to avoid the weak­ness that has af­flicted all op­po­si­tion par­ties since 1994: that of be­ing sim­ply anti-ANC and hop­ing the elec­torate will vote for them be­cause they are fed up with the rul­ing party.

They can­not sim­ply be anti-DA, either, be­cause the seg­ment of the elec­torate that dis­played the most sym­pa­thy to­wards Maimane and Mashaba was the dis­il­lu­sioned black mid­dle class. A politi­cian needs more than slo­ga­neer­ing to win those minds over. They are in­tol­er­ant to­wards ahis­tor­i­cal poli­cies – that seek to ig­nore race re­al­i­ties – but are also fed up with left­ist rhetor­i­cal ide­ol­ogy which only ben­e­fits loot­ing politi­cians.

The big­gest warn­ing to Mashaba and Maimane as they push their Peo­ple’s Di­a­logue agenda into 2020 is that they must not rest on their lau­rels, think­ing the sym­pa­thy and good­will they car­ried with them from the DA will au­to­mat­i­cally trans­late into votes.

They need to work hard to cap­ture the votes that the ANC and DA keep shed­ding. Mashaba needs to learn that, as party leader, you can’t spew xeno­pho­bic bile and Maimane must learn that you can’t please all the peo­ple all the time.

SA needs a bal­anced party. But are Mashaba and Maimane ready to learn from the fail­ures of Cope and Agang?

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