With the DA upping its political game plan, is South Africa ready for a new and improved opposition?
The question is not that whether a black man is ready to lead the Democratic Alliance (DA) nor is it whether the party is ready to be led by a black man. Rather the question is whether complacent South Africans are ready for a shift in the tone of local politics, that’s being effected by the DA.
The old guard has stepped back and is allowing young blood to take over the reins of the DA. It has always been seen as a white liberal political party. A label which, over the years, has become a great burden for the organisation due to its history and descent from the Progressive Party. The DA has always been viewed as a political party that caters for the interests of the white minority.
The DA has steadily grown its base from a minimum 1.7% in 1994 Elections to above 16% in elections thereafter. Amongst the improvement, black DA members have visibly climbed up the party’s echelons to leadership positions. A move aimed at being more representative in democratic South Africa.
One can argue that the quick turnaround in fortunes for the DA may undoubtedly be linked to its willingness to elect a black leader. Some have argued that it is too early for Mmusi Maimane, who was barely known 5 years ago, to fill this position. Others view him as a puppet. Critics argue that DA is not ready for a black leader but is accepting of trophy black leader who will window dress the transformation agenda for the DA. His past election campaigning and religious views have further fuelled criticism that he does not have an understanding of the demographics of South African voters, the poor and dis-enfranchised.
Despite this, Maimane’s sharp criticism of President Jacob Zuma earned him respect through his “Mr President, you are a broken man presiding over a broken society” speech. His popularity in the province during his bid to become premier of Gauteng also registered more votes than ever before for the DA in the province. In addition to these victories, the DA Student Organisation’s recent win of the SRC elections of Fort Hare, a historically black tertiary institution that saw the birth of some of our country’s prolific black leaders, is a clear indication of the DA’s rise in popularity and that may be linked to the “Maimane Effect”.
Given the DA’s previous history, no doubt this win can be viewed as the win for the under-dog. Maimane has proven to the DA and to the country as a whole that he is a force to be reckoned with in South African politics. While some may argue that the old conservative white DA memberships likely to feel alienated and is likely to going to seek a new political home in the Vryheids’ Front Plus and perhaps the New Coloured Party, taking away with it the funding machinery of the DA, one can argue that this loss is not colossal in comparison to the gains the DA may make in the run up to the Local Government Elections (LGE 2016).
Question remains, however, what does this mean for South Africa?
The sentiment is generally that this win is exactly what South Africa needs at the moment. That the ruling party needs a shake up and this is possibly the wake-up call for them to have paradigm shift in how they do things. The sentiment is that Mmusi Maimane represents the dream of what young black South Africans look for in a leader. He is viewed as young, eloquent, and intelligent in contrast to leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, who is viewed to being too radical. Maimane navigates the two (2) political spaces well. He is a guy from ‘Soweto who has a clear and proper understanding of the struggles and the hustle of township young people. But he also the guy that understands urban life challenges and the fact that he is educated is a bonus. He speaks about leadership being accountable to its people, which the electorate has been complaining about for a while.
One can argue that, that in itself is enough to sway voters who are possibly undecided on who to vote for in the upcoming LGE 2016.