DA goes to congress in party mood

The Democratic Alliance has fought a number of fights in court and in Parliament against the ANC – this against a background of a growing toenadering (rapprochement) between opposition parties.

The congress comes a month before the ANC's national conference in Mangaung, where the party will vote on whether President Jacob Zuma should get another term as ANC president.

DA spokesperson Mmusi Maimane rejected the view that the DA would like to see Zuma remain in power because he would continue to embarrass the ANC, which would benefit the DA.

"That Zuma's prolonged stay benefits us is an uncertain conclusion. The DA doesn't rely on Zuma to win elections. We will win elections on our own terms, in our style, based on our own work."

He said the DA congress would set the party on the path of realignment politics.

No confidence in Zuma
The DA is leading an alliance of opposition parties that are calling for Zuma's removal. Two weeks ago, the party's parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, tabled a motion of no confidence in Zuma on behalf of her party and seven others.

The ANC and Parliament rejected the motion, with the ANC labelling it frivolous and a publicity stunt and Parliament saying it could not put it on the programme because of a failure to reach a consensus in Parliament's programming committee. Mazibuko then approached the Western Cape High Court to ask it to compel Parliament to hold the debate on the motion they had tabled.

The DA has won a number of court cases against Zuma over the past few months, including challenging the appointment of Menzi Simelane as the director of public prosecutions and filing for access to the record of decision, or documentary evidence, used to drop charges against Zuma in April 2009.

Maimane denied that his party's strategy was to rule through the courts. "It's expensive to go to court; how can it be our strategy? But looking at an issue like Nkandlagate [the scandal involving Zuma's private residence costing taxpayers millions], where questions have been asked directly to the president and to ministers without getting real answers, what do you do?

"There's a huge part of me that wishes we didn't have to go to court as much as we do, because people are accusing us of trying to rule through the courts. But the rule of law should hold," he said.

Incentivising activism
The DA was preparing for the 2014 election and would intensify its scrutiny of the government as it drew closer, Maimane said. The congress would take several resolutions relating to this and would be looking at ways to strengthen the party's role as an effective opposition.

Maimane said the party would also be electing the kind of leadership that would incentivise those who had worked hard over the past two years.

"We elect every two years; it's sort of a mid-term review for us. While the ANC has a strong focus on membership where, if you have more membership support you get elected, in our case we incentivise activism. We incentivise people who work in communities, like [those who have] grown a branch or worked hard on a project," he said.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga agrees that the DA is already campaigning for 2014 and said the party's pursuit of a motion of no confidence suited its purposes in the build-up to the election.

"It allows them to lay a discourse, to lay bare President Jacob Zuma's weaknesses and score points. They know the ANC is most likely to win the debate. But this will be part of Parliament's record [and] they'll continue to resuscitate these things until 2014."

Mathekga is one of those who think the more mistakes Zuma commits, the more the DA benefits. "Their strategy is not short-term; they'll build up on these things until 2014."

But he criticised the DA for "running" to the courts to adjudicate on political matters.

"If the ANC is abusing its majority, let it be punished by the voter."

Mathekga said going to the courts and circumventing political or majority processes would make the DA appear to be opportunistic.

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