DA focuses on job creation ahead of municipal elections

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has blamed weak leadership from President Jacob Zuma for the flare-up of racist incidents. (David Harrison, M&G)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has blamed weak leadership from President Jacob Zuma for the flare-up of racist incidents. (David Harrison, M&G)

The issue of racism looks to feature strongly in the election campaigns of the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Some DA insiders, however, fear the party’s strategy to deal with racism might be lacking. “Mainly, we are panicking about race,” said one.

Party leader Mmusi Maimane has blamed weak leadership from President Jacob Zuma for the current racism spats. The DA has largely been trying to pull the debate back to job creation.

Maimane unveiled an election poster slamming the ANC’s job creation record in Johannesburg last week, and DA chief executive officer Paul Boughey said “the issue of joblessness” tops the party’s agenda.

South Africa faces “an unemployment crisis of epic proportions”, Boughey said. “We shall use the campaign to illustrate that well-managed and corruption-free municipalities are able to create the necessary enabling environment for driving job creation, as attested to by the fact that, where the DA governs, unemployment is at its lowest.”

Corruption and the quality of basic services will also be campaign issues.

Boughey said the DA has a “zero-tolerance approach to racism and will always act strongly against it when, and if, it arises”.

The party has had to take action against MP Dianne Kohler Barnard and member Penny Sparrow after their controversial Facebook posts.

The DA claims to be more representative of the country than the ANC. “Our offer is one of a united South Africa where we can all make progress together, with very targeted redress measures to ensure that we deal with the inequalities that arise from our divided past.”

He said the DA will “illustrate how the ANC has failed the majority of black South Africans and is unable to improve their quality of life”.

The party is set to throw most resources at the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan council, where DA polls show ANC support to have dipped to 48% and where former DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip will run for mayor.

Other battlegrounds are Johannesburg, whose mayoral candidate is likely to be businessperson Herman Mashaba, and Tshwane, where Solly Msimanga has been chosen to represent the DA.

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee was less forthcoming when asked about his party’s campaign strategies. “We might be in it for the long road [to the elections, should these be held in August as expected], so we can’t be disclosing strategy now,” he said.

The party, like the ANC, would not be putting up mayoral candidates. “Elections are not centred around personality cults,” he said.

He said, although the governing party uses hand-outs such as food parcels and blankets when campaigning, the EFF will instead “be going where no campaigners or politician will ever go .... We go to the slum areas, the squalor camps, the squatter camps, to the deep rural areas where people don’t know about political freedom but have only heard about it. We are bringing the message of hope to our people.”

The EFF has also in the past scored political points by maintaining a visible presence at community protests.

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