The Democratic Alliance’s KwaZulu-Natal premier candidate, Zwakele Mncwango, wants to bring the ANC’s support in the province to below 50% in the 2019 elections.
Mncwango, who is also provincial party leader, was announced as the DA’s candidate for premier on Thursday. He says that although the party is campaigning to secure an outright win in the province, realistically the DA will be happy if it manages to dismantle the ANC’s stronghold of the province.
“It’s not going to be easy and the first priority for me is going to be to go out there and connect with voters,” he told the Mail & Guardian this week.
“We are campaigning for a win;we are not campaigning to be part of a coalition government. But we have to be realistic and say if we do not achieve that level of success [a coalition might be a possibility],” he said.
Although KwaZulu-Natal is not among the provinces the DA is determined to win in next year’s elections, it still forms a crucial part of the party’s election strategy.The DA hopes to cause a significant enough dent in its support in KwaZulu-Natal to have a ripple effect on the ruling party’s national average and bring itbelow 50%.
If the DA can win the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng and limit the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal support, it believes it might be able to achieve its national goal.
The party has, however,has faced instability at local government level since 2016, specifically in coalition municipalities such as the Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane metros.
Mncwango said the DA did not believe coalition problems in other areas would scare KwaZulu-Natal voters from taking a chance on opposition parties, because they had seen evidence of successful local government coalitions between the DA and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in the province. “In KZN there are municipalities where the IFP is in government, assisted by the DA. There are issues. But as leadership we make sure that when issues start I am able to go meet the IFP to solve them,” he said.“It’s all about leadership and being able to address issues when they [start].Sometimes leaders wait until issues get to a point where they are uncontainable.”
Another challenge for the DA will be the IFP, which has stronghold areas in rural parts of the province and made a comeback in the 2016 municipal elections.
The DA’s support increased by 3.28% between the 2011 and 2016 municipal elections while the IFP saw an increase of 2.59%. The ANC recorded an increase of 0.69% which, although marginal, demonstrated a competition between parties for voters in the province.
Although former president Jacob Zuma, who attracted the support of many KwaZulu-Natal voters to the ANC, is no longer in the picture, the DA would still have to compete fiercely with the IFP for any votes lost by the ANC.
Mncwango said the DA had increased its support in some by-elections, giving it confidence that it would be the preferred choice of voters.
Besides rumblings in its coalitions, the DA has faced internal troubles. Recently Mncwango took to social media to rebuke DA policy head Gwen Ngwenya after she announced that the DA had decided to abandon black economic empowerment policies.
Party leaders also publicly disagreed about whether the party would still use race as a basis for redress, a spat which saw the DA receive widespread criticism.
Mncwango said that although the party had its problems, he didn’t believe internal disputes would scare off voters, as long as the DA was able to provide the services they needed.
“Despite organisational challenges we are the only party that can easily bring about change. I don’t believe internal challenges have an effect on voter patterns,”he said.