/ 28 September 2018

‘Coalition failures will bring more votes’

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane and Patricia de Lille present a united front ahead of the 2016 municipal elections. Their relationship has since soured.
Maimane: “As a liberal party, we celebrate both diversity and individualism.” (Simphiwe Nkwali/Gallo Images)

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane believes his party’s failed coalition governments will attract more voters to the DA in next year’s national elections to ensure an outright win.

The party launched its 2019 election campaign last week. It will focus on winning Gauteng, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape.

Despite the difficulties the DA has faced with coalitions at local government level, the party has declared coalitions “the future of South African politics” and is not ruling out the possibility of entering into more political partnerships.

Maimane told the Mail & Guardian this week that coalition instability in municipalities such as Nelson Mandela Bay, where the DA used to govern, would not deter voters from giving the party a chance at provincial and, possibly, national level.

“I don’t think voters will be reluctant to vote DA because of coalition challenges. If anything, I think it will incentivise them to give the DA a stronger mandate. Just think how much better off the people of Nelson Mandela Bay would be right now if the DA-run coalition had had just one extra councillor,” Maimane said. “That would have kept us in government there, and we could have kept making the phenomenal progress we were making.”

The DA has also lost control of the Mogale City municipality in Gauteng as disagreements between leaders within DA-led coalitions continue.

Last month, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga survived an Economic Freedom Fighters motion of no confidence on a technicality.

But he faced fresh efforts by the ANC to oust him this week.

Maimane believes these incidents will give voters more incentive to ensure the DA is the outright winner in next year’s elections.

At the launch of the DA’s election campaign last weekend Maimane highlighted employment opportunities, the fight against corruption and state capture, the strengthening of borders and the provision of basic services as key aspects that would be fleshed out in the party’s manifesto.

But there was no mention of the party’s alternative model to broad-based black economic empowerment (broad-based BEE), which the DA has rejected.

Maimane said the DA’s alternative model to broad-based BEE, which is still being finalised, would focus on various tiers of empowerment to challenge the current system, which the DA believes enriches only the politically connected.

“The DA’s empowerment policy will be genuinely broad-based, and will focus on widening opportunity in four key areas: ownership, employment, entrepreneurship and education/skills
acquisition,” according to Maimane.

Policy head Gwen Ngwenya’s announcement last month that the party was scrapping BEE and race as the basis for empowerment caused a backlash. The party has remained tight-lipped on how its proposed model is expected to work, leaving Ngwenya’s blunder to be used by the ANC and other parties to scare voters away from the DA.

Earlier this year, party leaders disagreed publicly on the introduction of a diversity clause. In 2013, the party had similar public disagreements about matters of transformation when former party leader Helen Zille accused then parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko of wrongfully leading the DA caucus to vote in support of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill.

Maimane said that there was“certainly a healthy debate between finding the right balance between our commitment to diversity, redress and ensuring the best, most suitable candidates are chosen for service”.

“As a liberal party, we celebrate both diversity and individualism.”— Additional reporting by Matuma Letsoalo