It feels like just the other day that the Democratic Alliance invited members of the media to visit its senior leadership at its new headquarters in Bruma, Johannesburg. But it was actually more than a year ago. The smell of fresh paint was a jarring welcome to Nkululeko House — a signal of the party’s latest ambitions.
It was not a regional party; it had ambitions to force the ANC into a coalition government in the 2019 elections.
As journalists were ushered inside, small groups of party staffers appeared excited, buoyant. For anyone who hadn’t kept up with the party in recent years, the sight of so many young, black people in the rank and file of the party may have been surprising. But the DA had been doing the work of cajoling young, disaffected voters into their ranks. And they certainly appeared to be happy to be there. Theirs, after all,was a party on the up and up.
The DA’s top brass was also smiling. They were just days away from a federal congress. But any sense of tension between those vying for position was muted. If anything, the DA always did have a sense of occasion. And they had just shifted the party apparatus from Cape Town to Johannesburg with the new headquarters.
All the talk was of growth.There could be nothing to disrupt this march to unseat the ANC — at least not among the leaders the DA trotted out before us.
Days later, then Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Athol Trollip beat then Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga to retain the position of federal chairperson — continuing in his role as second in command to Maimane.
Maimane meanwhile, assumed the role of federal leader for his second term. He was elected unopposed.
This week, Maimane said his faith in the party had been exhausted — and that there were people in the DA working to unseat him.
But it is not just Maimane’s favour with his party that has waned. Trollip is no longer mayor, and the party has lost iBayi to a coalition of deplorables. Msimanga’s final days in his Tshwane office were clouded by several allegations of parachuting unqualified people into positions of power, and tender irregularities.
It’s not just Maimane who squandered the growing trust of South Africans in the DA. But, as its leader, he must be expected to account for the party’s dismal showing in this year’s polls. It’s a pity that a veneer of accountability has also been so wrapped in political vengeance.
In the parking lot of Nkululeko House on Wednesday, a small panel van sporting the colours of the DA with a smiling Maimane on its rear, looked forlorn, misplaced even. The slogan “One South Africa For All” a reminder of times now gone.