/ 1 April 2023

DA is preparing for unrest should ANC lose power in 2024

Voting 1907 Dv
In preparation for the possible dip of the ANC majority in next year's national elections, the official opposition Democratic Alliance is looking at co-opting the international community to ensure a peaceful state transition. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

In preparation for the possible dip of the ANC majority in next year’s national elections, the official opposition Democratic Alliance is looking at co-opting the international community to ensure a peaceful state transition. 

As part of its resolutions, which will be discussed at this weekend’s elective congress, the DA’s federal executive chairperson, Ivan Meyer, has proposed that the DA lead a process to develop a declaration for a peaceful transition post 2024

The resolution states that the new leader of the party engages with political parties represented in the national assembly on its declaration. 

This will include engagements with the international community through foreign diplomats and heads of states for their support in facilitating the peaceful transition. 

“The behaviour of public representatives of the governing party does not inspire confidence when they are losing power at various metros across South Africa. Chaos, disruption and the undermining of the democratic outcomes are part of the DNA of the governing party in South Africa. South Africans are, at large, freedom-loving people and want a safe environment to live and work in,” the resolution states. 

DA MP Leon Schreiber told Mail & Guardian on Saturday that the DA would not wait for something to go wrong before acting, adding that the party would rather identify any risks beforehand. 

He said that South Africa was about to experience traumatic political change in the 2024 elections. 

“We have had almost 30 years of one-party rule under the ANC, but we must never forget that even preceding democracy there was one-party rule for 40 years. We are looking at 70 years of entrenched culture — or the idea of South African politics that there is one dominant party in charge. 

“The change of government we had in 1994 was a change in regime but it wasn’t a classic election loss in the sense of constitutional democracies around that world. It means that this would be — should the ANC fall below 50% and be removed from government — the very first time a government in the history of this country has been removed from the ballot box democratically in an election where everyone has voted. It has never happened before.” 

Schrieber added that the DA also took into consideration the July unrest in 2021 and the occasional outbreaks of violence seen at political settings in the country. 

He said that the resolution was something a responsible opposition should take seriously, and was not intended to “cause alarm or sow fear”. 

He said the party was looking to have a consensus by society to guard against any kind of disruptions or a repeat of looting to ensure a free and fair election. 

He cited Brazil as an example of violence and unrest following democratic elections, and the 6 January 2021 capitol riots in the US as an example of violence in a more “advanced democracy”. 

“You could ask yourself if it happened there, why can’t it happen in a country with less experience in democracy.” 

Schreiber also warned that all it took for an “insurrection” was one or two senior  politicians to refute the outcomes of the elections. 

“I don’t think there should be any reason for South Africans to think we are immune to this risk, so rather be safe than sorry.” 

He emphasised that state security would need to assess any risk to the elections. The DA would also appeal to South Africa’s international partners — including Russia — to engage the ANC-led government on a peaceful transfer. 

“I think we must question and ask if the state security agency is preparing for this. We know the scale of corruption and state capture that has paralysed that institution … we have seen what happens [when] the international community is caught unaware,” he said. 

“In Zimbabwe, the election was something the international community was not prepared for. We have seen the way the ANC picks sides in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian ‘democracy’ isn’t exactly a role model of peaceful transition and election integrity, so that only increases the urgency of this resolution. 

“We are asking not only South African partners but countries like Russia [if they] will raise their voice if there is any kind of undermining democratic change of government in South Africa,” he said.