So, it’s election week. On Wednesday the 8th of May 2019, we will all go out and vote to decide who will govern South Africa for the next five years. It is no secret that the Zuma-led ANC has crippled the country and yet it is almost certain that the ANC will win the election this year and that their proportion of the national vote will increase from 2014. Even conservative publications like the Economist describe Cyril Ramaphosa as “South Africa’s best bet.” To quote them further “The Economist endorsed the DA in 2014. But this time, with deep reservations, we would cast our national vote, at the national level, for the ANC. Our reasons are painfully pragmatic. The DA has the right ideas for fixing South Africa, but it is in no position to implement them. It is still seen as the party of those who are white, indian or coloured.” I wonder why that is?
Since the transition the DA has always been the largest opposition party and the most credible threat to the ANC, yet they will have to get significantly more than 22% of the vote (compared to the ANC’s 62%) to do so. Given that Black South Africans make up 79% of the total population, winning a national election is only possible by convincing large numbers of Black voters to vote for the DA. Most South Africans still think race is a really important feature of South African society, something that’s understandable given that that’s what the apartheid government used to differentially legislate, allocate, reward and punish for half a century. I was curious about the racial breakdown of the DA in parliament (“do as I do, not as I say”). So I went to look at the People’s Parliament website and it turns out that the current DA parliamentarians are 62% White and 67% Male. The infographic below is telling.
Thinking that perhaps this was a legacy issue and that the DA has subsequently changed, I looked at the National Parliamentary List that the DA have just put forward for the 2019 elections. It turns out that if the DA wins the same number of seats in the 2019 election as it did in the 2014 election (87 seats) then it will be ‘only’ 59% White, hardly an improvement.
Comparing the above graph to the one below, you have to ask yourself who is advising the DA? How are they still employed?
What kind of logic do you have to use to conclude that in a hyper-racialised country like South Africa it’s OK to have 59% of your representatives come from 9% of the population? And specifically the group that systematically oppressed and benefited from apartheid. And somehow this is a winning strategy? Of course the DA response is usually “But we pick the best candidates for the job, irrespective of race.” How is this going to go down well with Black South Africans? If anything it is extremely offensive. The implication is that there are no competent Black people within the DA to lead it. It may well be the case that there are not enough Black leaders in the DA but the first place to start looking for answers is in the party itself. How have strategic party officials and big funders of the DA not set out ultimatums around transformation – change or we’re out. How many times does one have to say this: you will never win a national election unless you can convince Black South Africans that your policies and their implementation will benefit them, in particular those who are poor, unhoused and unemployed. I personally don’t think the DA will ever be able to make that case when two thirds of their leadership is White.
It is not the DA alone that pays the price of its short-sightedness. South Africa as a whole is the one that suffers when we have such a weak and shambolic opposition. In three days time thousands of voters are likely to hold-their-nose-and-vote-Ramaphosa knowing full well that one votes for a party and not an individual, fully cognisant that their vote will contribute to large numbers of murderous, corrupt and inept ANC politicians making it into parliament as a result. Yet they will do it anyway. Not because they do not know that the DA exists, or what their policies are, or even their track record in the municipalities they govern. It is simply that they do not trust the DA. Some do not trust that they will be able to lead us out of the political quagmire that we are in, seeing Ramaphosa and his appointees as the only way out. Others do not trust that the party really has their interests at heart. And who can blame them, when a party’s leaders are 62% White and 67% male. Shame on you DA.
Get with the program or be content to keep 20-something percent of the vote forever.
Thought-provoking and chillingly accurate, Nic. On the eve of the election I have yet to decide who gets my vote. What I do know is that it won’t be for one of the big parties.
Nic, there can be no doubt your point about representativeness is valid and important in the context of winfing an election. You imply that more should have been done by now to correct this. I cant answer that. But I can comment on the strong propaganda hold that the ANC has on much of the black electorate. All it takes is a few words from Ace Magashule (of all people) about the DAs white supremacist intentions…. The ANC can be accused on many failures, but when it comes to winning hearts and minds they are experts…
Spot-on. Blocked their number when they started leaving voice lectures with Musi evangelizing the sheep.
I agree that the DA has been ‘slow to change’. But they also have proven to be running their municipalities better (as measured by proportion with qualified audits, say). One has to hold ones nose to vote for the ANC, the DA and the EFF!
There are luckily more than 3 parties in this election: Why not look further afield, say to the UDM? Imagine an election where the ANC gets 49% and the EFF 15% and the UDM 2%. The ANC could be pulled towards a sensible government, and not change the constitution with the EFF driving the land agenda.
Additionally, for those who live in the Western Cape or Gauteng, their vote is not about 22%… but potentially government determining. The analysis regarding the national vote and the provinces with their idiosyncracies may lead to different voting intentions.
What you seem to miss Nic is that although the DA may be all the things you say they are, many people (myself included) will still vote DA in an attempt to keep the ANC out of the Western Cape. Some may argue that the WC is still effectively run when compared to other ANC-run provinces and that service delivery and access to resources is better than other ANC-run provinces. That is also important.
You make good points regarding the DA’s leadership being overwhelmingly white. On that logic I should not vote ANC, as they have way less than 9% white in their leadership. Furthermore, the ANC and EFF has clearly indicated that they actually do not want white in their party, albeit through veiled rhetoric and split comments. The DA is the only party that is openly promoting a unified country. The DA is also the party that can be trusted to run clean Government. It is not just about winning National elections. It is about municipalities and provinces as well. Unlike your submission, The DA is totally capable of making a massive difference even with 22% of the votes. They say that a man is at his best behaviour when courting. If this is the ANC’s best behaviour, what happens after the vote. What chance do we have to see change in the ANC when they have another 5 years to do as they wish. The best chance to change the country is to vote for the DA. Voting for the ANC is a vote of confidence in their books. Patting on the back and saying: see, we will win even if we stuff everything up. Why should we prosecute our cadres now. Let’s just forgive and forget. That’s what you will be voting for if you vote ANC.
Nicely said Tony. This is not only a question of race its so much more than that. As a parent and citizen I appreciate clean streets, my refuse being collected and street lights being fixed. The DA do deliver on this and while they might be predominantly white-led, they get the job done and have opened more schools and clinics than the ANC, who’s leadership is abysmal.
It will be interesting to have the same analysis for the ANC; an mostly black party also not representative of the national demographics. However, it is clear that the DA has a much better skill set to manage provinces. The ANC mastered the political blame game by using race and historical blah blah while robbing the very poor people who voted for them. And they get away with it!
The DA could do better with public relations regarding their better managed provinces.