The Democratic Alliance became the first of the big parties to launch its election plans for 2019 on Saturday – and it has chosen a hardline on immigration called ‘Secure our borders’ as a key manifesto plank.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane and election strategists chose a mid-public holiday weekend, and central Joburg launch as the party presented its premier candidates for next year’s national and election campaign. The launch follows Maimane standing down from a vaunted attempt at making himself Western Cape premier earlier this week.
The party will campaign against corruption, illegal immigration and crime. It will campaign for jobs, service delivery and both land reform and private property protection in a campaign that is aimed at striking a balance between negative and positive campaigning.
The party’s faction that was pushing to drop BEE appears to have been defeated. There was no evidence of its “alternative economic plan” at the launch and the party’s head of policy Gwen Ngwenya, who is pushing to drop BEE, did not make Maimane’s top election team nor was she a visible figure at the launch. No members of the faction pushing to drop BEE were visible figures at the launch.
Instead, Maimane repeatedly emphasised the need to deal with the past through economic policies: “apartheid wounds have not healed yet”; he spoke about “the injustices of yesterday” and the “structural defects in our economy today”.
The launch at Mary Fitzgerald Square was all party and showbiz: the star-packed line-up featured much more music than political content, fitting on a long weekend when all Mzansi wants to do is let down her hair.
The DA is polling at 13% in the latest Ipsos polls though it has complained that the results under-represents its own numbers. It is hoping to win three provinces in 2019: Gauteng (with Solly Msimanga as premier candidate); the Northern Cape (with Andrew Louw as premier candidate) and the Western Cape (this week’s announcement that Alan Winde will be premier candidate has been met with mixed reviews).
The election will be represented by a young team of the party’s best-known faces who will each be given a campaign theme to represent.
Phumzile van Damme will be the anti-corruption campaigner; Natasha Mazzone will take up cudgels against state capture; Geordin Hill-Lewis is spokesperson on jobs while Jacques Julius is spokesperson on “secure borders” – a campaign to clean up Home Affairs and against illegal immigration.
While the country’s commentariat is liberal on immigration, the competition for resources in poor communities means that the realpolitik on immigration means a hard line is probably a good, but populist, election platform.
Maimane said the party will run a national and well-oiled campaign. That there’s going to be plenty of money thrown at the campaign was clear from the line-up. Shekhinah, Distruction Boyz, Riky Rick and Sketchy Bongo kept a largely young and black crowd on their feet and in the mood. All four are top dollar performers who don’t come cheap. Van Damme, in a bespoke gold and blue dress and top, hosted a beauty contest for members who wore the best party regalia.
For his part, Maimane struck a balance between a Barack Obama styled performance and a channeled Nelson Mandela from top to bottom of the launch. The MC announced Maimane as “The future president of Afrika Borwa (South Africa)” and highlighted his Soweto roots and his family.
Maimane was brought to the stage, Rocky Balboa style, through the crowd and surrounded by an elaborate security detail. It was pure showbiz as a drone camera filmed and projected his walk onto huge screens at the front of the square.
Party machines festooned the crowd in fireworks of blue ribbons as smoke machines were let off. A selfie booth was packed out but the donation stand closed shop early. Both are an indication of a changing DA membership.
Largely young black members queued in the burning sun to take party-branded selfies which were then printed out for them. The donation booth was deserted; historically a party of old Anglo-Saxon money, that part of the DA’s identity is clearly in decline thought it is still obviously well-funded if the scale of the launch was anything to go by. No dimes were spared on excellent sound, a top stage and marquees of various sizes to house different functions.
Nelson Mandela was all over the DA launch: from the opening quote which was used to launch the election campaign which is called “One South Africa for All” to the campaign advertisement which is in the same genre of united South Africa television advertisements at the peak of Mandela’s power. DM
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