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ANALYSIS

DA’s path to Gauteng control in 2024 is possible – but heavily dependent on its ground game

DA’s path to Gauteng control in 2024 is possible – but heavily dependent on its ground game
Illustrative image | Sources: Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi) | DA Gauteng leader Solly Msimanga. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath) | Flickr | Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki

It is most likely that the main question in Gauteng will be who will overcome their distaste for one another and work together: the ANC and the DA, or perhaps the ANC and the EFF, or some other combination.

While next year’s elections will have many different focal points, it is a great probability that the biggest battlefield will be Gauteng. It is easily the most contentious – should the ANC fall below 50%, it would be a final sign of the party’s rejection by urban and educated voters.

It’s also a province where three big parties could end up vying for power through coalition, necessitating continuous triangulation that will certainly complicate the campaign space.

Over the weekend, the DA in Gauteng re-elected Solly Msimanga for another term as the party’s provincial leader. He will now be in charge of the DA in Gauteng for the vital period of next year’s provincial and national elections – and will be judged on the party’s electoral performance. 

In the past, the DA has focused intense resources in Gauteng, both in the province in provincial elections, and in the Metros from 2016 onwards.

Despite that, one of the main failures of the party in the 2019 elections is that it actually lost votes in Gauteng, even though it was trying to create a narrative designed to capture what could be called the urban, black middle class.

It could be argued that it was this loss of support in Gauteng that eventually resulted in the election of former leader Helen Zille as chair of the party’s Federal Council, the resignation of Mmusi Maimane as leader, Herman Mashaba’s resignation as Joburg mayor and the subsequent forming of ActionSA (which had clearly been his plan all along), and the ascent of John Steenhuisen to the DA’s leadership position.

That has led to claims that the party has moved to the right and away from attempting to win the support of the majority of the population.

When asked whether he would reverse this, Msimanga’s first response to SAfm was not to focus on DA policy, or a message, or even to attack the ANC.

Rather, he said that he would focus on two things: increasing the number of people registered to vote and sorting out the DA’s political machinery in the province. He has also, without evidence, attacked the Electoral Commission, claiming it did not manage some voting stations properly.

The turnout battle

One of the major factors for all parties in Gauteng will be turnout, which makes voter registration key.

Parties like the ANC, the EFF and the DA are all likely to focus on their communities to make sure members of their natural constituencies are registered for voting.

This election will be a test of this machinery – the party that wins the turnout battle will be handsomely rewarded in elections that are ever more defined by low turnout. For it to function properly, it requires a huge amount of hard work, and that tends to favour the bigger parties.

This may put the EFF at a disadvantage – it may simply have fewer members, fewer resources and less experience. However, it was able to fill the FNB Stadium (which is obviously in Gauteng, but not everyone there was from Gauteng), which is something the DA has never done – and the ANC has done it many times.

It also matters who registers. If every person eligible to vote in Gauteng voted, it is likely that the DA would lose dramatically, and the ANC, and particularly the EFF, would gain.

(As an aside, the EFF’s real electoral problem may be that younger people who feel they have no stake in society simply do not vote.)

For the DA to succeed in this, it has to ensure that its likely voters are registered and hope that the other parties are less successful in this groundwork.

This also shows how important Msimanga’s task in sorting out the DA machinery will be. Here he may be aided by the fact the ANC appears to be so divided and increasingly incompetent that it may not be able to mount the operations the way it did in the past.

But it will still not be easy; the DA has lost important human capital to ActionSA, including people like Mashaba, Michael Beaumont and John Moodey. Along with them went some voters.

Meanwhile, the ANC in Gauteng is already using every tool available to bolster its support. Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi says he is creating jobs for young unemployed people and claims to be trying to make the province safer.

At the same time, the EFF is way stronger in Gauteng than in other provinces. This is the first time it will be contesting a provincial election with its officials in important positions in councils and metros. It may try to point to its track record, such as it is, in a bid to claim it now has governance experience.

While the key question ahead of the national election is whether the ANC will fall below 50%, leading to a coalition government, it is probably a different question in Gauteng – it appears impossible at this stage for the ANC to get above 50%, particularly as it won only 36% of the total vote in the province in the 2021 local elections.

It is also entirely possible – considering that the recent ANC conferences in Gauteng were described by the premier at the time, David Makhura, as a “war zone” – that the party simply has some sort of collapse.

Coalitions

It is most likely that the main question in Gauteng will be who will overcome their distaste for one another and work together: the ANC and the DA, or perhaps the ANC and the EFF, or some other combination.

However, here the Gauteng leaderships of both the DA and the ANC may be slightly handicapped by the fact this decision will probably be out of their hands because their national leaderships will want to make it part of the larger determination.

At the same time, the DA is likely to claim that the ANC and the EFF are already working together in Gauteng, based on their working relationships in Joburg, Ekurhuleni and Mogale City. It will use this to argue that the only sure way to prevent such a coalition from being formalised is to vote for the DA or the parties associated with its “moonshot coalition”, such as the IFP.

The elections could also see parties falling back into identity politics – the ANC will want to shift the conversation away from service delivery failures, which means that race issues may be all that’s left for them to stalk. The EFF will play into this too. At the same time, the DA may also play this game, considering its recent comments and actions about the song, Kill the Boer.

The result of this is that whoever wins the election, or more accurately, whoever is able to form a government, could find themselves governing at a difficult time.

Gauteng could be suffering from deeper divisions, more service delivery failures and, crucially, deeper poverty and inequality.

The person sworn in as Gauteng premier in August next year may find a very heavy crown of thorns indeed. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    ‘if’, ‘may’, ‘could’, ‘might’, ‘possibly’ must be the most tired and worn-out words that Mr Grootes uses in every single article he writes.
    Politics is a prediction game at the best of times, but fence-sitting and downplaying the crucial role that the DA has to play in the game appears to be the author’s favourite go-to card.
    It no longer comes across as unbiased reporting when this is the same recipe in every single opinion piece.

    • Jacki McInnes says:

      Yes, I totally agree with you Graeme. Grootes’ excessive use of conditional words in every article he writes has the effect of constantly putting him on the back foot. He knows his stuff, so it would be nice if he just put it out there with confidence. Less of the tooth-sucking please.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      You may be right, and he might even agree with you in private. When he’s writing a report for a newspaper he has to be careful to be seen to be impartial.

      Also the DA have painted themselves into a corner. The pragmatic policy is to not the shut to door to a partnership with the ANC, but if they keep that door open then the moonshot pact will never take off.
      But if the pact holds and the ANC & EFF between them get 50% + 1 vote… then the DA lose any chance of being able to at least slow down the rot.

      Maybew they should have kept their cards a bit closer to their chest.

    • Grenville Wilson says:

      Agreed and well said.

    • Cachunk Cachunk says:

      Agree with Graeme completely; I find Grootes difficult to read these days.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    Not worth the paper in which it was written! Come back with evidence to support your opinions or find a more meaningful topic to address

  • Cornay Bester says:

    The DA in the WC and the DA in Gauteng are two very different entities. The one works for the people, the other works for itself.

  • Jennifer D says:

    It would give me great joy to see, in my lifetime, a South Africa wherein ordinary people start taking responsibility for their own welfare, begin creating work opportunities for themselves and stop holding out their hands as dependents of the state. When they own their homes, ensure their children are educated and realise that they too can make a difference to the future of their country. This is the dream – the question is when and if?

  • L Dennis says:

    Totally agree with your comment on Mr Grootes. The DA has been a party of hope. Servant leadership and not self gain is what makes them a success. I am so happy Solly was re elected what an outstanding leader. I pray for our beautiful country and that the efforts of parties serving the people will continue to be blessed and grow.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    For within the hollow crown
    That rounds the mortal temples of a king
    Keeps Death his court…

    The bard said so many things first and so well

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Stephen Grootes doesn’t seem to have much of a political opinion on anything…. I guess he needs the job at SABC and DM and this is his way. Sigh!

  • Denise Smit says:

    The DA stance on “Kill the Boer” is not identity politics – don’t indulge the EFF. Soli Msimang and co-contender for DA leadership in Gauteng are both black, do not portray DA as white party , it is the most diverse party. South African are sick and tires of lawlessness, fearing for their lives, bad municipal services and infrastructure, corruption, law enforcement working for everybody and not protecting the politically connected, and a thriving economy where jobs are created. DS

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