We are puzzled: why is there no obvious political party waiting to rival the ANC for political ascendancy in next year’s elections? It’s a no-brainer. The ANC has shot itself through its feet so many times that it is now hobbling around hopelessly.
The ANC is associated with State Capture, cadre deployment and corrupt leadership to such a degree that any decent party standing against it on a platform of good governance should be a shoo-in at national elections. So, why has no such party emerged?
Our view is that exactly such a party was emerging, and that party was (past tense) the DA. Under the leadership of Mmusi Maimane, it was not uncommon to see black South Africans in DA colours and party regalia toyi-toying in the streets. Something was happening – a broad-based political party was emerging, with both black and white cadres, and black and white leaders.
And then the music stopped.
In late 2019, the DA’s white leadership acted to remove Maimane, blaming him for the DA’s less-than-stellar 2019 election results. The DA had not made major inroads into black voters, and Maimane was blamed.
Tony Leon would later say that, “Mmusi was an experiment gone wrong.” To which Maimane responded: “I am a human being. Not your science study” and spoke of the “sheer audacity to erase my agency, my dignity and my humanity”. He resigned from the DA.
Earlier this year, the DA stifled Mpho Phalatse’s leadership aspirations. Years ago, the same happened with Lindiwe Mazibuko. We won’t take up space with more names of promising black leaders who have been sidelined by the DA’s white leadership.
Now the DA is talking about a “moonshot pact” to save South Africa from the ANC and the EFF. The term “moonshot” is a powerful metaphor, conjuring images of audacious leaps into the unknown, of humanity’s first daring steps on the moon. But as we gaze at the DA’s moonshot, one can’t help but wonder: are we looking at a rocket destined for the stars, or a limp balloon unlikely to get off the ground?
The DA’s moonshot alliance is attempting to put lipstick on a bulldog. It has surely run out of ideas when, as the largest opposition party, it needs to shack up with its lesser political minions to seem relevant.
The moonshot South Africa really needs embodies the true pioneering spirit of our nation. It needs a “De Klerk moment” or “Madiba magic”. It’s hard to imagine John Steenhuisen and Helen Zille leading the country to an exciting future as seen through the eyes of a majority of its citizens: black South Africans.
A sobering statistic – about 8.6% of SA’s present population is “white”. Who can be blind to demographics? Colour blindness in South Africa is wilful self-deception. The DA has scored many “own goals” and has a track record of tripping over the many opportunities it has had to be a credible, black-led South African political party. Now it’s doing that again.
Picture a South Africa governed by a black-led political party that champions integrity, transparency and effective governance. It’s a delectable prospect. But with Steenhuisen and Zille at the top, the DA is unlikely to ever be electorally appealing to anyone other than a small fraction of the population in South Africa.
More than a pipe dream
This vision of a broad-based serious opposition to the DA is not a pipe dream. It’s a possibility that we can make a reality, much like the transformation we’ve seen in South Africa’s corporate world.
Businesses across our nation have embraced black leadership, proving that change is not only possible, but also beneficial for growth and progress. Businesses understand that black consumers are the vast majority of their clients and stakeholders in SA, and many have acted boldly to make their management demographics reflect their consumer demographics.
If businesses can rewrite their narrative, why can’t our political landscape?
Our real moonshot is not just a new alliance of existing opposition splinter parties. A moonshot would be the whites at the top of the DA moving aside and creating their own Siya Kolisi moment. A moonshot would be a South African political party that appealed to – and reflected – most South Africans.
The whites in the DA will cry, “Why do we have to bring race into it? We are 30 years into democracy?” Ironically, this is the point: why would the majority of South Africans want to be led by a political party with minority leaders? That’s a race-based throwback; a political fossil.
The DA has had its moments of promise. There was a time when leaders like Mmusi Maimane and Lindiwe Mazibuko stood at the helm, embodying the hope of a new, inclusive South Africa. However, their departure, influenced by the party’s unrelenting old guard like Tony Leon and Helen Zille, left many questioning the DA’s commitment to genuine transformation.
The moonshot would be the DA inviting Mmusi Maimane and Mpho Phalatse and others back and offering them leadership positions. The moonshot would be Steenhuisen offering his own role as federal leader to Mmusi Maimane.
He might publish an open invitation to Maimane: “Come back, bru – we want you back because we need to be a party that can appeal to the 80% of South Africans who think we are a white party.”
Now that would be something!
Then the ANC would quake in its boots. That’s the moonshot in three words: come back, bru. DM