Defend Truth


The real moonshot would be DA inviting Maimane, Phalatse and others back as party leaders


Dale Williams is a business coach. Gilad Stern is a management consultant at Eden Africa. They both live in Cape Town.

A real moonshot 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.

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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Carol Green says:

    100% agree!

    • PETER BAKER says:

      If the moonshot or whatever you wish to call it does not result in the annihilation of the ANC at the next federal election South Africa will fall precipitously into failed nation status like Venezuela or Zimbabwe. We the voters who want South Africa to become a developed and prosperous country and are not looking only for self-enrichment, must stand and be counted and get out and vote. The DA and those other political parties in the Liberal Democracy arena with integrity, must come together. We must insist upon it. I plan to tell the DA parliamentarians I know that I insist that the DA join up with the others NOW in order to put an end to further ANC misrule, incompetence and corruption. South Africa will not survive another ANC government.

  • Errol Price says:

    South Africa is something of an outlier in the spectrum of post-colonial politics in Africa. It has a reasonably sizable ” settler ” population remaining “post-liberation”. But these settlers will not make any difference to the predictable trajectory of where S. A. will be in the coming years and it matters not a whit what the colour of the leader of the D. A. is. The D. A. has been and will remain merely a sideliner.
    Post-liberation parties in Africa tend to last 20-30 years after which they exhaust themselves with corruption, nepotism and economic ineptitude.
    Then a more radical element takes over promising to clean house. Thus will it be in South Africa.
    Mr Malema is the future , not Mr Maimane.

  • Trevor Forbes says:

    Totally agree! Anything less risks the ANC being voted back in by default due to a split opposition vote. Even worse, the ANC may be forced into a coalition with Julius Malema’s thugs hell bent on genocide. This is what a split opposition risks. Time for the DA to show true leadership. It is almost too late for a moonshot. There should be no delay

  • Phil Baker says:

    People in power never voluntarily give it up – it can only be taken from them by force

  • Robert Dempster Dempster says:

    ‘This vision of a broad-based serious opposition to the DA is not a pipe dream’. Surely the authors mean ‘opposition to the ANC’? They also omit Herman Mashaba from their list of potential leaders of the DA who went his own way after Helen Zille’s return. With regard to ‘come back bru …..’ competence is surely an essential attribute in addition to being a black South African.

  • . . says:

    This is a poor take, the DA is a liberal party and decisions are taken democratically, compared to business that are autocratic and only interested in growth. Musi was heading the party away from classic liberalism in a more social diretion. Politics is a career with long wait times to reach the top. In any case, if you want to vote for a black led party there are many from which you can take your pick; actionSA UDM, IFP, Cope, etc.

    What the authors want is DA capability but with a popular face and policy, ie a competent technocratic ANC (Mbeki era style).

    It is also important to note that the moonshot pact may have a black presidential candidate, JS has already hinted that him not being president is on the table and this would be a good move.

  • David Hoare says:

    Yes, please!!! And retire Grandma, while you’re at it.

  • Rama Chandra says:

    The DA is plagued with problems, primarily linked to the Helen Ziller legacy and the decision to compete with the racial politics of FF+ for the white vote. If the DA politicians really want to get out of opposition, they should dissolve the party into BOSA. My suspicion is that deep racism makes this unlikely, but it would be welcome.

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      “My suspicion is that deep racism makes this unlikely, but it would be welcome.” What exactly do you base this assumption on?

  • montebe montebe says:

    The ANC has no clever, intelligent, honest and capable leadership and in fact no interest in the well being of this country. Th EFF less so. They all fight for themselves, their families, friends, cadres and parliamentary pay. EInsteins Theory of Insanity continues to work in SA.
    100% Maimane and Phalatse back in the mainstream whether with the DA or not. The DA need to understand that a great many supporters support them not for themselves but for the fact that they’re a credible opposition and although not great are a 1000% better than the ANC & EFF combined. If somebody more representative came along…….

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    I think there is a world of difference in how we all interpret & understand the term leadership.
    I think the truth of the matter is that most people don’t understand the depth of the crisis we find ourselves in & the very limited number of actual options we have within our toolbox to get us out of the deep hole we insist on digging for ourselves
    It is for this reason that ‘personalities’ who insist they have easily understandable, quick fix answers find resonance!
    The DA is neither populist nor popular & is portrayed (& seen as) a parry representing minority interests
    Whilst I appreciate persons like Mpho, Lindiwe, Mbali etc there appointment by itself will not in & of itself meaningfully change the DA’s electoral fortunes
    I think the reality is (& many DA supporters will inevitably disagree) is that the Party itself needs an extreme makeover. It needs to reinvent itself completely. Unless of course it is ‘happy’ to just be the Western Cape Govt.

  • Jill Tyson Tyson says:

    Yes please. That is the DA we desperately need. Please listen to what South Africa needs and needs NOW.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    2024 is starting to look like a crossroads in South African politics. The ANC is likely to have to form a coalition government and if it’s with the EFF then it’s likely going to be game set and match for SA. I agree wholeheartedly with the author and believe that Steenhuisen and Zille are not capable of gathering sufficient support from the majority of black voters and must make way for the likes of Maimane and Phalatse, yes and Herman Mashabe as well. That would be far more likely to succeed than the moonshot as it appears today. If the aforementioned candidates can put their pride in their pockets and do the right thing for South Africans we may have a chance of keeping fascism at bay but they better get started soon.

    • Karl Sittlinger says:

      “If the aforementioned candidates (Zille and Steenhuisen) can put their pride in their pockets and do the right thing for South Africans we may have a chance of keeping fascism at bay but they better get started soon.”

      I find it fascinating how some want to lay blame at the door of the very people who contribute the least to the problems we are seeing in this country. Yes I can agree that the DA definitely needs to find a way to be more representative of black South Africans in this country, but to suggest that they are the reason we cannot save the country from the shenanigans of other parties is just crazy.

      Its almost like suggesting Maimane and Phalatse should stop trying to change the liberal policies of the DA for the good of this country, which I am sure you would agree is preposterous.

      Clearly the race based policies of the ANC and EFF are not helping this country, and instead of transforming the economy has enabled corruption, nepotism and now mafia style extortion.
      Looking at the DAs track record including service delivery, their actual policies (not the perception thereof), the near complete lack of corruption (with the exception of a handful of cases) and the fact that they are not supporting dictators and despots to the detriment of our entire economy, they are obviously doing alot of things right, I would say much more than any other party currently.

    • Eric Jarvie says:

      Agreed. Add Mr Zibi’s team to the mix.

  • Loren Anthony says:

    As long as the DA is as lily white as it is, it will never gain critical mass and lead.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Oh! what future does SA have with its obsession with the colour of one’s skin thirty years after the end of the apartheid government? Surely one decides which political party to support based on the policies of that party and its ability to deliver those policies (e.g. Cape Town/Western Cape), not on the personalities in that party nor the colour of their skin, hair, sound of their voice etc. One doesn’t have to ‘like’ politicians to vote for their party.
    As a detail, as far as I know, Phalatse is still a member of the DA and should be the DA’s candidate for Mayor of Joburg in 2024.

    • Andrew C says:

      Possibly in an ideal world. But people vote with their hearts and emotions. They also vote in their own self interest. And for someone they believe will deliver that self interest. Most people definitely won’t vote for someone they do not like.

    • Andrew C says:

      Great article. This election will show if DA leaders are able to put country before themselves. If they can the party has a future. If they can’t the DA will decline and black voters will look for leaders who they believe have their backs.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    It is time that the DA wake up and take stock. They have lost some outstanding non white members and do not seem to have the guts to admit it and take a look at themselves. They are trying to do the right things but should sit down and relook at what can be achieved with their Moonshot pact if they broadened the base of who they talk to, and also promote more of their black members into more senior positions, which i am sure will then lead to more robust discussions within the party hierachy

  • Sam van Coller says:

    Time is fast running out while the opposition and its supporters dither and posture. As things stand, all the ANC and EFF have to do is sit on their hands and they will win in 2024 comfortably. We need ‘Someone’ and ‘Something’ to knock all opposition heads together. The someone is ‘Donors’ and the something is ‘Money’ to run a well funded opposition campaign. Without substantial funding any opposition effort will be hamstrung. The donors need to invite one leader each from Rise Mzansi, BONA, DA, IFP, Action SA, FF+ to a private meeting and offer to provide substantial funding to ‘The United Opposition Movement’ with five or six key principles that must underpin their campaign. The Moonshot Pact words should disappear to make clear this is not a DA thing. The donors would need to be prepared to establish a fund and invite other donors to come on board so that the fund is not dominated by a few very wealthy South Africans. This should all be transparent. The money will roll in

  • William Dryden says:

    Great article, I agree the DA should be talking to Mmusi Maimane and Mpho Phalatse, and bring them back into the fold but in leadership roles and let them go into the townships to secure voters on the fence.

  • Sara Gon says:

    There is a love affair with Maimane based on his charisma, not his ability to lead. His snap response to Shweize Reyneke was his downfall and FF+ benefitted. We don’t need exciting, we need boring but honest and competent. Exciting is Julius Malema

  • Freedthinker says:

    While the right leader is a magnet, a shared set of values will be the glue. But asking a dozen political parties to come up with a coherent and concise set is a 10-year talk-shop in the making. Happily, President Mandela ended his final Opening of Parliament address, in 1999, with three “ingredients”.
    “The first ingredient is Partnership: … one of the launching pads to faster progress has to be the mobilisation of South African society to act in unison on critical issues facing the nation.

    The second element is Discipline – the balance between freedom and responsibility: Quite clearly, there is something wrong with a society where freedom is interpreted to mean that teachers or students get to school drunk; warders chase away management and appoint their own friends to lead institutions; striking workers resort to violence and destruction of property; business-people lavish money in court cases simply to delay implementation of legislation they do not like; and tax evasion turns individuals into heroes of dinner-table talk.

    Thirdly, and related to the above is the question of reconstruction of the soul of the nation, “the RDP of the Soul”: by this we mean first and foremost respect for life; pride and self-respect as South Africans…”
    (Full speech on Government website)
    Partnership, discipline, RDP of the soul. That’s the moonshot, right there.

  • Colleen Summers says:

    Finally !! Someone said it or should I say wrote it. This article was so long overdue. The only change I see thus far, is our Cape Town Mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis. I could not help but re quote this part of your awesome article.”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!”
    As a South African, a “so called coloured person” I’m so tired of all the prejudice we all still face today. I’m sure I’m not the only human being that feels this way. There is so much hardship out there that we need to overcome as a nation for e.g. education. Madiba’s magic was his authenticity and humanity. I still believe in Ubuntu. I’m a South African,

  • Alastair Moffat says:

    The extent of the blame laid on Maimane for the DA’s 2019 election result was not fair. A large contributor was the fact that the in 2019 teh ANC was being led by Ramaphosa, and not Zuma as in the prior election when the DA did better.

  • jimjam007 says:

    Brilliantly put!

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