Why the DA engine has failed to fire.

Author:Raji, Rafiq
Position:Around Africa: South Africa

Although on paper the Democratic Alliance under Mmusi Maimane (pictured, right) ticks all the racial and ethnic boxes, on the ground it has failed to gain the sort of support it needed to mount a challenge to the ruling ANC. Rafiq Raji sets out to find out why.

From an ethnic and racial perspective, Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, has all the credentials to be popular with the country's multi-cultural society.

He is black and so should appeal to black South Africans and since he is married to a white woman, one would expect whites as well as coloureds to warm up to him as well.

But that has not been the case. In other words, Maimane's black heritage has not proved too much of an asset, which the DA probably had hoped.

Ironically, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Maimane's counterpart in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), ticks most of the boxes on the key traits the DA sought in their leader.

Ramaphosa has mass appeal with blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians in South Africa--yet this should ideally be Maimane's forte.

What the DA has going for it as a party, however, is a reputation for service delivery. It has demonstrated this in the relatively better-run Western Cape Province, which it has been governing since 2009.

But why is this excellent reputation not leading to more popular support? One of the reasons is tnat memories of Apartheid still run deep. The DA, despite Maimane's position, is still largely regarded as being more concerned about white interests than those of the blacks, coloureds and Indians.

There is hope that this might change in the future, however.

Younger South Africans, who have only vague memories of Apartheid, might eventually buy into the DA's message; especially if the ruling ANC continues to flounder on the provision of basic public services and does not succeed in checking the corrupt activities of its cadres. But that future is probably still a long way off.

Thus, Maimane is probably resigned to the fact that the DA may not De a ruling party at the federal level for a long while yet and that if it ever does attain that pinnacle, Maimane is unlikely to still be leader.

Failure to capitalise

What do experts think? New African asked Roger Southall, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg for his opinion. Southall has written an incisive report on the subject.

"The Democratic Alliance, the official...

To continue reading