DA interim leader John Steenhuisen
PHOTO: Felix Dlangamandala
- According to political analysts, the DA is in a policy ‘no man’s land’.
- The party could lose the electoral support it enjoys in predominantly black communities, analysts argue.
- The party has objected against the use of transformation criteria in government Covid-19 assistance, and fighting for farm murders to be recognised as a hate crime.
In yet another tumultuous week for the DA, it’s become clear the party has over-articulated issues affecting its traditional conservative voters while downplaying what matters most to a new crop of voters, analysts have argued.
From challenging race-based policies used to determine who received government aid, to launching a campaign to declare farm murders as hate crimes – the DA finds itself in no man’s land, according to political analyst Daniel Silke.
“Once the DA can agree on various elements and a new policy course, it will take some of the pressure off them. They need a permanent leader; they need return to dealing with matters internally. It must understand the effects of polarising comments on social media dilutes their message. They have been unable to cope with senior leaders and discipline,” he said.
The party’s federal chairperson, Helen Zille, sparked a Twitter debate when she tweeted that South Africa now has more racist laws than under apartheid.
Her comments came shortly after the DA lost a court bid to force the state to stop using Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) status, race, gender, age or disability when considering who gets Covid-19 aid.
At the start of the case, the DA’s lawyers argued that government’s decision to use transformation criteria when determining who gets economic relief, was illegal.
Its lawyers told the court, government could look at the financial status of those applying for relief. In response, Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said race, gender, age and disability were recognised indicators of past and present disadvantage.
The court said:
In the reformulation of criteria to be employed in the distribution of funds under either the Debt Finance Scheme or the Business Growth Resilience Fund, the minister must take into account race, gender, youth and disability.
Ruling by the Gauteng High Court
The DA has decided to appeal the judgment, saying it was an attack on non-racialism.
Silke said the DA doesn’t quite know whether it should boost its traditional voter base. “It’s between that or really going for a black vote or new support. They were unable to do that, and in the 2019 general election it lost some of its traditional supporters (to parties like the Freedom Front Plus),” he said.
Last week, more or less at the same time that Zille’s tweet dominated the (online) discourse, the DA launched a plan to lobby government to have farm murders declared as hate crimes.
Silke said over-emphasising certain matters might become a problem.
“This has nothing to do with the DA shifting more towards the right. They are over-articulating issues of its traditional support base while under-articulating other issues affecting newer voters,” he said.
‘Not a nutcase’
Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, has said Zille’s recent apartheid tweets was an attempt at finding context to offend South Africans.
“She is not a nutcase. She knows what she is saying; not even parties like the Freedom Front Plus make such public utterances. Helen is trying to find context to offend South Africans. It’s like saying I am not a racist because I have black friends,” he said.
Mathekga said it appears the DA no longer wants to construct an identity that includes all South Africans.
“It’s exclusivity. This is not a decision; this is what they want. The Herman Mashabas and Mmusi Maimanes were there to reach out to black voters. The black leaders who are left there are under siege… look at Mbali Ntuli (DA KZN MPL) who got a dressing down from the likes of Douglas Gibson,” he said.
Mathekga said a drop in the DA’s electoral support in predominantly black communities was expected.
“Let’s be honest, with the exit of many black leaders, you can’t win with a (John) Steenhuisen,” he said.