DA's honeymoon is over: WCape becomes new ground zero
The Western Cape is destined to be one of the major battlegrounds as the ANC and the DA face off for control
The launch of the ANC’s election campaign in the Western Cape over a year ahead of the 2019 polls is an indicator that the province is destined to be one of the major battlegrounds as the country’s two biggest political parties face off for control.
While the ANC took its foot off the gas in the Western Cape in the 2014 national elections and the 2016 local government elections, its elections head, Fikile Mbalula, this week announced the party’s ambitions to win back the province next year.
Former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, who will head the ANC’s campaign in the province, warned the DA that “your honeymoon is over”.
“The ANC’s renewal has coincided with the DA’s implosion,” said Rasool.
There is some truth in this and it is timeous for the ANC to bolt out of the starting gates now.There has been somewhat of a reversal of fortunes in the ANC and DA since the 2016 local government elections.
While the ANC was on a downward trajectory then, mostly through the scandal-plagued and ruinous tenure of former president Jacob Zuma, the party is enjoying a surge of goodwill under the new President Cyril Ramaphosa.
On the other hand, while the DA in 2016 looked to be gearing up to be the lead partner in a coalition government, it has squandered its opportunity to work with other parties.The DA has proved to be clumsy in managing relations with other parties in some of the metros it now runs. This makes the prospect of multiparty governments led by the DA at national level and in some battleground provinces difficult.
The DA’s major problem appears to be management of perceptions, including that it exists to protect white minority interests and that it is tolerant of racism, even within its own ranks.
The DA’s internal politics have led to reputational damage that it seemingly has no strategy to counter.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane appears to be under the thumb of his (white) subordinates, and the party’s handling of the disciplinary procedures against Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille smacks of double standards.Zille’s views on colonialism and conduct on social media have turned out to be a repellent to black voters, yet the DA is seemingly unable to rein her in, despite suspending her and forcing her to apologise.
The fact that Zille is still able to stir controversy on the issue of colonialism, even up to this week, has proved perceptions to be true that she is invincible and enjoys special protection in the party’s higher echelons.
Attempts by the DA to “wash its hands of Zille” are cosmetic as she is still wreaking havoc attributed to the party.
In stark contrast, the DA appears to be petty and vindictive in its campaign to sideline and ultimately oust De Lille. The DA’s crusade against De Lille has earned her sympathy and support outside the party, and it seems possible that she might reinvent herself politically on the basis of how she has been treated.
The DA ought to have learnt from the ANC’s handling of Julius Malema’s disciplinary process that it is not advisable to create political martyrs of those you kick to the curb.But there are other factors that will impact on how parties campaign for next year’s elections.
The ejection of Zuma from office removed a major talking point from the political discourse.
There are new issues that all the parties must contend with, and the Western Cape, due to the stark inequalities between the rich and the poor, is likely to be ground zero.
The land issue will be a massive hot potato.
The EFF already owns it and is happily leading the conversation. Despite the ANC having a formal resolution on the matter, it is battling to articulate where it stands exactly.The DA’s opposition to a constitutional amendment to allow for land expropriation without compensation has set it on a collision course with the EFF and ANC. The EFF has shown it is willing to use the land question as a weapon against its opponents, although its intention to punish the DA in Nelson Mandela Bay has not been successful.
The process to amend the constitution, if the ANC puts its money where its mouth is, is likely to intersect with the election campaign, meaning that the EFF’s conflict with the DA will escalate.
It remains to be seen whether Maimane has the stomach to go head to head with Malema.
Management of the water crisis in the Western Cape is another issue that has not previously been in the mix. The ANC has realised that it can maximise on the fact that the DA failed to prepare for Cape Town running out of water and that, for the foreseeable future, residents will continue to pay the price.
“People in the Western Cape have said that the ANC has ignored their cries when it comes to the water crisis. The disallocation of resources from the poor to rich areas is a serious social hazard,” Mbalula said this week.
The ANC has also identified race as a campaign issue.
“Black and coloured people must feel like they belong in the province. There is a catastrophe that has pitted races against one another,” Mbalula said.
The DA’s failure to transform itself and inability to tackle racism will cost it but it remains to be seen whether this will serve to benefit the ANC.
The ANC in the Western Cape has been paralysed by weak leadership and factional battles. The fact that it had to trundle out Rasool again, after he was removed in the face of scandal, means that the ANC has been unable to attract fresh blood or foster strong new leaders.
All this makes for a fiery cocktail in the Western Cape once the 2019 elections campaign blasts off.