The DA’s plan to stop the rot

2012-11-10 13:19

"The opposition won, and the government accepted the result," Tony ­Barber wrote in a superb Financial Times (October 27-28) review of Donald Rayfield’s Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia.

President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose party lost, and billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, are said to dislike and distrust each other. Still, as Barber wrote, “each reaffirmed that he saw Georgia as a nation anchored in the Euro-Atlantic community of prosperous, law-based democracies”.

The difference between the two was not the destination but how to get there.

Judging from his behaviour, President Jacob Zuma and many of his supporters do not care much about the rule of law or, despite the rhetoric, in having a prosperous law-based democracy. In fact, the founding of the Zuma administration is based on evading and ­manipulating the law at the highest levels.

The tragedy for the ANC is that an ethnic nationalist whose only interest is the retention of power has irreversibly eroded
its founding constitutional democratic philosophy.

There are people who still believe that the ANC can be saved from itself. The rot runs too deep in our ­estimation. It has spread as rapidly as a virus in the ­organisation.

Think back to 2009, when the DA won Western Cape. The ANC did not accept the result. Zuma did not pledge his party’s collective support in pursuing “prosperity in a law-based democracy”.

Instead, Luthuli House incentivised Marius Fransman to actively destroy us as one would an enemy in a situation of war.

If this were the ANC’s response to a provincial-level change in ­government, how would it handle a loss at the national level? Like Georgia?

Hardly. Like Robert ­Mugabe? Almost certainly.

The ANC’s tentacles reach deep into the bowels of the state. It has assembled patronage networks ­into a complex web of self-seeking and rapacious feudal fiefdoms.

It thinks of itself as a liberationist monarchy: by virtue of, and legitimated by, its self-serving revisionist history its few remaining intellectuals have constructed. It feels entitled to govern as a monarchy would – in perpetuity.

Any opposition is seen as potentially seditious. Competition is viewed as the zero-sum advance of an enemy and a challenge is received as an invitation to retaliate to protect the inherited entitlement to rule in Zuma’s despicable perversion of the theological promise, “till Jesus comes”.

The DA and other democrats in and outside Parliament have ­consistently pursued the historical project to introduce a sustainable law-based democracy in South ­Africa. It is one of the main reasons why we have grown.

Our predecessor, the Democratic Party, attracted 1.7% of the vote in 1994 and 9.56% in 1999.

As the DA, we attracted 12.25% in 2004, 16.7% in 2009 and 23.97% in last year’s municipal elections. It is our goal to attract 30% of the national vote by 2014, expand our majority in Western Cape, and become competitive in Northern Cape and Gauteng.
The historical project is to build a democratic majority in South Africa.

Therefore, opposition such as ours must become competitive on a national level. To reach a competitive quantum of votes requires a multi-pronged strategy of ­organic growth and partnerships with other parties. Our strategy is to build democratic communities around four key values:

» Like Georgia, we champion ­having a law-based constitutional democratic government requiring robust respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers;
» As defined by our growth and jobs economic policies, we believe that government should create and maintain an environment that supports market-driven growth;
» In the light of our apartheid past, we will work hard to provide measures of redress and initiate acts of reconciliation; and
» Develop an efficient, professional and independent public service that entrenches continuity in good administrative practice.

Combining parties in a coalition is not our preferred strategy of political realignment. In our view, it would be an ­invitation to ­become more like the ANC, which has descended ­into many ungovernable sub-organisations.

We have also learnt some important lessons from past coalition ­efforts and are determined not to repeat past mistakes. But we
are open to experimenting with ­models that would increase the quantum of votes.

The dual membership model we have with the Independent Democrats has worked very well. We have single caucuses and unifying systems integration that allow us to focus on the needs of the voter.

Beyond the possibilities dual membership offer, there is also the opportunity to grow and migrate all visionary initiatives that build a democratic majority into a ­vehicle that rests on a cohesive ­administrative machinery.

The DA is keen to start a conversation with all political parties to explore the implications of such an idea.

The point of the exercise is to ­offer South Africans a credible ­alternative to the ANC. The alternative must be anchored on a set of values woven into a political ­philosophy that would offer real freedom since 1994.

The ANC has made a major contribution to modern South African history, but it has begun to show the morbid symptoms of decline and collapse. Our job is to ensure that its exit from the centre stage is as painless, peaceful and constructive as possible.

» James is the DA’s federal chairperson 

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