The leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), Premier Helen Zille has often lambasted the leadership of the ruling party citing its arrogance on many issues that affect the lives of South Africans. An objective scrutiny deems this accusation to be true, but has the DA adopted the ways of its political rivalry?
One may answer this by looking at the chronicles of the DA’s emergence into being the official opposition party from when South Africa became a democracy to date. In the year 2000, the then Democratic Party merged with the New National Party together with the Federal Alliance to form the Democratic Alliance. The culture of mergers and floor crossing to the benefit of the DA had been going on for too long for anyone to keep track.
The most interesting of these mergers was with the Independent Democrats (ID), a party founded by one of the most uncelebrated politicians of our time, Patricia De Lille, who was once defined by Nelson Mandela as “a very strong and principled woman. [His] favourite opposition politician”. The story of Patricia De Lille is one which should be followed by a deep sigh of sadness.
She was once, quite literally, an independent democrat whose party was represented in critical quadrants of government; the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces- organs through which she could influence change and steer policy-making towards a direction that is in line with her party’s ideology.
All this potential came to an abrupt halt when the ID was absorbed by the DA. Her ambitions to “make South Africa a leader in renewable energy and finance a minimum social grant by taxing luxury goods, tobacco and alcohol” will never see the light of material because, in spite of how great a cause she stood for, her allegiance to the DA has now reduced her to a mere mayor of Cape Town; a yes-woman who has had to mute her voice and propel mandate from the Western Cape Provincial Legislature.
In 2014, the DA and AgangSA had merged, however briefly. AgangSA leader, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, who stood against the jolt of compromise, realised the bullying, reductionism and lack of mutuality in these mergers with the DA in hindsight and withdrew before the ink would dry. This, expectedly, was followed by harsh criticism from the DA leader who defined Ramphele’s lack of compromise an “electoral nonsense”.
Zille has lately gone on a rampage to randomly launch offensives against fellow Eastern Capers, a journalist, Carien du Plessis, and a former chairman of the DA in the Cape Town metro, Grant Pascoe. Her latest victim, a “star performer” in Zille’s words is Lindiwe Mazibuko. Mazibuko has served both the DA and the country with absolute loyalty, dedication and great respect. The goodbye that she received from Zille is “she would have lost an election [for the position of DA parliamentary leader] in that caucus. She knew it- and many people knew it. I am sure it [Harvard] was her Plan-B”.
The culture of absorption, reductionism and political bullying has certainly been personified by the DA. The policies of smaller parties that seek refuge from the DA are blatantly ignored post-merger. Crosstitutes and any other members either behave in silence and obedience or jump. This begs the question; does Mmusi Maimane have a Plan-B? Are great leaders such as Patricia De Lille held hostage at the grip of Zille’s tyranny and the bloated ego of the DA way of life?