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jeremy thorpe
 
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Time for the DA to change tactics......

14 May 2014, 10:43

Dear DA,

Congratulations on achieving 22.2% in the national elections. As you know, it’s the highest percentage achieved by any opposition party against the ANC, surpassing the National Party’s 20% in the very first democratic election in 1994.

It’s a step in the right direction towards a genuine 2-party democratic state – but it’s not enough! By now, 20 years down the line, the DA should be making big strides, not taking small steps.

What concerns me is that even though it still has 62% of the vote, the ANC is already accusing the media of undermining it by over-emphasising issues such as Nkandla and e-tolls.  How will the ANC react in 5 or 10 years time when it inevitably loses more votes but is still in power – and is so accustomed to being in power that it fully expects to reign “till Jesus comes?” 

Which is why it’s essential that the DA does better – much better – than it’s done so far. Maybe it could consider the following:

Firstly, stop continually attacking the ANC. You don’t need to. The media, in its constant search for breaking news stories, will do it for you. Don’t forget that over 60% of the country’s electorate look upon the ANC not so much as a political party but more as an alma mater. And when you attack Jacob Zuma and his ministers for corruption and incompetence, all you do is offend and alienate that 60%.

African culture demands respect for its elders, even though they may not always deserve that respect. As a political party, the DA could achieve far more by complimenting the ANC for what it achieved under Mandela and to a lesser extent under Mbeki. And by complimenting the occasional good things done by the ANC under Zuma – but at the same time suggesting that the DA could do better! Presumably you’ve heard of the expression “damning with faint praise!”

Secondly, while the DA may potentially win urban areas like Johannesburg, Tshwane and Port Elizabeth in the 2016 municipal elections, it needs to make considerable gains in ANC strongholds like Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the North West and KwaZulu Natal if it’s to stand any real chance of winning a national election. And to do this, it needs to get out and about in the rural and township areas, to hold rallies and explain clearly and in words of few syllables what it can do to better the lives of the majority.

Thirdly, Helen, while no-one would deny that you’ve done a fantastic job of building up the DA from the “fart back” party of Tony Leon, I think it’s time to take a back seat and allow Mmusi Maimane to become the party’s figurehead and spokesperson.

He has the essential quality of being black – which means that when he says the DA will never bring back apartheid, voters might actually believe him! Maimane is also relatively young, which gives the DA an advantage in appealing to younger voters who may actually have something of an education and who may be free-thinking enough not to want to vote, like their parents, for a bunch of elderly ANC illiterates! 

Finally, while I admit to being a DA supporter, I’d like to stress that my primary aim in writing the above is for there to be not one, but two political parties seen by the majority of voters as being capable of running the country. In a genuine democracy, no party should be in power for more than two terms or 10 years at a time – and the closer in strength those two parties are to each other, the more they’ll keep each other on their toes.

And that would be a good result for South Africa!    

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