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Why Zille Will Never Be President

28 September 2012, 11:10

“The NP will win the next election”, declared my fellow Tuks student emphatically. The year was 1993, a year of upheaval and apprehension for all South Africans. While the NP did not come close to winning in 1994, South Africa’s first democratic election was a triumph for those who value the process. In that year, the combined vote of the Nats, IFP, Freedom Front, PAC and the Democratic Party was just over 35% of the total vote. Forward to 2009...and the combined vote of the Democratic Alliance, IFP and COPE was around 29%. For practical purposes, I am regarding any percentage below one as negligible. In the intervening years, the ANC actually increased its share of the vote-from 62 to 65%.

I think many people are impressed with the performance of Helen Zille as an astute and effective administrator. I do not think (as a person of colour) that the DA would seek to bring back apartheid, and I believe that a party with a proven record of good governance would have a small chance of turning around what is a precarious situation. I do not vote (and have never voted) in a South African election, and do not have an inherent preference for a specific party. I simply believe that there are no other credible alternatives. So why would there be no chance for Zille to become President?

Some may have heard of Richard Leakey, the famed paleoanthropologist and conservationist in Kenya. A few years ago, he decided to enter politics. Kenya had, until recently, been a stable democracy. Needless to say, the thought of a white man (born in Nairobi in 1944) entering the fray angered the ruling KANU elites and Leakey, despite being in a wheelchair, was clubbed and whipped as a warning. Whites are welcome in Kenya, but this is our game played by our rules. Some years later, then opposition MDC won the elections in Zimbabwe, but ZANU-PF ensured that they would enjoy no real power and the reign of terror continued. Given current events, a credible opposition may form with the DA at its core in South Africa. It goes without saying that the DA has an image problem among the majority of voters, as SA is still racially polarised society. The deficiencies of the ruling party will not change how people perceive their choices and how they understand themselves as South Africans. The ANC still has resonance in the hearts of millions. It is the movement of their forefathers and their fathers. It did not just deliver liberation; it gave them an identity. Appealing merely to issues of governance is inadequate. The election figures speak for themselves.

It is not impossible for an opposition to form in the urban areas of South Africa, as it did in Zimbabwe. The question is whether this will extend to the rural regions. The MDC is an African opposition party. Is the DA’s support base largely African? In this instance, “until Jesus comes” would appear to be a foregone conclusion.  

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