Analysis  >  Friday Briefing: Death of the DA

Friday Briefing

DA buckles at the knees

It was around noon on the day after the national elections in May this year when a notably strained Mmusi Maimane stepped in front of the cameras to address the media at the election results operation centre in Pretoria.

Ever the charming frontman for his party, Maimane did his best to dismiss suggestions from journalists that the DA's performance had been subpar and that his position as party leader was subsequently hanging in the balance.

"This is not a leadership contest. The people of the DA know that we went out and fought for an incredible dream, and we went hard and fought for holding the centre of politics," said Maimane.

But the writing was on the wall. Five months later, it seems the DA's dream is all but dead and Maimane's departure has left South Africa's biggest opposition in turmoil, with the ruling ANC laughing all the way to the 2021 local elections.

This week in Friday Briefing, we consider whether the DA's liberal agenda has been its undoing. Assistant-editor Pieter du Toit compares Maimane's departure to that of his predecessor in the liberal opposition of 33 years ago, Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert. Editor Adriaan Basson explains how Helen Zille broke the party she built up over the years, and analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela asks if the DA pursued the wrong liberalist ideals in its quest for power.

Alet Janse van Rensburg

Opinions editor

Mmusi Maimane Frederik van Zyl Slabbert


Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, Mmusi Maimane and the crisis of liberalism

Pieter du Toit

When Frederlik van Zyl Slabbert resigned from the PFP in 1986 he left behind "a bewildered and confused party". And when Mmusi Maimane left the PFP's desendant, the DA, 33 years later, it was in a similar state of shock and confusion. 

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da, federal chairperson

How Helen Zille built and broke the DA

Adriaan Basson

Helen Zille grew the DA from a parochial, provincial party into a national powerhouse that doubled its support in a decade. For the first time, the party attracted serious black leaders and expanded its footprint into townships. But like many liberation leaders-turned-dictators, Zille couldn't let go of the power. So she took down the house of cards with her.

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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA JULY 20, 2017: (SOUTH AFRIC

Mpumelelo Mkhabela

The weakness of the DA's "liberal" thinking is its failure to acknowledge that black people were not oppressed as individuals. They were oppressed collectively as a race. While you empower each individual, you can't lose focus of the bigger group. In fact, oppression created bonds that might take long to unravel, in the same way it created bonds among the privileged white groups. 

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