Max du Preez

DA, EFF still struggling to get over Zuma hangover... and it's costing them

2018-05-29 08:52

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South Africa's two biggest opposition parties are going to be badly bruised in the coming general election if they can't get over their Zuma hangover soon and start inspiring voters with alternative visions of a better future.

When Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema opened their newspapers on Sunday morning and read that, according to an Ipsos poll, 76 out of a hundred South Africans think Cyril Ramaphosa is doing a good job, they must have choked on their porridge.

Only twenty out of a hundred thought that Jacob Zuma was an okay president in an opinion poll late last year. Zuma really spoilt the opposition parties – he was their most effective campaigner. 

If Ramaphosa is indeed going to call an early election in October or November, as some of his advisers believe he should, I think the DA would struggle to get over 20 percent of the vote and the EFF over 10 percent.

The DA drew 22,2 percent of the vote in 2014 and 26,9 percent in the local elections of 2016. The EFF got 6,3 percent in 2014 and 8,2 percent in 2016.

Interestingly, the IFP is the one opposition party that could benefit from the Ramaphosa phenomenon. Indications are that some aggrieved Zulu nationalists and Zuma loyalists could switch from the ANC to the IFP in protest and that some traditional IFP supporters who had abandoned the party for the ANC when Zuma became president could go back to it. Perhaps the IFP could get closer to 10 percent this time?

But if the election is only going to take place in June or July next year, the Ramaphosa government will have to prove that there was some substance to the promise of a New Dawn. That's not going to be easy.

The land issue could become his biggest stumbling block if his efforts at finding compromises don't get popular support. Expectations are irrationally high.

The EFF's problems to show continued growth – I believe they're talking about aiming for upwards of 16 percent of the vote – became clear with their actions in Parliament last week.

Malema made a typical bombastic Zuma-era speech with personal attacks, insults, threats and petty, cheap, populist comments.
Now that the ANC has also announced that it is willing to accept the expropriation of land without compensation, Malema had to go one step further and encourage the illegal occupation of land. 

When Malema was called to order, his gang in red started banging on the desks chanting Occupy the Land!

Does the EFF leadership really think this will have the same legitimacy and popularity as the chant of Pay Back the Money?

I'm beginning to think that the EFF is underestimating the extent to which ordinary South Africans have moved on after Zuma. Perhaps the EFF's mistake is to believe the racial outrage they see on social media reflects the true feelings of the people of the country.

Older voters and those from the broad middle classes do not support the chaos brought on by illegal land occupations and the proposal that no-one but the state should own land is not a popular one.

Maimane made a much more sober and sophisticated speech during the same debate in Parliament, but his party's identity crisis is no smaller than the EFF's.

Black South Africans who were so repulsed by Zuma's crudeness and corruption that they switched to the DA are still maligned by many in the communities and the media because they are supporting a "white-dominated" party.

The obvious difference in nuance and style between black and white DA leaders makes it easier for them to join the Ramaphosa fan club, while the clumsy handling of the Patricia de Lille case did nothing to restore faith in the party.

If it is true that there are a few DA personalities who want to break away to form a "pure liberal" party, and I can hardly believe anybody would be stupid enough to think this would gain any traction at all, then perhaps it would strengthen Maimane's hand.

Our democracy needs a strong, effective opposition. 

The EFF needs to grow up and realise that cheap racial populism and Venezuela-like policies don't cut it any longer in the South Africa of 2018. Many may share the EFF's anger and frustration, but few would trust it to become the government of the country.

The DA urgently needs to get its leaders to talk the same language and issue a simple, clear manifesto explaining that it is a social democratic party and what exactly that entails.

Both parties need to give voters something to believe in and strive for, rather than something to oppose.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  mmusi mai­mane  |  julius malema  |  elections
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