Melanie Verwoerd

Why the DA should admit defeat and move on

2018-07-04 09:07
Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille after the Western Cape High Court rules in her favour in her case against the DA. (Paul Herman, News24)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille after the Western Cape High Court rules in her favour in her case against the DA. (Paul Herman, News24)

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One really has to wonder when the DA will realise that it is time to admit defeat in the Patricia de Lille matter and move on.

It is truly extraordinary that despite yet another court ruling against them, a hefty legal bill and opinion polls indicating their support is dropping by the minute, there are still senior members in the DA who want to continue the fight.

There is no doubt that the DA is in deep trouble. With Cyril Ramaphosa at the helm of the ANC and country, their anti-Zuma approach no longer works. Their 2015 argument that voters should not waste their votes on smaller parties and should vote DA to keep Zuma out will not be convincing enough this time around.

Opinion polls show that their support amongst African (and disillusioned ANC voters) has taken a dramatic tumble. This would make the possibility of significant growth almost impossible. In fact, recent polls indicate that they will struggle to get to 20% of the vote, which is a very long way off the target of 30% that Mmusi Maimane wanted to reach. 

With Ramaphosa’s support they have very little, if any chance to win Gauteng and one has to laugh at their suggestion that they might win the majority vote in KwaZulu-Natal and even the Northern Cape. In the end their only stronghold remains the Western Cape. 

Given this reality, it is puzzling why they are not able to resolve the fight with the mayor of Cape Town. Political journalist Jan-Jan Joubert recently pointed out at the launch of his book “Who will win in 2019”, that voters turn away from parties with internal squabbles. They simply hate it and let’s face it, the De Lille drama has gone way beyond a little internal disagreement.

Clearly the DA leadership massively underestimated the tenacity and resilience of Patricia de Lille. She was never going to go quietly. She has more experience in political warfare than many of the DA leadership combined. She knows how to survive and those of us who have known her from the 1994 days always knew the DA was biting off far more than they could chew when they started to mobilise against her.

The drama has been going on for more than a year now and at this stage it has clearly gone the De Lille way. In the main, voters don’t understand why the DA is so intent on getting her removed and the DA seems incapable of explaining it properly. So De Lille is largely seen as the victim of an internal power struggle with little regard for the impact it is having on the city and province. This, together with the whole Day Zero debacle is hurting the DA badly.

Of course, the DA will most likely still retain control of the Western Cape in the 2019 elections, because of a lack of alternatives. The ANC remains in tatters and despite rumours that the FF+ and even Cope are starting to make some inroads, none of these parties are likely to overtake the DA at the polls. Perhaps this is why they are displaying such total disregard for the feeling of the voters.

Many people in the DA argue that since Patricia has lost the support of her caucus she should go. Given the nature of our political system, that might well be true. However, this argument clearly does not take into account the significant support De Lille has among Capetonians. There is no doubt that a big chunk of the (significant) coloured vote as well as the white vote in the Western Cape will be lost (if it is not already lost) to the DA, if they get rid of De Lille.

One only had to listen, for example, to the popular John Maytham show on Cape Talk after De Lille’s court victory on Wednesday where caller after caller expressed their anger at the DA and vowed never to vote for them again.

Reports on the weekend suggest that the DA might appeal the case – which could take up to 18 months, while Patricia stays in place. It will also most likely cost another million rand or more. Surely at some stage donors are going to object to this?

Reports also indicate that the Cape Town DA caucus is planning to table another vote of no-confidence against De Lille. At this point I would (on behalf of Capetonians) like to let out a long sigh of exasperation.

Reports that Maimane, ironically with the help of Helen Zille, is trying to resolve the matter out of court with De Lille is good news. However, he is apparently getting major pushback from senior members in his party.

Perhaps it is time for Maimane to stop being Mr Nice Guy and take control of his party. This has clearly gone on long enough. It’s time for the DA to accept defeat and move on if they care about their election prospects in Cape Town and the rest of the country. No one is winning in this battle of egos.

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.

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  |  mmusi mai­mane  |  patricia de lille  |  elections
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