Ralph Mathekga

Ralph Mathekga: Does the DA's Danish funding prove it's embracing the centre-right?

2019-10-29 08:51
Hellen Zille.

Hellen Zille.

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If the DA aggressively shifts towards the centre-right or market liberalism, this means that it will be left to the EFF and ANC to defend multiracialism and inclusivity, writes Ralph Mathekga.

Recent reports in international media have pointed out that the Democratic Alliance (DA) is receiving political assistance from a controversial development fund set up by the Danish Liberal Party (Venstre).

According to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten documents accessed through freedom of information laws in the Nordic country show that the DA signed a partnership agreement on October 4, 2018 for assistance in negotiating coalitions at local and regional government level.

The assistance is provided to the DA through an organisation known as the Danish Liberal Democracy Programme (DLDP), which states as its mission "strengthening multiparty democracy in developing countries by supporting political parties and democratic structures". The DLPD has been created by the centre-right Venstre, which seems to have scouted the DA for support in South Africa.

READ | Douglas Gibson: South Africa needs the DA

Venstre is described on Wikipedia as a "centre-right" party that pursues market liberalism. To put it simply, the Danish party partnering with the DA is an unashamedly centre-right conservative party with a particular focus on agrarian constituents.

The party produced the anti-welfare prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was elected to lead a minority coalition government in 1998. The Danish taxpayers should probably be worried about spending to assist a South African political party to negotiate coalitions that keep collapsing. I would have never guessed the Danish funded the lousy DA coalition expedition.

That the party was picked for assistance by a centre-right party is rather interesting, given the controversies that arose since Helen Zille returned as federal council chair and seeing that it has been aggressively courting a more centre-right political posture.

The review report produced by former leader Tony Leon's panel on the state of the organisation emphasised the need for the DA to return to core liberal values. There is an increasing willingness in the party to defend classical liberal values, despite serious challenges with some of the classical liberal policies. Inequality remains one of the challenges that classical liberalism fails to address.

If the DA aggressively shifts towards the centre-right or market liberalism, this means that it will be left to the EFF and ANC to defend multiracialism and inclusivity. The two parties will respectively have to defend progressive egalitarian politics including wider provision of social security. This has serious implications in terms of the standing of opposition politics in the country.

If indeed the DA is seeking to grow its international partnerships based on classical liberal values, the EFF will be left to play opposition politics. Ironically, if the DA embraces a rapid shift to the right as seems to be the case, that will bear an equal opposite effect: thus, the EFF might also grow because of nationalistic blowback due to the direction that the DA is headed.

READ | Daniel Silke: The DA has a chance to reboot. Can it avoid the same old traps?

The basic law is physics: apply a force in one direction and the same amount of energy is generated in the opposite direction. In this scenario this means that once you activate the DA as a centre-right party, it will inadvertently activate dormant ultra-left parties with nationalistic tendencies.

An application assessment of the DA by the Danish programme identifies an interesting weakness of the party: despite increasing representation in municipalities and provinces, it is seen as a "white party".

Recent developments show that the party might have lost the will to challenge this perception. What is rather happening is that it is trying to rationalise why a party that looks increasingly white should be accepted as being on a new path.

Perhaps the DA's long-term strategy is no longer to become a moderate party that will attract majorities on the basis of a widely shared vision. By focusing on coalitions as a strategic path through which to govern, it is resigning itself to govern through minority coalitions, instead of chasing the illusive grand majority whose pursuit will unseat its traditional constituents.

Therefore, the DA is positioning itself to be the majority only among smaller parties, negotiating and dominating minority coalitions. Governing through minority coalitions could be the DA's electoral Plan B.

- Dr Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.

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. 

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