Smaller parties: Why a vote for the DA packs more punch

2019-04-23 12:14
DA leader Mmusi Maimane
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Jan Gerber, News24)

The true test for any democracy is whether power can change peacefully at the ballot box. The challenge for South Africa is to fast arrive at this point, writes Mmusi Maimane.

The ANC’s total dominance of SA’s politics for a quarter of a century has become profoundly destructive to our national wellbeing. South Africa’s democracy needs a strong alternative. To achieve this, we need to reform our politics: we need to use our vote to promote our shared values rather than our personal identity.

The majority of South Africans are committed to the values on which all successful democracies are built: accountability, constitutionalism, the rule of law, nonracialism, a market-driven economy, and a capable state that delivers to all rather than to a connected elite. These are fundamental principles that millions of us hold in common, despite our differences on more granular issues.

If we can rise to the challenge of choosing values over identity, we can together build a strong alternative. This election has got to be about that. We simply do not have the luxury of tinkering around the margins of opposition politics right now, tailoring our vote to reflect our precise personal preferences or identity.

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We are fighting for our future in a country that is fast becoming a failed state because of one-party dominance. Almost every aspect of our state is already in crisis. Another five years of rolling blackouts, spiraling prices, corruption, patronage politics, failed administration and socialist policy will be severely damaging.

The true test for any democracy is whether power can change peacefully at the ballot box. The challenge for South Africa is to fast arrive at this point, where the governing party is kept on their toes by the ever-present threat of losing power.

We cannot allow our country to fall prey to the entrenched single-party hegemony that continues to plague the African continent. The very founding values of our democracy are at stake. If we cannot hold rank failure and corruption to account, then can we really call ourselves a democracy at all?

So, we urgently need to build a strong counterweight to the ANC, to show that another way is possible. Voting for smaller parties right now is tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Smaller parties will not stop our demise under the ANC and blur our focus on the biggest threat to our democracy: one-party dominance.

Under normal circumstances, the plethora of parties – 48 on the national ballot paper alone – should be welcomed as a sign of a vibrant democracy replete with plentiful options for voters to express their individual preferences. But this is not a business-as-usual election; this is a fight for our survival. So 8 May must be about building a credible alternative government, not about creating a wide sprinkling of opposition parties on the fringe of our politics.

This means focusing on what we have in common, rather than on what divides us. Rather like a tug of war, we need to all pull together in the same direction to have maximum impact in our bid to save South Africa from the failing ANC.

The DA is a party for all South Africans – people from all walks of life are coming on board. It is a platform where people of diverse racial, religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds can come together around our broadly shared democratic values.

If every voter demanded to agree with every single one of a party’s policy positions, then we’d end up with a multitude of tiny parties hopelessly unable to challenge the ANC’s dominance. The only way to have real impact is to punch in the centre, and that is where the DA is located.

The ANC is flailing under the weight of its governing failures right now and running a disorganized, half-hearted campaign. It is entirely possible that they could be brought below 50%, especially in certain provinces.

The DA is the only party that can credibly lead an alternative government – whether it is a coalition government, a minority government or a full majority government. The party has the structures, momentum and governing experience to achieve real impact.

The DA has demonstrated it can lead a successful coalition government in SA. Forming coalitions in Cape Town (2006-2011), Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay (2016-2018) enabled us to cut the channels of ANC patronage and corruption that had plagued these metros. Literally billions of rands of corrupt contracts were terminated.

Coalitions will enable South Africa to realign its politics away from one-party dominance. I want to make it clear that the DA will work in coalition with any other parties, groups or individuals that share our core values. And where required, we will consult with other parties, who may not share our core values, but share the grand goal of furthering democracy by removing the ANC from government.

Governing successes in Johannesburg and Tshwane prove that even minority coalitions can be extremely effective, if one party emerges as the clear leader.

On 8 May a vote for the DA will be a vote for a new government in a maturing democracy. It will be the strongest possible electoral response to the threat of one-party dominance in a failed state. It will be a vote for the democratic values on which we can build one united, prosperous South Africa for all.

- Maimane is leader of the DA.

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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