South Africa’s existing political parties do not have the ability to change themselves and regain the citizens’ trust, according to exiting DA veteran Makashule Gana.
The Gauteng provincial legislator quit the DA after a 19-year membership of the party he joined as a youth when it was not only unfashionable but often dangerous for black people to be associated with it.
In his resignation statement he hinted at joining up with The Rivonia Circle outfit that was started by former Business Day editor and corporate executive Songezo Zibi, whose stated aim is “to develop a new approach to politics in South Africa.”
It is widely expected to morph into a political party ahead of the 2024 elections.
“There is a widening trust deficit between citizens and political parties that has resulted in many eligible voters turning down the opportunity to vote out of despair and disappointment,” Gana said.
He is the latest in a long list of black leaders to turn their backs on the party since Mmusi Maimane was ousted as party head in late 2019.
Announcing his departure from the DA and the Gauteng legislature, Gana said he was resigning “to join an emerging generation of leaders and activists committed to mobilising and organising to return power to the people of South Africa.”
The 39-year-old made it clear that he was staying in politics.
“I leave the DA with a clear conscience, no regrets, and a cemented sense of purpose and calling to serve the country. I am grateful to my colleagues – activists, members, staff and public representatives – with whom I have shared two decades of hard, yet fulfilling work. I wish them well in the future.
In a not-so-disguised clue about his future direction Gana hailed Zibi, who has been mobilising South Africans to work towards an alternative future outside of the ANC. Zibi has authored a new book called Manifesto: A new vision for South Africa and is working with civil society in articulating what needs to happen for South Africa to realise good governance and the values enshrined in the Constitution.
Gana, an avid marathon runner, joined the DA as a 19-year-old student from the University of Limpopo in 2002.
“For the last 20 years, I have served as an activist, member and leader in the DA. I had the honour of serving as the DA Youth leader, deputy federal chairperson, MPL Network chairperson and campaign manager for several elections, including Midvaal 2016. In the last 13 years, I had the honour of serving the people of South Africa through the DA as a councillor in Johannesburg, a member of parliament in the National Assembly, national council of provinces and the Gauteng provincial legislature.”
During the lockdown period, Gana faced a DA disciplinary hearing in which he was accused of disregarding the party line by taking to social media to support the alcohol ban, but he was later cleared.
Although Gana has never explicitly fought with the DA’s hierarchy, this is what he wrote on social media on the day he faced the charges.
“Just concluded my preparations. It’s important that as a leader, I subject myself to internal discipline, to face the charges brought against me and come face to face with my accusers. Regardless of how one feels about the charges, it’s important to respect the internal institutions. One of our former leaders called the charges ‘piffle’. It is what it is. This name I will defend it with all I have.
“This too shall pass. It’s part of the game.”
The last prominent DA leader to quit before Makashule was former DA Youth leader Mbali Ntuli, who was more direct in criticising the party.
Ntuli said in her letter:
“So I leave with a deep sense of compassion for those of you who will remain and wish you all the best as you forge ahead with the exemplary work you do as individuals to help improve South Africa.
“Change is good. It provides an opportunity for reflection and renewal. It is in that spirit that I inform you that I have tendered my resignation as a member of the DA and a member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature.”
On his future, Gana said: “In the next few weeks, I will join others in exploring the possibility of building an inclusive political alternative that will take South Africa into the future. I am excited and emboldened by the possibilities of what a new generation can bring to our country. It’s time for all of us who believe something new is required to rise collectively. We can do this.”