Race-based campaigning running out of steam - Tony Leon

Cape Town - Former DA leader Tony Leon believes the ANC's tactics of "dividing voters" by using race to ensure support had the opposite effect on the party's results in the 2016 local elections.

Leon was speaking at a panel discussion at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday, and said the election results show that voters respond to things other than race.

"The ANC ran its most race-based campaign these elections, and yet received its worst results," he said.

"Racism may be of salience in the media and on social platforms with Penny Sparrow etc, but as a campaign tactic, it's running out of steam."

Leon said the DA may be correct in saying it is a more multi-racial party than the ruling ANC.

"When I became leader of the then Democratic Party in 1994, I think I knew every name of each supporter, there were so little of them," he joked.

"We went from 300 000 back then to 4 million now. The white population was 14% back then, but today it is 8.9% of the population."

Leon said that growing in such circumstances was "quite significant", meaning the party is no longer the party of minorities.

Media personality Stephen Grootes, former DA leader Tony Leon and political analyst Ralph Mathekga discuss the local election results in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)

'Political blackmail'

"In the old days, when the DA was getting less than 1% in the townships, now it is getting between 5-10%. In fact, the DA's support in the township is higher than the ANC's in minority [white, coloured and Indian] neighbourhoods.

"When the DA says we're more multi-racial than the ANC, they are on to something."

Media personality Stephen Grootes hosted the panel, while political analyst Ralph Mathekga was also there to discuss the election results.

Mathekga, head of political economy at the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic Reflections, said black people must be given a chance to decide for themselves who they will vote for.

"I found it patronising for a political party to try and tell black people how to be black," he said.

"The idea of being black should have diversity in it. Once you start giving people a template that black means voting this way, being this way, you limit people to find their identity. It's political blackmail.

"Black people have to decide, is it better to be with a benign exploiter?"

The three men also discussed other consequences of the elections, including the possibility of a new president in 2019 and the role of the EFF in the next three years.

President from another party in 2019?

"The best thing for the EFF to do is to fold their hands to observe," Mathekga said.

"They have attracted the angry vote base and those are the easiest to lose. They can't make too strong a move, and run the risk of alienating those voters. So they will hand power to the DA, and not carry the liability of being in charge, for now."

He said the party is still building an identity, having garnered less than 10% of the vote.

Grootes said party infighting and the smaller amount of resources available to the ANC may mean people within the party could turn on each other.

"If this happens, it's possible the ANC could go below 50% in the 2019 general election.

"Is it possible? Well, I never thought the DA would lead in Joburg," he said.

Mathekga had the last word on the possibility of a new president from a different party.

"Anything can happen. These elections have shown that as a nation we don't actually know how unpredictable we can be.

"2019 is going to be really exciting."

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