Dear voter, hold on for a rocky ride to 2019

Natasha Mazzone, DA LP Foto: JACO MARAIS
Natasha Mazzone, DA LP Foto: JACO MARAIS

Dear voter, hold on tight. It will be a rocky road to the 2019 elections.

It is fascinating to listen to confused potential voters as the official opposition tries on the governing party boots of infighting, divisions and hauling each other to the courts. 

The last three months have been dramatic. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when President Jacob Zuma was booted out of the Union Buildings to Nkandla. 

We never expected him to go quietly into retirement following his desperation to stay in office, the corruption trial and the upcoming state capture inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

The likely dirty revelations at that inquiry have the potential to hurt the ANC, especially ahead of the elections. But they could also strengthen President Cyril Ramaphosa’s position as Mr Clean Up.   

But back to the Democratic Alliance (DA). For them, Zuma was the gift that kept on giving. Since he left the hot theatrical stage of high politics to embark on low-intensity narrow regionalism in KwaZulu-Natal, the DA has taken over that role. It is inflicting unto itself heavy blows.

The party is unravelling and seemingly out of depth in terms of political management as the "witch hunt" against City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille continues. Its legacy of being a party that stands for constitutionalism, respect for the judiciary and rule of law fell apart as the party questioned the Western Cape High Court judgment.

Natasha Mazzone, who is now the party spokesperson on the De Lille vs DA matter, released a statement, saying: "The judgment of the Western Cape High Court is not in the best interests of the people of Cape Town. It is unfortunate that Ms De Lille continues to put her individual interests above those of the citizens of Cape Town by using legal technicalities to cling on to power."

Imagine the noise from the DA if the ANC had questioned the many judgments against Zuma. Instead of Mazzone undermining the court's decision, many would've preferred that she gave the ANC's typical lame response when some of its leaders lost cases: "We'll study the judgment." I guess being on the losing side exposes the DA as a bad loser relative to the ANC.

Some within the DA have even reduced De Lille’s position to just being "ceremonial", even though that is not what the court ordered. And there is no provision for such a position in the Constitution or any other law on municipal governance. De Lille has full powers as mayor. 

Any attempt by the DA to micro-manage the City of Cape Town would at best be tantamount to the accusation it often levels at the ANC for blurring the lines between party and state. The failure of the DA to manage its internal affairs does not justify illegality in the governing of the city.

The DA is also facing scandal in Tshwane where its mayor, Solly Msimanga, is accused of hiring a chief of staff in what appears to have been "a job for a comrade" recruitment. This appears to be a violation of municipal laws.

The DA is further battling internal divisions that it always argued kept the ANC from governing and delivering services. The attack on leader Mmusi Maimane's comments on white privilege indicated that despite his uncontested re-election at the party's congress in April, he is facing a tough time.

There is still the unresolved battle over the appointment of Mazzone as deputy federal chairperson. But it is not only the DA that has supporters all confused. The euphoria around President Ramaphosa has also tapered.

On the one hand, he is achieving almost all his promises in the first 100 days as the clean-up campaign takes shape. But while he sweeps in the "new dawn", on the ground it's still much of the same.

His handling of North West has been less than effective as Supra Mahumapelo tried to prove himself as a strongman. Ramaphosa took the easier route of clipping the embattled premier's wings. Removing him is proving to be difficult, as he is hamstrung by ANC processes when the public demands swift action. 

The party was bumbling as Mahumapelo went from threatening to resign, then stopped himself from resigning, chaired a meeting to stop him from resigning, then put himself on special leave while choosing his own replacement. There is just no better political comedy than that.

The governing party is supposed to be holding provincial congresses and yet, not much has changed. Disgruntled members are hauling the party to court despite promises of dispute resolution committees. The new dawn is struggling to materialise.

Disgruntled members in the Free State are heading to court for an urgent interdict claiming they happened upon an announcement on the provincial conference on social media. At least three other provinces including the biggest, KwaZulu-Natal, are due to hold elective conferences as the battle for control of the party intensifies.

The political killings have continued in that province and there are fears that they will escalate as the conferences to determine who makes it onto the lists for the provincial legislature and National Assembly follow.

The ANC knows the cost of internal battles. It has contributed to the steady decline of its support at the polls and the loss of three metros. 

The country’s third biggest party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), are also facing internal democracy with provincial conferences due. Ructions have already emerged with members marching to the headquarters, unhappy that they are not being heard. 

Voters are always weary that internal party strife can take away from governing and delivering services. And frankly, it is just tiring for voters to witness self-serving politicians fight for power.

But, dear voter, you'd better fasten your seatbelt if you are a fundamentalist party supporter. If you are undecided about who is the better devil, well, enjoy the ride.

- Mahlase is politics editor of News24.

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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