DA's existential crisis boosts ANC confidence

MMusi Maimane (Beeld)
MMusi Maimane (Beeld)

The ANC's electoral ancestors seem to be hard at work with the party seemingly having rallied since Jacob Zuma's tenure came to an end. 

It was reported over the weekend that the party is feeling so confident that it is ready to go into the national elections as early as tomorrow.

It’s been reported that the ANC wants to go into elections earlier so as to capitalise on the euphoria around Cyril Ramaphosa's leadership (i.e. Ramaphoria). If this is true then it means the ANC realises that this euphoria will not last too long, hence the need to cash in on it as soon as possible, or before everyone wakes up to reality.

I think the ANC will win the 2019 elections. There is no need for them to ruin the journey by rushing into it. It’s almost a given that the party will pull it through in 2019. This does not necessarily mean that it is stronger and has fully recovered from the legitimacy crisis it has suffered in the last decade.

The issue is, however, that the opposition parties are very weak, and even weaker since Ramaphosa became president of the ANC.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is experiencing some form of an existential crisis. It is battling with the question of how black the party should become and how much of its white shade it should retain. It is struggling with its identity and a sense of being. The party is torn between two extremes, with moderates becoming fewer and fewer by the day.

The one, extreme side of the DA is held to the idea that the party should retain its identity as a representative of white minority liberals. This is the group that hates affirmative action and believes that black people are oppressed as individuals but not as a distinct racial group.

The other extreme group believes that the party ought to discard its identity as a white minority party and adopt a new identity as an African party reflecting the demographics and the African value system. This group wants to see the DA becoming a progressive political party that serves as a home for the majority of blacks.

In the middle of these two groups we find James Selfe and Mmusi Maimane, the party's two leaders, who are trying to manage the two extreme groups in the party.

Selfe and Maimane do not come across as subscribing to either of the two extremes. They understand that, indeed, the DA has to be transformed and show the national demographic in its leadership composition, but they believe the process should not be engineered. It ought to happen organically, at the right pace over a period of time.

On the other hand, there is no need for the DA to disown whites to prove that the party is ready to embrace blacks. Instead, it has to work hard in crafting a better sense of inclusivity, instead of having to choose between the two races.

The fact that the DA is battling with these questions is a reprieve to the ANC, which is performing much better than expected. Beside troubles within the DA, opposition parties are also weakened by the EFF warming up to the ANC on the land question. This is setback for the DA as an opposition party in the sense that it actually makes the EFF an enemy of the DA.

Any major conflict between the major opposition parties is a reprieve for the ANC. A fragmented opposition is good news for the ANC and this is exactly what is happening at the moment.

It is going to be a long battle for the DA to the 2019 elections. By the way things are going, it could become the first elections in which it fails to grow its electoral support since its inception.

- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes

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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