OMRY MAKGOALE: The DA back to square one with white leaders


Democratic Alliance (DA) leadership candidates continue to be predominantly white, despite the fact that the South African population is predominantly black. The DA does not have a clear-cut strategy for South African politics.

The white leadership has from time to time tried to place black leaders in the top position, such as Joseph Seremane, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Lindiwe Mazibuko and lastly Mmusi Maimane, with the hope of winning the black vote.

This strategy has not worked and at the previous general election, DA votes declined from 22.25% to 20.77%, losing both white and black votes for different reasons.

The DA transformation policy has been like an ill-conceived implementation of affirmative action without a proper, well-thought plan. After a full cycle of trial and error, they are back to where they started as a white-led party, with blacks to be used more as voting fodder than leadership material.

Does it mean blacks in the DA are simply not leadership material? That they have not been groomed properly? Or is it that the whites in the DA are just prejudiced against black leadership?

With the DA electing a new federal leader after the resignation of Maimane, we see a continuation of the delegate conference format in the elections of leaders in South African political parties.

The delegates, defined as representatives, are chosen with certain criteria to represent the majority of party members who are not authorised to attend elective conferences.

The majority of black leaders have resigned after Helen Zille became the federal chairperson and equivalent of secretary general in the ANC.

All major political parties in South Africa - the ANC, the DA, EFF, IFP FFP, CD etc - still use the delegate conference format to elect leaders; the differences are in the ratios. This time it was more than 2,000 DA delegates to vote for their new leaders.

In other words, the leaders of South African political parties are elected by minorities within those parties, elected by an elite, with the majority of members left out in the cold. This does not auger well for democracy in South Africa.

Businesses and lobby groups court these delegates, bribing them and promising them all sorts of fortunes if they vote for their respective favourite candidates. The use of money for getting elected as a delegate is unavoidable under such circumstances.

Why not introduce one-member one-vote for electing leaders? The bribery of delegates is prone to happen in these political parties with their proximity and access to power.

Malfeasance as seen in the ANC will manifest in all parties if or as they assume power. For now, the punters are still aloof, but if they smell proximity to power, they will come closer.

Mbali Ntuli had no chance in that atmosphere, with no financial muscle to challenge John Steenhuisen for the DA leadership.

The DA will remain a white-led party in Africa. It will remain in the margins of political power. Until the white liberals running the DA accept that they are in Africa and Africans must lead, they will remain in the periphery of political power.

If they are not careful, they will soon be bypassed by the EFF as the official opposition. The DA is still competing with the Freedom Front Plus for the votes of white South Africans, an ethnic group of less than 8% of the population according to statistics from 2017. Even getting all the white votes will not be enough to put the DA in power.

The strategy makes no sense.

The DA has no fundamental differences to other South African political parties, they are all run by an elite, by a minority as elected by delegates.

In terms of service delivery, the DA has performed poorly in the Western Cape amongst black Africans in Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Langa etc, but give whites and coloureds better service.

The biggest achievement of the DA has to be in the number of clean municipal audits. So far, more than 75% of municipalities under the DA have received clean audits. This has to be acknowledged and appreciated. The ANC, EFF and IFP can learn a lot from the DA about governance.

But the DA will remain in the opposition benches as long as it cannot recruit blacks for stable, top quality leadership and appears to be serving the interests of whites only. It will remain in provincial administration in the Western Cape, the sole province which has a higher ratio of whites and coloureds than all the others.

Omry Makgoale is an ANC rank and file member. These are his personal views.