“What is happening in the DA?” Who really knows.
One crucial thing party leaders and key role players may have overlooked for too long is the regrettable fact that the significant number of members and followers it has lost in the interim, who had actually by 2016 (when election results were an undeniable triumph, against all odds) found a new home in the ranks of the Democratic Alliance. They deserved better than to be “forgotten” or sidelined in the internal power struggles, clash of egos and diverse individual agendas.
Did the leaders and influencers become too arrogant and preoccupied to realise just how fragile and delicate some of those newly established affinities and alliances were?
Many new supporters had, around 2011, already boldly started taking steps away from the right and left extremes, swelling the numbers of the Democratic Alliance, resulting in an opposition party to reckon with. It had appeared to more and more voters a suitable vehicle for transformation and a better South Africa for all.
Although a portion of these disillusioned “dissidents” still voted DA in the national elections in May this year the results reflected that many of them had wandered off elsewhere, and probably won’t return.
During his resignation speech last week, Mmusi Maimane said it appeared the DA was, after all, not the vehicle he had hoped it would be. Sad.
Shrug and say “It’s politics”. However, the damage may be lasting . . . Rewind to 10 May 2015:There was a festive and electric atmosphere at the DA national conference in Port Elizabeth on that day, when Maimane took the reins from Helen Zille as party leader. I was there.
The large venue was packed with delegates aged anything between 20 and 75. All South African skin colours and cultures were represented. There was a sense of unity and energy, an eagerness to continue, with impetus on the road that had all the promising signposts leading to One South Africa for all.
Where freedom, fairness and opportunity would create a conducive environment within which jobs and prosperity would be within every South African’s reach was where we would be “Better Together”.
The prospects were bright. It was time for a dynamic young politician to head up the growing opposition party’s march to the Union Buildings. It was good and maybe essential that he be black.
Most everyone was in agreement on this, and the fact that he was in a mixed marriage made it all the more encouraging. He was open-faced and had a clean record. He probably still does.
In his heart warming acceptance speech, Maimane acknowledged the important fact that the Democratic Alliance was a party for all South Africans. Significantly, he also added that if you looked at him and did not see that he was black you were not seeing him.
He movingly paid tribute to his family – especially his father – for all they had sacrificed regardless of their poverty to ensure he had a decent education.
There was no doubt he was passionate about addressing the crippling poverty and unemployment. He will continue to be.
But does he leave behind a party that has lost touch with South Africa’s cruel realities and most dire needs?Lisel Krige lives in Betty’s Bay and served as a DA ward councillor in Overstrand (ward 10) for 5½ years – from May 2011 to August 2016. A journalist and wordsmith by trade and training, she is now a member of Solid Stuff Creative, a family business.
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