Frantic inaction - why the DA has achieved so little

The DA have had many opportunities to act in the interests of their own base, but they have passed up every single opportunity, in vain hope of swapping them out for the majority

Robert Duigan


Robert Duigan


May 15, 2024

Frantic inaction - why the DA has achieved so little

A lot of people may be tired of secessionists harping on about the DA’s plans to approach the ANC for a coalition. And fair enough - for many it seems like useless knowledge; if you’re planning on voting for the DA anyway, learning that the compromise will involve swallowing bitter pills only makes you feel like more of an adult.

So of course, many people will tell you that, yes, it’s not great, but if it keeps the EFF out, it’s the best of a bad hand. In the short term, I suppose so. But given that the world is not ending at Christmas, it is worth considering the cost - that the ANC will still be here, the EFF and MK will grow, and the base will splinter.

Also worth bearing in mind is that the ANC’s advisors on land reform are more radical than the EFF, that Ramaphosa has put in place some of the most aggressive socialist and racialist reforms the country has yet seen, and that things are only going to get darker from here as the minority share of the electorate shrinks and their rights carry less weight every day.

The DA will soon have to account for their lack of growth. The stagnation in support figures is easy enough - our elections are little more than censuses on the racial groups. But for their lack of growth in power and influence, one must look at the chances they have passed up.

In recent years, the DA has seen a decline in support in its ethnic base, by which I mean minorities. Whites are slowly trickling into the Cape independence movement, whether because they back secession efforts or because they think the VF Plus will take a more conservative tack on local issues. Coloureds are filing out into their own parties, for a variety of reasons, but several issues stand out, aside from the charisma of Gayton McKenzie.

Most of the reasons for this is that they have prioritised black people over their own base, in the hopes of growing their support and eventually dumping their irritating supporters behind them - creating a “normal” two-party electoral system they think they will come out better in.

As any peek at their main recent policymakers will reveal, they actually embrace the selfsame model the ANC have been governing under for the past 30 years, they just think they are better people, and therefore that it will work if they do it instead. What they fear, is any form of substantial change, in any direction. But change happens regardless.

The biggest mistakes the DA have made are in housing, land invasions, crime, and foreign policy. But all can be chalked up to avoiding making choices, either because the outcomes can be blamed on someone else, or because they have chosen to act on somebody else's script.

Many of these issues are like a Rohrschach  test - because of the public ignorance of division of powers, the DA and ANC can both claim to their bases that the other party is responsible. But as I see it, both of them are - the DA refuses to act.

They don’t even have an alternative vision for the country, simply regurgitating the same old rainbow salad we were force-fed when there was still hope the ANC could do anything out of some motivation other than spite or greed.

The sum total of their efforts have had only two results - a gentle slowing of what is by now a very noticeable decline in quality of life, and mass import of a demographic that simply refuses to vote for the DA or any other party which considers minorities to be equally deserving of the privileges of citizenship.

The mass migrant pattern fuels skyrocketing real estate prices, which benefit the party’s members and donors personally, while making it nearly impossible for the middle class to gain a foothold in the capital city.  The mushrooming of private estates, open-air malls and shantytowns are slowly turning the Cape into a second Gauteng.

Of course, there is the dimension of white guilt, which the DA wield both in earnest and cynically. They are well aware of how much the rainbow dazzles those who wish there to be a pot of gold at the end, but sometimes they find themselves believing it themselves - because it is psychologically illegal to believe anything bad about black people - even on the impersonal, political level - action becomes constrained by it, even in those who can see our situation for what it is.

People convince themselves that it would look bad. But these are people far too concerned about messaging, and very little concerned about substance. The obsession with KPIs, "messaging" and public symbols, foreign adulation and national prestige, over and above substantial transformations of rights, powers, interests and resources betrays a school prefect mentality - a crowd of overgrown brown-nosers.

The need to be seen as the sort of person who emerges as the saviour so badly, they don’t even bother to question whether they are playing in someone else’s script. And so they have been playing the villain in the ANC’s play for 30 years while telling themselves they are playing the protagonist.

To act would mean writing the script yourself. So what would it look like if the DA had been playing for keeps from the get-go?

They would have refused to countenance land invasions from the start, designing a program for community alerts and privately-contracted rapid-response teams integrated with neighbourhood watches provided with training and equipment.

They would have prevented any queue-jumping in the public housing list by purchasing tickets home for every single one of those evicted from stolen ground.

They would have built processing centres for the homeless, to give them psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation in every town in the province.

They would have built power stations as early as 2009, when Alan Winde first told asked them to, instead of dithering for 15 years and whining about the ANCs failures.

They would have launched a special commission into SAPS corruption in the crime intel unit after Sam Sole made it public knowledge that Jacob Zuma was protecting the gangs through SAPS.

They would have used the provincial legislature to supply every municipality with its own equivalent of the City’s metro police and transferred funds between jurisdictions to maintain them.

They would have taken the government to the Constitutional Court for the right to call referenda, long before the independence movement was a blip on thee radar, and used it to demand control of national competencies - they could have delegitimised the ANC, spread public awareness of the limits of their own powers to reduce political blame, and spread support for federalism.

They could have investigated their own people for corruption and made public show-trials of it, instead of promoting the crooks to keep scandals in-house. Instead they have made themselves into hypocrites, as nobody is convinced they are as squeaky-clean as they claim, but by claiming they are, they have undermined trust.

They could have fought for Afrikaans at Stellenbosch instead of pressuring the agricultural college at Elsenburg to abandon it for English, despite 100% of its staff, students and curriculum being in Afrikaans.

They could have repudiated any form of affirmative action or land redistribution on a racial basis instead of trying to buy black votes by flogging their own support base under Mmusi Maimane.

They could have pushed for a more conservative education policy instead of trying to outpace the ANC for the promotion of gay and trans recognition.

They could have taken a strong public stance of neutrality on all foreign affairs issues, but instead they have taken the side of NATO and Israel so firmly that they have split their own voting base. Had they not been so gung-ho for foreign support or Jewish donors, they could have gotten away with a modest “perhaps the IDF are being a bit excessive, but this is not our business”, and threaded the needle between both constituencies.

But they have done none of this.

They have left power to Eskom, crime to the gangs and the SAPS, education to the ANC and the NGOs, foreign policy to the Americans, and handed over 75% of their ratepayers’ money to people who hate them and want them gone.

They spend most of their air time advertising their generosity to the majority, and spend all of it on the back foot, claiming "we are not a white party", when what they should be doing is removing the stigma of defending minority interests.

Now they want to tell us they can twist the ANC’s arm and lead them into a total government reform process. If this pipe dream ever comes to pass, the chance they will find the spine to fight for their base, those who vote for them, seems bitterly slim.

Sure, there are a number of white people who believe the “best worst option” messaging, but the only people in whose interest such a deal would be are the individual politicians involved, and investors whose horizon is shorter than five years.

They DA will not win this election, not even with the MPC, and they will be left using their hands for fig leaves as the sun sets on the path home.

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