Snookered: How the DA engineered an impossible coalition dilemma for 2024

The DA has cornered itself between two coalition dilemmas that both affect each other - one in the Cape, and one at national level

Robert Duigan


Robert Duigan


Apr 19, 2024

Snookered: How the DA engineered an impossible coalition dilemma for 2024

The DA has place itself in an impossible position this year. They will have to choose between national and provincial governance, between power now and collapse soon, between loyalty to their base or to their carreers, between sanity or a desperate sellout.

The Cape

While Zille’s team have the ANC in their sights for a national coalition to “save South Africa” from the EFF, they are facing losing their majority in the Western Cape, the only province in which they govern.

While their support would be able to swallow their vomit and choke down an ANC coalition at the national level (at least for the first couple of years), one thing they could never countenance is a provincial governing pact with the ANC.

And on the other hand, the ANC would never allow a national coalition if the DA entertained a referendum on Cape independence.

And yet, these might well be the two options facing the DA this year - work with the Cape independence movement (represented by the Referendum Party and the Vryheidsfront Plus), or work with the ANC.

The Referendum Party has demonstrated the capacity to draw positive attention in many of the localities where traditional DA support has waned due to corruption or incompetence, such as the Garden Route district, as well as a fair bit of the Southern Suburbs. Polls are not yet out, but they will be contesting all three ballots, and with the CIP out of the running, they can claim to be The party for Cape independence.

The VF+ is also flanking them with rapidly growing support among white Afrikaners and somewhat slower but still-significant growth in Coloured areas like Bishop Lavis and some rural areas.

With the PA eating them from the other side, their majority is looking far less secure than it was, and it seems plausible they will have to go into coalition this year to hold onto the Cape.

And yet this is not the only way they have snookered themselves.

The Union

As I covered in an earlier article, the Multi-Party Charter is largely just a stalking horse for their national ambitions.

Herman Pretorius recently wrote for the IRR and BizNews that an MPC-ANC coalition would probably work out OK.

Obviously this is wrong, because the DA (the only party that really matters in this equation) has no leverage to hold onto its core principles - they will have to discard their positions on BEE, affirmative action, corruption and privatisation in order to make the coalition work, because the ANC has other options, but the DA does not.

But while this is a deeply unpalatable scenario (especially since the DA agrees with the ANC on most other policy matters), it is made worse by the very text of the MPC’s coalition agreement.

In order to construct an actually viable stalking horse for their national ambitions, the DA had to get everyone to agree to a pact that none of them would entertain a coalition with the ANC under any circumstances, and any one of the parties can veto the matter.

This places the tense little crew, who have spent years sniping at each other in the press, council chambers and legal courts, in a prisoner’s dilemma - in order to go into a coalition with the ANC, someone will have to betray the group, or everyone will have to agree to betray their public promises together.

The DA have completely snookered themselves, by guaranteeing that they will have to betray their voter base, either nationally or provincially, or else split the party leadership by denying their national ambitions.

Whatever they choose this year, they are in for some serious pain.

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