The long march of the DA

The DA have a longer history than they wish to admit, and it doesn't paint them in a good light. However, they have a chance to make the right choice now, for the history books

Robert Duigan


Robert Duigan


Mar 28, 2024

The long march of the DA

The DA is not a party with amnesia, but they are a party that prefers its voters to have amnesia.

It is easy to forget the broken promises, the cynical attempts at voter manipulation, and the failed attempts to take power. But it is even easier to forget the long run of history when the party changes its name.

The DA was not founded in 2000. It was founded in 1890, with the aim of preventing Cecil Rhodes’ imperial ambitions from leading to the creation of the Union of South Africa.

The entire purpose of the DA was to preserve the freedom and prosperity of the Cape, and interrupt foreign dominion in the African subcontinent. But it has betrayed this promise, and substituted it for others it has betrayed in turn.

They became the driving force behind the unification of the country, and the creation of the centralised government that stripped the Cape from political autonomy in 1910, and stripped the franchise from its voters in 1936.

Over the course of the 20th century, the SAP absorbed the original NP in 1934 to become the United Party, and then split into the Progressive Federalist Party, the New Republic Party, the Democratic Party and Van Zyl Slabbert’s Institute for Democratic Alternatives, as the Afrikaner National Party neutered them.

When all these streams reunited in 2000 to form the DA, they came home to defend their home turf, taking back the Western Cape in 2009. They provided secure and competent government and promised growing autonomy through federalism.

But they knew this was a pipe dream.

Not only did they know it was a pipe dream, but when Alan Winde attempted to get them to do what little they could about loadshedding that year, when he first took office as head of Finance and Economy, among the first legal opinions he sought upon taking office was regarding the ability of the province to generate its own electricity.

The DA's legal department said that they had no legal right to do so, and rather than test the boundaries, the party chose not to act - they told Winde to trust in the ANC's promises to deliver on promises to upgrade the electrical grid.

In the following political cycle, Winde took the initiative to develop Green Cape, a development programme to build industrial capacity for green energy manufacturers, while he waited on the rest of the party to take the initiative on generation.

In 2016, when the DA went to the polls with Mmusi Maimane as leader, they went back on their promises to deliver a nonracialist dispensation by supporting a mildly tweaked version of BEE instead of demanding its absolute abolition, just to get black votes that never materialised.


Today, just like in 1910, and again in 1936, 1948, 1994, 2009 and 2016, the leadership of the oldest party in South Africa has chosen the interests of foreign powers and national ambitions over the promises which give legitimacy to their very existence.

They have at every turn in the entirety of their long run in this country, chosen the Union Buildings over the Cape, chosen Britain over Afrikaners, chosen Afrikaners over Cape voters, chosen to trust ANC promises over serving their constituents, and today, the betrayal runs deeper than ever.

As we head into the 2024 elections, the DA has refused to deny a plan to enter into coalition with the ANC. Four members of their Executive Committee have already made public statements that they will attempt to form a coalition with the ANC.

They can put as much lipstick on this porcine plan as they like, by claiming that its necessary to keep the EFF out, but they knew this was the plan all along, as the leaked audio from Helen Zille in 2017 demonstrated.

They have no confidence in their coalition pact to win these elections or the next. They are merely using the coalition as a stalking horse for access to power.

And the truth is that when they get to the bargaining table, they will have no leverage. With the MK and the EFF waiting in the wings, they have to hope Ramaphosa is desperate enough to stab his party in the back.


But the ANC will lose all support to the MK and EFF in 2029 is they do this, because all those propaganda messages surfing the airwaves since 2016 about “white monopoly capital” having captured Ramaphosa will be proven true, and the party will be capsized by radical black nationalists.

In the meantime, the DA will be able to extract not a single concession, since to investigate corruption, nay, to even shine a light on it, would destroy the deal. So would cutting welfare, choking off corrupt patronage, or ending racial discrimination.

The DA will become the same willing accomplices to national suicide that the National Party were before them, and will disappear into the belly of the beast once and for all.

They have one chance to be something else, to be what their ancestors set out to be, the defenders of liberty, the bane of tyrants, the champions of the Cape.

And that is to form a coalition with the independence parties who will be eating their lunch on the 29th of May, and to seek devolution and autonomy for the communities of South Africa who vote for them elsewhere in the country.

But this will not happen so long as the continue on their foolish current path, stabbing colleagues in the back, cynically reaching out to black nationalists, and grooming corrupt municipal officials for higher office.

They are heading for the end of their electoral majority, and the time has come to make amends, or head for the history books, where they will join their founder William Schreiner as a historical footnote.


more articles by this author