Party unity pretence over

William Saunderson-Meyer.

The South African electorate had its Cinderella moment at the May 7 Ball – briefly courted and feted.

Now it’s back to the domestic drudgery of the other 364 days of the year – abused and ignored until the local elections roll around in two years’ time.

And since the major political players no longer have to be on their best behaviour to seduce voters, the artifice of party unity also can immediately be dispensed with.

The ANC has publicly made light of its drop of four percentage points nationally. Behind the scenes, however, the tactic will be to deflect responsibility for the setback from President Jacob Zuma. One can be sure that blame will be devolving downwards – and especially in Gauteng and the Western Cape, the search for scapegoats will be in full swing.

Despite a vicious ANC campaign to win back the Western Cape, the DA managed to parlay its precarious hold on power of five years ago into a comfortable new majority. And while the ANC managed to cling to power in Gauteng, its vote dropped 10 percentage points to 55% in the province. What will be worrying ANC party bosses particularly was that it was even tighter in two of that province’s key metros.

The DA also has problems. The congratulatory backslapping was still in full swing when the Sunday Times dropped the bombshell that DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko had quit in order to take up a scholarship to Harvard. Mazibuko had not only neglected to mention her intentions to the hapless electorate whose votes she had been canvassing, but she also told the newspaper before she bothered to tell party leader Helen Zille.

This was clearly a calculated insult. It’s been obvious for months that her relationship with Zille had soured, with Zille blaming Mazibuko for the DA parliamentary debacle over the ANC’s Employment Equity Amendment Bill.

To the bemusement of everyone – including the ANC – the DA initially supported the Bill. It was only in response to the outrage of the rank-and-file membership that the DA did an about turn.

It is of course most unlikely that the parliamentary leader could have taken the decision to support such a contentious Bill without the party leader knowing. But Zille is no less adept than Zuma at devolving blame and it was rumoured that, when Parliament reconvened, Mazibuko would be replaced with Mmusi Maimane.

Unlike the ANC, the DA has until now mostly managed to keep its internal conflicts hidden from the public. Mazibuko’s departure, however, has sparked a public fracas.

Business Day columnist Gareth van Onselen, himself a former DA spin doctor who has made no bones of his loathing for Maimane and is clearly a fan of Mazibuko, this week wrote that the Mazibuko departure was indicative of a “poisonous” DA internal structure.

The party had deteriorated into an “intolerant, paranoid, fearful, vengeful and malicious” organisation, “subservient to a dominant” Zille.

The upshot of these accusations – the DA’s communications director dismissed Van Onselen as an “embittered former party hack” – is a DA which doesn’t look too different from the ANC. The DA has graduated into the big league, transmogrified into one of the Ugly Sisters.



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