DA takes a gamble on jobs for pals

DA leader Helen Zille has often accused President Jacob Zuma of using a policy of “jobs for pals” when making appointments.

This is part of the DA’s criticism of what it calls the ANC’s closed crony society. By contrast, the DA punts an “open opportunity society for all”.

There are inherent pitfalls in assuming the moral high ground in such matters. When the wheel turns, you can be accused of hypocrisy.

Zille says Mamphela Ramphele is her friend. At Tuesday’s press conference she said they’d known each other since the 1980s, they’d worked together at the University of Cape Town, and they’d brought up children together.

This friendship must be the strongest reason for bringing Ramphele on board as the DA’s “presidential candidate”. There can be little else. Ramphele’s fledgling party was imploding, with defections and rumblings about her leadership style and lack of consultation. Her poll ratings were abysmal. Ramphele’s formal political career was almost over before it began – until her friend rescued her.

Reports suggest even the DA’s federal executive was divided over the approach to Ramphele, who circumvented that party’s elaborate candidate selection process. Whatever the future holds for Ramphele, 66, she won’t be the president of South Africa. There is no way the DA will win the 2014 general election.

Although the ANC has made many blunders under Jacob Zuma, it is not about to collapse. The ANC brand, more powerful than the Zuma brand, is still strong enough for about 60% of the vote.

The DA, which secured 16.7% in 2009, will certainly improve, but few would imagine the opposition climbing beyond the mid-20s.

No one knows for sure, but Ramphele’s elevation is a gamble which could lose supporters.


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