It consolidated its position as the ruling party in the Western Cape, and looks set to seriously challenge the ANC in some of the major metropoles come the local government elections of 2016.
But voters have been much kinder to the party than it has been to itself in recent times.
In the latter part of last year there was the embarrassing fl ip-flopping over controversial new BEE legislation. Those who viewed themselves as the defenders of the DA’s classical liberal heritage were scathing in their criticism, claiming the party had abandoned the moral high ground in an a empt to win the hearts and minds of young black voters.
The ink had barely dried on their letters of reproof before DA leader Helen Zille stepped in, insisting that the party never should have voted for the Bill – a number of “little mistakes” had led to the disaster. This prompted a fresh series of condemnations from various quarters, with the ANC claiming that the DA had at least revealed its true anti-BEE face to the world.
Another series of “little mistakes” then resulted in one of the shortest marriages in the history of politics, as Zille’s on-again, off -again courtship of Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele saw the latter being announced as the DA’s “presidential candidate”.
The same week the announcement was made, Ramphele reneged on an agreement that would see Agang absorbed into the DA, and went on to lead her own party to a truly dismal showing at the polls.
Then, just more than a week ago, former Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko announced – first to a newspaper, then to Zille – that she would not be returning to the legislature, and was instead heading to the US to further her education. Rumours and speculation of power struggles and infighting surfaced immediately, but surely even the most optimistic gossipmongers wouldn’t have imaged what happened next.
Yesterday, the Sunday Times reported that Zille launched an extraordinary attack on Mazibuko during a DA federal executive meeting last Friday, reportedly saying that she had “made” Mazibuko and also “saved” her on several occasions. Zille denied the claims. Critics who claim that young black leaders like Mazibuko were only elevated to their positions to make the party appear more black now feel that they have confirmation of their claims – from the mouth of the DA leader herself.
Earlier last week Zille claimed Mazibuko would have lost a much-talked-about face-off , reportedly with Mmusi Maimane, to be re-elected DA parliamentary leader. She said she offered Mazibuko the position of Gauteng premier candidate, which eventually went to Maimane, but that Mazibuko declined the offer.
It all raises more questions than it answers.
How could the DA vote for legislation it apparently vehemently opposes?
Why did Zille keep pushing for an alliance with Ramphele, a situation which could only have harmed the DA even more if it had actually been carried through?
Why, if Mazibuko is someone who needs to be saved on a regular basis, would she be offered the Gauteng premier candidacy?
Just as those who reflexively vote for the ruling party should be demanding more for their loyal support, so should those who support the official opposition demand more from its leadership.
If not, everyone loses.