It hasn’t been a good week for the Democratic Alliance (DA): it suffered a double whammy when Patricia de Lille won temporary reinstatement as mayor of Cape Town and then it lost a no-confidence motion against Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
While the De Lille victory may be short-lived for her – if a court agrees with the DA that it was correct to cancel her membership in the party and remove her as head of the city – the Makhura defeat is permanent.
And, more than that, it is a setback for the party.
While it is not up for debate that the role of an opposition party is to make the ruling ANC work for its living as a government and ensure government treats its citizens fairly, there is a question about the timing of the attack on Makhura. The no-confidence motion came in the middle of the De Lille fight – which is one of the messiest in the history of the DA – but also at a time when party leader Mmusi Maimane was, apparently, facing a revolt from conservative DA members, who objected to his opinion that “white privilege” is a reality.
In pursuing the motion – which centred on the ANC administration’s heartless performance in the Life Esidimeni tragedy – the DA left itself open to accusations that it was trying to make political capital out of the suffering of people … or that it was trying to divert attention from its own problems.
The party looks almost rudderless – alienating conservative white voters at the same time that it is undoubtedly losing black middle-class supporters who are gravitating back towards a rejuvenated, corruption-fighting ANC.
We believe the DA needs to take a long hard look at itself and what it is offering to the people of South Africa.