During an interview on Power FM on Thursday, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane confronted those within his party who are against the cooperation that has been forged between the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in some municipalities.
“In any organisation, you don’t want to be singling out people,” he said of those who have been critical of EFF and DA cooperation, especially in Johannesburg under mayor Herman Mashaba.
He said that the need to form coalitions with parties the DA did not agree with was discussed internally at federal council meetings ahead of the 2016 elections and it was agreed to that there would be an “issue-by-issue arrangement with the EFF”.
He said he personally believed in this kind of cooperation, as he felt his party’s “job is not to ostracise, it’s to win the argument”.
He said while some with the DA who disagree with the EFF, “there might be others that disagree with the Freedom Front Plus”.
“But if the future of the country is going to be one of coalitions, which I believe it is,” then the DA can’t afford to “ostracise” parties they disagree with and must be “more inclusive,” he continued.
The DA leader said he “spent a long time negotiating throughout these coalition arrangements, I spent time with parties all across” the political spectrum.
“In any instance, there are pros and cons.”
He said a “coalition is not conversion” and didn’t have to amount to a marriage between two parties.
“I don’t go into an arrangement into the EFF to agree.”
He said there was “an equal argument [about] the FF+” among some in the party.
“The debate was well had and will continue to be had.
“When you are working with coalitions you have to say to yourself this is what I actually want to do. When we drew up that agreement it was easier for the parties to agree around that, rather than on ideology.
He said both the EFF and FF+ represented racial nationalism, something the DA was opposed to.
The show’s host, Aldrin Sampear, asked Maimane if he believed the voter share of the FF+ and EFF grew in this year’s elections because the DA had compromised its values.
“I don’t think people left the party because we abandoned being liberal democrats to join the EFF and FF+,” he said, calling this a “ridiculous argument”, as those two parties were certainly not liberal democrats either.
Rather, he said there were “many factors” involved in the DA losing roughly 400,000 votes.
One of these was faith in President Cyril Ramaphosa compared with his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
“You can’t deny that the 2016 elections were fought under the Zuma presidency, the 2019 was under Ramaphosa,” he said.
He added that he believed as “many south Africans are suffering economically”, some had reacted by choosing “racial polarisation” and moved to parties such as the FF+ and EFF.
“We can only be represented by someone who looks like me and talks like me.”
He said this was at odds with the DA’s belief in non-racialism.
“We will never be a party who will say we will be like the EFF or FF+ to get voters back.”
He did, however, acknowledge that mistakes were made by the party leading to the reduction in voter share, saying these included not being clear enough on its message and its manifesto.
“The DA’s manifesto was the best according to Financial Mail, but we didn’t communicate that in volume we should have.
“The lesson going to the future is how do you simplify your message” for all South Africans, he added.
Elsewhere in the interview, Maimane said the party must agree on its direction moving forward, and should not be “a party that simply is attractive to FF+ voters”.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman.)