The DA has been rocked by controversy over draft electioneering proposals drawn up in the Western Cape and a campaign to rebrand itself by emphasising its liberal roots.
Several DA provincial leaders this weekend scrambled to distance themselves from the Western Cape draft proposals, which seek to equate the ANC with the apartheid-era National Party (NP).
Meanwhile former DA leader Tony Leon cautioned the party that it could not win against the ANC in a contest over the past and pointed out that the party was being selective about its history.
Reports emerged this weekend that the Western Cape’s draft electioneering proposals include an image of the ANC logo with the party’s black, green and gold colours replaced by the orange, white and blue of the old South African flag and images that juxtapose photographs of police shooting miners at Marikana last year with those of the infamous Sharpeville Massacre, when apartheid police killed 69 protesters.
The proposals are reportedly to be considered at the party’s provincial election campaign launch next month.
DA chief executive officer Jonathan Moakes said the documents came from an internal presentation in the Western Cape. “It is not intended to form part of our election campaign… It has absolutely no standing”.
Gauteng DA leader John Moodey said the DA in his province had its own campaigns and intended to focus on service delivery. Drawing parallels between the ANC and NP “is not on the DA agenda in Gauteng”, he said.
Mpumalanga DA leader Anthony Benadie said discussions on a campaign were still under way. Comparisons between the ANC and the NP were “definitely not” under discussion in Mpumalanga; it was a Western Cape matter.
Northern Cape leader Andrew Louw said their focus for 2014 elections would be the DA’s successful track record of delivering services to all and telling the DA’s story, not on drawing comparisons.
Moakes said the DA’s 2014 election campaign would focus on telling South Africans what the party stood for.
“Most South Africans will want to hear what the DA has to offer,” he said, dismissing that there would be any negative impact on the DA from the Western Cape presentation.
The DA’s leader in the Western Cape, Ivan Meyer, did not respond to requests for comment.
The ANC slammed the Western Cape proposals, saying “the DA has stooped to its latest low”.
“Not only is comparing the ANC to the NP disingenuous, it is also not factual,” said ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu. “The ANC continues to uphold the highest values of a free, transparent and democratic country, which cannot be comparable to the erstwhile apartheid system.”
The DA last weekend launched its “Know Your DA” campaign in Alexandra, Johannesburg with pamphlets depicting Nelson Mandela embracing liberal stalwart Helen Suzman next to the words “We played our part in opposing apartheid”.
This campaign seeks to emphasise the DA’s liberal legacy and that many anti-apartheid activists, including party leader Helen Zille, are prominent DA members.
This version of the DA’s history conspicuously avoids mention of Zille’s predecessor, Tony Leon.
In an interview with Weekend Argus, Leon cautioned the DA against looking to the past.
“You’ve got to stay in the future business; if you get into a contest about the past, the ANC is going to beat you every time. We can have an argument about what the ANC did… but they have all the moral authority because they represented the disempowered,” he said.
“There is always a danger if you start reliving the past that a lot of inconvenient truths come out.”
Leon pointed out that the party’s alliance with the New National Party, which had helped win the Western Cape for the party, and the “die-hard NNP voters” from the Cape Flats were left out of the party’s narrative.
“The reason we formed the DA – let’s not be too precious about it – was to expand the opposition with what was available, and what was available was the NNP. And the reason the DA governs the WC today is because the NNP voters… came into the DA. People are questioning why the white men are being left out of the story; what about the coloured men and women?” Leon said.
Leon was at the helm of the DA’s forerunner, the Democratic Party. The party rose in the hustings to 9.56 percent support, up from 1.73 percent in 1994.
Meanwhile, sharply different views have emerged among opposition parties at Parliament on how to broaden collaboration. With elections due next year, there is pressure to produce concrete agreements.
A DA proposal for dual membership, an approach which led to the party swallowing up much of the NNP 10 years ago and more recently taking in the ID, has been rejected by other opposition parties.
While these parties have welcomed co-operation, one described this as a “non-aggression pact”, while another hinted that egos and personalities were getting in the way.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said last week there was “a tentative understanding of issues we can take to the electorate that we have agreed (on)”. This included governance arrangements in all spheres of state “if we get the necessary majority”.
However, DA MP and federal executive chairman James Selfe said while the DA was “in the market” for co-operation after the poll, election co-operation was not feasible unless all participated under the same political banner. - Sunday Argus