Cape Town - Political commentators have described the DA election manifesto launch on Sunday as underwhelming and flat, even if the party got thousands of its supporters out in blue T-shirts and posters calling for jobs and change.
“(DA leader) Helen Zille is capable of much better,” said analyst Aubrey Matshiqi.
“The delivery was flat. The content was flat. She did not even connect with the audience.
“I just didn’t hear anything in the speech that would make an uncertain ANC voter switch the vote,” Matshiqi said.
Analyst Daniel Silke said that while the DA’s blue outfits ensured a successful turnout, the message was problematic.
“Visually, it passed muster. I’m not convinced there was enough innovation expressed at the launch to make the DA stand out,” he said.
“I don’t think this is the stuff to kickstart the campaign to really galvanise undecided voters to the DA,” Silke said.
Zille’s keynote address on Sunday repeated much of what her MPs had outlined during last week’s parliamentary debate on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address, when they slammed him for a lack of leadership, and attributed economic and job woes directly to the president and policy confusion.
When Zille told the party faithful at the Polokwane Showground that under Zuma’s term “1.4 million more South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed”, she repeated what several DA MPs had said days earlier.
Her message that the DA would create six million real, sustainable jobs echoed the spin of her party’s march for jobs to Luthuli House 10 days ago.
Similarly, Zille’s sharp criticism of the ANC under Zuma having “lost its sense of direction” and having been “hijacked by leaders, who care more about themselves than the people they are meant to serve” echoed the DA debate on the State of the Nation address last week.
In criticising Zuma, Zille continued a DA electioneering theme which emerged in Parliament last week when the track-record of the ANC under Nelson Mandela, and his successor Thabo Mbeki was praised.
“The ANC of today is not Nelson Mandela’s ANC. They are two different parties, which just happen to have the same name… The good story ended in 2007,” Zille said, taking a similar tack to her party’s previous criticism of the ANC election message of telling the good story.
“We will never forget the people and organisations who struggled together against apartheid.
“We are proud to count many of them in the DA’s ranks today,” Zille said on Sunday, recalling the April 2013 “Know Your DA” campaign,.
It featured liberal stalwart Helen Suzman in an embrace with Mandela under the motto “We played our part in opposing apartheid”.
The DA manifesto launch came on a weekend when much attention was paid to the Economic Freedom Fighters’ manifesto launch in Thembisa, Gauteng.
EFF leader Julius Malema promised nationalisation of mines, land and banks to radically transform the economy so citizens would not earn less than R4 000 a month.
Significantly less attention was paid to the ACDP election manifesto launch in Soweto.
The weekend’s focus was also on senior ANC leaders, who hit the door-to-door campaign trail in Limpopo, although they dismissed that this was to counter the DA manifesto launch.
According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) statistics, Limpopo voted overwhelmingly for the ANC with 85.27 percent support in the 2009 elections and 89.72 percent in 2004.
Thus questions remain over the DA’s choice of Limpopo as the venue to launch its election manifesto, rather than Gauteng, where DA spin has it that it would put the ANC out of power.
Silke said it could be linked to DA efforts to show it was a party with a national footprint, but even so it would have made more sense to launch in Gauteng, where DA national spokesman and one of the federal deputy chairpersons, Mmusi Maimane, is putting up a spirited campaign to become the first opposition premier there.
Both Matshiqi and Silke said the DA had failed to stand out with its election manifesto. Like the ANC, Matshiqi argued, the DA was “not uncomfortable” with the prevailing economic hegemony, leaving that to be challenged by the EFF.
* Jobs and growing the economy to eight percent over the next decade so six million permanent jobs are created.
* Employment incentives: “a real strong youth wage subsidy” for 423 000 people within three years and refunding employers for apprenticeships.
* Black economic empowerment to redress past discrimination and injustices, but not crony enrichment.
* Cutting red tape to make doing business easier, particularly for small businesses.
* Establishing “opportunity centres” where small business can access support.
* Breaking up tenders so small business could participate.
* Establishing a national venture capital fund for start-ups.
* Explore the privatisation of state-owned entities, while investing at least 10 percent of the gross domestic product in infrastructure development.
* Reliable, efficient internet made available to all.
* Governance in support of an open opportunity society.
* Fight corruption and fire corrupt officials to save R30 billion per year.
* Ban ministers, public servants and their immediate family from doing business with the state.
* Ban anyone who has been convicted of corruption, fraud, theft or violent crime from holding public office.
* Lifestyle audits so politicians account for their wealth.
* Introduce a constituency-based electoral system so MPs are directly accountable to citizens.
* Establish one-stop shops so people can do all their business with the state in one place or online.
* Education to provide the skills needed for the economy.
* Student financial aid is increased to R16 million.
* Implement an opportunity voucher programme for young adults in higher education and provide seed capital for business.
* Abolish the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) so industry develops its own apprenticeships.
* Establish dedicated curriculum units so studies and national skill needs are aligned.
* Contribute more to research and innovation.
* Training 15 000 more teachers a year, and managing schools better.
* Roll out mass participation, opportunity and development centres which offer sports and cultural facilities extramurally.
* Universal, well-managed and affordable health care through co-operation between public and private health-care providers.
* Establish effective management teams in public hospitals, alongside standardised response times for emergency medical services in both urban and rural areas.
* Establish a social security network by expanding school nutrition schemes to Grade 12, while ensuring child-care grants are not abused.
* 100 000 new police, alongside 8 500 more detectives, while re-establishing specialist units and holding a commission of inquiry into police brutality.
* Commitment to willing seller, willing buyer approach to land reform, while training new land owners better.
* Making state land available for densification of urban housing areas, while piloting flexible subsidies.