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.