Cape Town - The vote of Eusebius McKaiser, commentator, writer, master debater and talk show host, is up for grabs. But before it may go to the DA, some serious questions on ideology and policy must be answered.
“I’m clearly up for grabs. I’m clearly fed up with the ANC and I’m very complimentary: the DA can and at times does right. I just want them to scale it up,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
His book Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma was written from the point of view of an ordinary voter in Long Street.
“The reason I wrote the book – plainly, firmly, honestly, letting my guard down, was that I wanted to let the DA have insight into what we truly think and feel, those of us who could vote DA, but are not sure whether we should.”
There was simply not enough debate about the DA and it was “bizarre” that the book was the first on the opposition party.
Part of the reason for there not being a lot of copy on thinking about the DA was that “the incumbent ANC government wields gigantic power by virtue of having above 60 percent (of the electoral support)”. But an important reason was that South Africans had many “culpable blind spots”.
“One of them is we don’t care enough about the opposition, which is weird because the future of our democracy doesn’t just depend on holding the ANC accountable. It also depends on creating competitive politics,” said McKaiser.
One of the reasons for his being interested in the DA as a writer, as a citizen, “is precisely because it is an exciting party. But I think the success of the party will also affect the quality of our democracy”.
And that was enough reason to care what went on inside the DA and to have the important, broader public debate on liberalism.
Arguing that there were many strands of liberalism – and that one needed to choose the strand that dovetailed with South Africa’s specific historical and structural experiences – McKaiser highlighted liberal egalitarianism. It made the achievement of substantive equality in society a key goal of the state, not for its own sake but in the service of liberty.
“If you value liberty, you can value it only if you also subscribe to a conception of a state that creates the conditions to enable people to have liberty.”
If one accepted the DA was not a new party it was probably at its weakest intellectually, said McKaiser.
“The ANC, with all its bad news, has more intellectuals who could have an intellectual debate.”
The key to how the narrative of the DA would unfold was who would succeed Helen Zille.
The tone of DA communications – “I just don’t want (DA MP) Dianne Kohler Barnard screeching” – the party’s attitude to race and its importance to today’s South Africa were key concerns.
“Do you get the deep historical reasons that account for why my sisters had teenage pregnancies? Why I have a nephew who is a delinquent at the age of 16, who struggles with alcohol abuse? Do you get where that comes from, or do you think my sisters really deserve a little bit of welfare, but beyond that they really should just learn to man up and become professionals?”
It was “suspicious” that Makashule Gana, who was from a deep rural background, talented, with a BSc in maths and 12 years in the DA and now one of three deputy federal chairpersons, was not being championed.
He was senior to DA Youth leader Mbali Ntuli and DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko in terms of party membership, but there was no affirmative action programme to groom black talent.
“But, of course, he’s not middle class!” said McKaiser.
While the DA might not think his vote important, or even argue that he was not representative, McKaiser said his arguments were being heard.
“If my WhatsApp could talk like Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp’s, they would not be able to deny that some of their own leaders and even some of their own people in the communications teams of their top leaders agree with what I have to say.”
* Could I Vote DA? A Voter’s Dilemma is published by Bookstorm (R220).