The DA’s shameless politics of divide and conquer

Published Jun 5, 2024


Coalition governments are indeed strange beasts. We find ourselves in this unusual silly season and our country at the most precarious position. During my stint in politics, I never thought this scenario would unfold during my lifetime in this country, and yet here we are, on the edge of a precipice.

But distance helps with perspective, and it was only when I was outside politics at a different vantage point that it dawned on me that the responsibility and honour to govern a population in any country can be taken away in the wink of an eye by voters. To many of my comrades, this is a shocking discovery, and yet it is a consequence of long years of arrogantly burying our heads in the sand and scoffing at our people and their cries.

Parties compete at elections for votes to win, lead the country and occupy strategic positions of the state. But some may then successfully bargain to form a coalition government if there is no outright winner, jointly taking the reins of government until the next general election.

The 2024 national and provincial elections results have been officially declared by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) on June 2. The ANC, the former liberation movement which has enjoyed unparalleled support for the last 30 years, has dropped from 57.50% to 40.18% (6 459 683 votes). This is a cataclysmic plunge and one which requires cool and humble heads to process. I leave it to political and social commentators to unflappably dissect for us and future generations the real meaning of this event.

In the second spot is the DA, which obtained 21.81% (3 505 735 votes). The DA is an offshoot of the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) which opposed the apartheid system in South Africa. The history of the PFP during the heyday of apartheid is not all rosy. Among others, during the height of apartheid, the PFP sought to change the apartheid system from within, but in doing so chose to comply with apartheid legislation outlawing multiracial membership. This is also part of the DA’s DNA as I demonstrate below.

In the third spot is the new kid on the block, formed hardly six months ago (December 2023) in Soweto, the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK). It has received 14.58% (2 344 309 votes). In fourth place is the EFF, which has received 9.52% (1 529 961 votes).

The combined votes of the ANC, MK, and EFF are well over 64.28 %. If you include the votes of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), the IFP, and other smaller black-led parties (excluding those “black-rented face” parties funded by the Stellenbosch white elite for nefarious reasons), their votes are well over 70%.

The EFF and MK Party are splinters from the ANC. Save for a few areas of rhetorical emphasis, their policies and ideological outlook are not far apart. If there are any areas of ideological or policy differences, these should not make it impossible for the black-led parties to work together. Forming a coalition government will require these black-led parties to compromise their hard stances on certain key policies.

Long before the announcement of the election results, and during the campaign season, the DA made it known that it will not go into a coalition with the MK Party and EFF. In early April this year, at the height of the election campaigns, the DA, aided by the ever-well-oiled Stellenbosch-owned white media, introduced a scaremongering word weapon called the “Doomsday Coalition”, referring to a possible coalition between the ANC, EFF, and MK Party. “Doomsday” in both religious and secular contexts means utter catastrophe or the end of the world.

Life ceases to exist and the world seems static. The DA intended to propagate fear and uncertainty among the black populace. This is an old strategy that has worked when aided by divisions among black formations and the population at large. This “swart gevaar” only works when the black population and formations allow themselves to be divided.

The politics of fear and uncertainty were perfected and unleashed on the black population during the white minority rule under the National Party era of apartheid. At its height, the apartheid white minority regime coined and introduced the concept of “swart gevaar”. It was a term used during apartheid to refer to the perceived security threat of the majority black African population to the white South African government and the white minority population.

Therefore, the introduction and the choice of the words (as a political weapon to communicate a message) “Doomsday Coalition” were deliberate, timely, well articulated and no coincidence. However, it was not backed by a shred of evidence as the three parties have never worked together in a coalition government. In many African cultures or etymology, there is an idiom equivalent loosely translated as “a leopard does not lose its unique spots”.

The “Doomsday Coalition” concept by the DA is typical of Nazi Germany’s Joseph Goebbels propaganda machinery in the highest gear designed to sow fear and exacerbate confusion, tension, and mistrust among the black voters and the entire population. It was meant to deepen the division between the leadership and membership of the ANC, EFF, and MK Party. It was typical and consistent with old tactics of the disgraced National Party on the same population whose scars of genocide, rape, and brutality (by a white man’s government) are still fresh.

It is typical of a white man unleashing the age-old ruthless weapon of mass destruction called “divide and conquer” on the Africans during the scramble for Africa. It is time for the black population to break the chain that ties them to white machinations. Our people deserve leadership.

Divide and conquer

Historians and social commentators describe the concept of “divide and rule” as a strategy for actors (the DA) to sustain power by breaking up rival concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the actor implementing the strategy. This concept, which is also known as “divide and conquer” or “divide et impera”, goes far back to the Chinese philosophy of war by Sun Tzu, and it also appears in Machiavelli’s classic work on the “Art of War”.

“A Captain ought, among all the other actions of his, endeavour with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.” (Machiavelli, [1521] 2003)

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant puts the concept in a more general context of political rule and specifies it as one of the main maxims for successful leadership:

“Divide et impera. That is, if there are certain privileged persons in your nation who have chosen you as their chief (primus inter pares), set them at variance with one another and embroil them with the people. Show the latter visions of greater freedom, and all will soon depend on your untrammelled will. Or if it is foreign states that concern you, it is a pretty safe means to sow discord among them so that, by seeming to protect the weaker, you can conquer them one after another.” (Kant, [1795] 2010)

The partitioning of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885 established the principles on how Europeans would split Africa into spheres of influence, protectorates, free-trade areas, and colonies, is the classic example of how a white man put into operation the colossal brutal stratagem of “divide and conquer” of Africans. The negative impact and effects of “divide and conquer” will outlive hundreds of generations to come.

To secure their power and means of exploitation the colonial masters divided and rearranged populations into discrete groups, based on ethno-linguistic attributes. “Now that the ANC has severed its ties with Jacob Zuma’s aligned people”, at least according to the DA, it is not ashamed to employ the same 1884–1885 Berlin stratagem to weaken the power of the united Africans. It is not and never was in the DA’s interest and its well-placed or planted agents (in the ANC masquerading or masqueraded as leaders) to have the ANC that lives and leads based on its 1912 founding missions and Freedom Charter principles.

It is well documented that the division of the African continent on ethnically defined lines caused and continues to cause many economic and political crises in the entire continent. For instance, Belgium’s “divide and rule” policy favouring the Tutsi in Rwanda created the conception that Tutsi were born to rule while the Hutu were an inferior race. The negative effect and impact as a result of the division of South Africa on ethnic tribal lines still endure to this day and will outlive many generations to come.

The DA is not alive nor sensitive to this reality as it seeks to hold on to strategies to ensure white privilege remains intact. All it is preoccupied with is escalating these divisions to secure the white minority privileges of its constituency representing only 7.3% (4 774 000) of the population. Black Africans, coloureds and Indians account for 92.3% (57 226 000) of the approximately 62 million population. The unity of the Black Africans, coloureds and Indians in South Africa poses a real existential threat to the DA’s predatory politics of “divide and rule”. In the same breath, the unity of the population in the 54 African states poses yet another real existential threat to the DA and its Western and European allies.

Africans call to unity and vigilance

We should not be afraid to call the DA and its allies who they are and what they stand for. It is time we grew some courage and show our people the real courage that inspired the Struggle. They stand for the continued exploitation and division of Africa and its people to sustain white interests and privilege. The DA will never act for and in the best interest of Africans, coloureds, and Indians. Ask the African people in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha. Ask the coloured people in Mitchells Plain and the Cape Flats. The DA has no good history of acting in their best interest. It is no surprise that the PA emerged as a party of choice in the coloured areas in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

A clarion call is made to Africans, coloureds, and Indians to unite against the DA’s scaremongering propaganda of the “Doomsday Coalition”. We must demand that the ANC, MK Party, EFF, IFP, PA and other black-led parties, to the exclusion of “black-rented face” parties, forge a coalition government or government of national unity to pursue progressive policies and developmental agenda that will build on the solid foundation already built in the last 30 years. We don’t require a white Messiah in the form of the DA to govern ourselves. Our unity is our strength. Open no gap for the time-tested tactics of predatory politics of the DA’s “divide and conquer”. Close ranks against the racist exploiters for the future of the majority and its generations in South Africa and Africa.

DA, please lift off your knee on our necks. We want to breathe and live.

Advocate Nkomotana Clifford Motsepe writes in his personal capacity.