Jitters as smaller parties threaten DA in Western Cape

DA leader John Steenhuisen called on DA supporters to be wary of small parties. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

DA leader John Steenhuisen called on DA supporters to be wary of small parties. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

Published Apr 13, 2024


Cape Town - The DA is jittery that smaller parties could eat into its majority in the Western Cape and even scupper its grip on power should they form alliances.

Mindful of this DA leader John Steenhuisen called on DA supporters to be wary of small parties that were likely to dismantle its power in the province in the elections next month.

Steenhuisen warned supporters at the party’s manifesto launch in the Western Cape that, unlike the rest of the country, in this election, the biggest enemy of progress in the Western Cape was not the ANC.

“In this province, the biggest risk to continued progress is complacency and the political opportunists in small parties who seek to exploit that complacency to line their own pockets,” said Steenhuisen.

“Instead of fighting to fix the eight ANC provinces that have been smashed to pieces, the political mercenaries in parties like the Patriotic Alliance, Rise Mzansi, GOOD, and the National Coloured Congress are obsessed with trying to break the one DA province that works.”

“We have to ask ourselves: why are these parties not campaigning in ANC provinces? Why are they running around trying to break the one DA province that, over the past five years, has created four out of every five net new jobs in the whole of South Africa?”

In his essay, titled “The Western Cape and the Rise of the Small Parties”, political analyst Gareth van Onselen said that historically, the growth of the DA in the Western Cape had substantially helped its growth nationally.

It has held a reasonably secure majority, and the ANC had collapsed in opposition, but the rise of a number of small parties was starting to arrest its gains.

He said the DA obtained its majority in the Western Cape primarily by consolidating the “coloured vote” in the province over a decade ago.

“Between 2014 and 2021, the number of small parties with 1% or more has grown from 2% (and a combined total of 3.1%) to 6% (and a combined total of 16.6%). They are hurting both the DA and the ANC. Many of these smaller parties are driven primarily by racial identity politics, or racial populism, and are difficult to counter. They are winning votes, in particular along the coast and outside the metro,” wrote Van Onselen.

— Gareth van Onselen (@GvanOnselen) January 8, 2024

He said the 2024 election scenarios suggested it was going to be hard to break the DA’s majority. “The battle between the DA and smaller parties (barring an ANC rejuvenation miracle) seems set to be the story of many elections to come, unless the DA can expand its support, particularly among black voters.”

“To this end, it will be disturbing for the DA that 15 years of the best governance in the country – an objective fact – and the DA’s primary offer to South Africans have not resulted in more support among many ‘black’ and former ANC voters in the Western Cape,” said Van Onselen.

Political analyst and head of policy at the Free Market Foundation, Martin van Staden, said the rise of small political parties was good for the country’s democracy. “It is greater political competition. We encourage that in the same way we encourage economic competition. So whether that is or isn’t a threat for the DA is irrelevant. The fact is, political contestation is a good thing in a democracy. That has the effect of limiting the power of government, because no political party should ever assume that it will remain in power forever,” said Van Staden.

“The more players there are in the game, the better it will ultimately be in the long term. Perhaps not always in the short term, but in the long term for the political system and certainly for the principle of limited government,” he said.

GOOD secretary Brett Herron said his party was confident ahead of the elections and was working towards increasing its representation in the National Assembly, as well as the Western Cape legislature and other provinces.

“In the Western Cape specifically, after 15 years, the DA has failed to stop the suffering of the majority of its residents despite its claims of success, and we are saying we can do better,” said Herron.

Fazloodien Abrahams, chairperson of the National Coloured Congress, said he believed his party was poised for success. “While the DA may perceive us as a threat, our commitment to representing the interests of all citizens, including the coloured community, resonates strongly with voters across the nation.”

Rise Mzansi Western Cape premier candidate Axolile Notywala said they were also confident that they would do well in the Western Cape.

“Our message resonates with many people, particularly those who have been neglected in the province, which is predominantly people living in townships across the City of Cape Town and in other municipalities in the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route.

“We are confident that we will get seats in the provincial legislature," said Notywala.

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