I appreciate this might be a controversial take, so let me begin by conceding some obvious common-sense statements about the party.
The DA have objectively the best governing track record in SA. No other party in the current dispensation has held a metropolitan council except the ANC and the DA, and between the two, the difference is night and day. Despite constant sabotage through legal and illegal means, the ANC has failed to make the Cape ungovernable, and the administrative staff in the DA have made heroic, albeit compromised efforts to stem the tide of land invasions and state-sanctioned organised crime, while having most of their tax revenue funnelled into other provinces.
But recently they have entertained a long term strategy which is foolish in the extreme – a coalition with the ANC. The most recent comments on this question from John Steenhuisen have been a vociferous denial, but the statement of intention was made clear last week made, when he stated that he was willing to work with any party, except for in NMB, where they would refuse to negotiate with the ANC or EFF.
Once this news got out, the SABC gave the idea maximum airtime. In response, the DA tried to backpedal, but in these statements, Natasha Mazzone affirmed that it had been a long-time strategic aim of the party to work with the “moderates” – meaning the Ramaphosa faction. Even Mmusi Maimane thought this a poor strategy, forgetting that he was party to it as leader, as the first link in this paragraph shows.
Helen Zille has had to walk back comments made on a leaked audio recording from 2019 enunciating the clear intention to enter coalitions as a junior partner and negotiate their way to sound policy by yanking on Ramaphosa’s sleeve.
Herman Mashaba, knowing his audience, took a hardline stance from the beginning and refused to “work with the devil”, and John Steenhuisen has since mimicked this admirably aggressive language on the campaign trail. But the damage is now done.
Patricia de Lille, devoid of principle or shame, pushed memes showing the two parties in bed, despite being a sitting ANC cabinet member running her “GOOD” party as a Charterist trojan horse to erode DA support in the Cape:
Due to their bitter experience fighting the ANC for NMB, DA (reasonably) argues that any small party is a potential ANC supporter in coalition.
But this holds no water now they are entertaining the idea themselves. Plus, their very own councilors were seduced to switch sides in NMB, collapsing their government of the metro. It’s an unaddressed flaw in their case.
The real treacherous dwarves are the ANC trojan horses, think-alikes, and lapdogs – GOOD, Patriotic Alliance, UDM and Al-Jamaa – but the DA’s bitter attacks have been levered on all parties indiscriminately, and their flip-flopping on hot-button issues will make future partnerships difficult.
The DA do not lack talent, they lack conviction. Zille may be tough, but the DA is a broad church of liberals and democratic-socialists, who haven’t the strength to resist even the most inane criticism. Their recent retreat on the KZN posters shows this weakness, and cost them their campaign manager.
Allying with smaller, more hardcore conservatives or economic-liberals would be good for them – ActionSA, IFP and ACDP are all sound anti-Charterist parties the DA can ally with outside the Cape. But as a result of the popularity of Mashaba’s urban-black conservative party, the DA now face a hard ceiling.
What would the coalition look like if the DA did take centre stage? Come national elections, DA will consider any concession to keep the EFF out. They may have taken a stance against anti-minority racial discrimination, organised state crime and communism, but because of their bargaining position, they will be incapable of getting the ANC to comply in coalition.
The ANC can always threaten to turn to the EFF as an alternative partner, whose support will naturally grow as the ANC allies with “the white party”. The EFF will agitate, dragging the ANC leftwards as the time horizon for looting and implementing Zimbabwe-style reforms narrows. The DA will follow for fear of jeopardising the coalition. They will not be ANC-lite, they’ll be ANC employees.
Even should they gain full control of the central government, the state will be far too damaged by then, every institution captured by ANC cadres, and they will be forced to engage in the same welfare dependency politics and patronage as the ANC to stay there. The media will scrutinise every marginal corruption case until they burst after one term, as the liberal opposition did in Mexico after 80 years of one-party rule.
The only solution for the DA in the long term is to back Cape independence. What “voting for independence” looks like today, is voting for the Cape Coloured Congress, the VF+ or the Cape Independence Party.
So long as the DA believe it is feasible to partner with the ANC and surf the rubble as the house falls down, they should be rejected in favour of parties that will bash some sense into them.
The good news is, the DA can be bargained with. The bad news is, the DA can be bargained with.
That is to say, they govern where you drag them.