News / Opinion / Columns

Martin Williams
3 minute read
8 May 2019
8:35 am

Prove polls wrong and give DA the majority in Gauteng

Martin Williams

If the DA doesn’t win Gauteng outright, too much compromise could put the party's principles and governance track record at stake.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, on the campaign trail, April 2019. Picture: EFE-EPA / Kim Ludbrook

This week’s election results will prove pundits wrong, again. There are so many different predictions. They can’t all be correct.

Ipsos, Markdata, the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and internal party polls produced conflicting figures.

For example, Markdata had the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) neck-and-neck at 19.2% in Gauteng, while the latest IRR results put the DA on 33% and the EFF on 14% in the province. Late last year Ipsos said DA support in Gauteng was 15%, while the party’s internal polling at one point indicated 38% support in Gauteng. Go figure, if you can.

Finer minds tell us these figures should not be treated as predictions. Rather, these are “snapshots”, “tracking polls” and so on. There are disclaimers about margins of error, percentage turnouts, sampling methods, etc.

Yet still we, the unsophisticated, treat every survey result as a prediction. Internationally, scepticism about such polls peaked in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected 45th US president, and a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union.

Neither result was widely predicted. Yet the industry has put on a brave face. A 2018 Washington Post study found that polls “are just about as accurate as they have been historically, if not a little better”. Yeah, right. Of course.

Today, on election day, no matter how many surveys and commentaries we have read, we still don’t know which way South Africa is going. However, we can choose how to interpret what lies ahead. And what to do about it.

A strong showing by the racist, sexist, violence-prone, national socialist EFF can lead to alarm and despondency. Looking at the EFF’s role models such as basket-case Venezuela, we could conclude that the end is nigh. Indeed, some of the EFF’s slogans and promises are apocalyptically stupid.

“Our land and jobs now” is an oxymoron. If you take other people’s property, without compensation, you deter investment. You invite joblessness. If you double social grant payments, as per an EFF pledge, you bankrupt the state.

As for the ANC, its negative qualities, including corruption and incompetence, are well documented. More doom and gloom if these two parties fare well in the elections. These are challenges for a job-creating, corruption-busting, diverse, good-governance party such as the DA.

Polls indicate that in order to govern Gauteng, which is South Africa’s richest and most populous province, the DA will have to come to an arrangement with at least one of these parties. That’s an intriguing prospect for the DA whose posters include “Stop the ANC and EFF”.

Politics is about far more than sloganeering. Otto von Bismarck, architect of the 1871 unification of Germany, said “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best”.

If the DA doesn’t win Gauteng outright, what is the “next best” outcome? Too much compromise could put the DA’s principles and governance track record at stake. Corruption allegations stalk both the ANC and the EFF.

Suggestion: rather than place the DA in a compromised position, vote it into power. Give the DA the majority in Gauteng.

Prove the polls wrong, again.

Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.

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