DA leader John Steenhuisen on Wednesday stuck to his guns that the Sunday Times misrepresented his views on coalition governments and the realignment of politics in South Africa.
Steenhuisen, speaking during a broadcast of the DA’s The Inside Track show, said he believes there are “reformers” in the ANC that his party could work with to move South Africa forward. However, he never said the DA was willing to enter into a coalition agreement with the governing party.
“At no stage in that interview did I say we would enter into a coalition with the ANC as it stands today. I was asked whether we would work with them and I said yes we would work with them. But working with them does not necessarily mean a coalition,” Steenhuisen said.
Steenhuisen said the debate on coalition politics in the country was long overdue, especially ahead of this year’s local government elections.
He said his party’s primary focus was to reduce the ANC’s majority to below 50% in as many municipalities as possible in order to create a new “rational centre” in South Africa’s political landscape to fight radical policies and socialism.
“We are going to have to work together across party lines if we are to succeed in getting rid of Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the Public Protector. If we all just sit in our little voting blocks and we don’t find common ground on this, she is going to continue to be the Public Protector and there will be long-term damage to both that office and South Africa,” Steenhuisen said.
According to the DA leader, his party had already extended “a hand of friendship” to President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament about his reform agenda and also tabled several bills that would give life to the president’s reform agenda.
“The people, who have either wilfully or intentionally tried to misrepresent what was said, are trying to say what does this mean and if the DA will collapse into the ANC, absolutely not.
“What I did say very clearly though was that the time is coming [to work together] because our country is in a very difficult space. You’ve seen the unemployment figures, the economy is not growing, services are crumbling and municipalities are falling apart.
“There has to come a time the reformers and the rational centre come together to act in the best interests of South Africa. That doesn’t necessarily mean a coalition, it could mean a working arrangement around how we get a majority in places like Parliament.”
Asked whether the DA would ever go into coalition with the ANC, Steenhuisen said: “No, not in the current form of the ANC. The primary focus that we all have to have in SA is to bring the ANC below 50%. We’ve got to get them out of power to ensure that glue of patronage doesn’t hold them together any more and it will give the reformers space to be able to strike out in a new direction.”
Meanwhile, DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille said Steenhuisen’s comments were not the party’s new position on coalitions.
Zille said people also misunderstood her when she spoke about the realignment of South African politics back in 2008 when she led the party.
“I started talking then about how we need to realign politics… they thought it meant getting all the opposition parties together. And how best to depict it [the realignment of politics], came to me very strongly and very clearly after the 2014 election when the EFF got a foothold for the very first time,” she said.
At the same time, the DA announced this week it had filed a complaint with the Press Ombudsman following the Sunday Times article, arguing that Steenhuisen’s views were not accurately reflected.