The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) regression in the demographic makeup of its parliamentarians (MPs) could be a headache for the opposition party’s drive to attract more black voters.
Dr Nic Spaull, director of Funda Wande and senior researcher in the economics department at Stellenbosch University, analysed the party’s previous MP demographic makeup to see if the black representation had improved or regressed.
Spaull says that in case one harboured any thought that this year’s list of DA MPs – 59% of whites – was much better than the 2018 list, they were wrong because his analysis shows that current MPs were 62% white.
His insightful article The Incredible Whiteness of Being (the DA), published in his blog, argues that given that black South Africans make up 79% of the national population, winning an election was only possible by convincing black voters to vote for the DA.
Spaull argues that since the transition, the DA has always been the largest opposition and the most credible threat to the ANC, yet “they’ll have to get significantly more than 22% of the vote (compared to ANC’s 62%) to do so”.
“Most South Africans still think race is a really important feature of South African society, something that’s understandable given that that’s what the apartheid government used to differentially legislate, allocate, reward and punish for half a century,” he writes.
Spaull says he was curious about the party’s racial breakdown in parliament – “do as I do, not as I say” – and so he visited people’s parliament website and it turned out that the current DA MPs are 62% white and 67% male.
“Thinking that perhaps this was a legacy issue and that the DA has subsequently changed, I looked at the national parliamentary list that the DA have just put forward for 2019 elections,” he writes.
“It turns out that if the DA wins the same number of seats in the 2019 election as it did in the 2014 election [87 seats], then it’ll be ‘only’ 59% white, hardly an improvement.
“It is simply that they [black people] do not trust the DA,” he adds. “Some don’t trust that they will be able to lead us out of the political quagmire that we’re in, seeing Ramaphosa and his appointees as the only way out.
“And who can blame them, when a party’s leaders are 62% white and 67% male. Shame on you DA.”
He ends with a warning to the DA: “Get with the programme or be content to keep 20-something percent of the vote forever.”