Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
13 May 2019
6:00 am

Heat is on the DA to work out where it went so wrong

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

For the first time in its history, the opposition party failed to grow in an election, and lost five seats in parliament. Some want to blame Maimane for it.

DA Leader Mmusi Maimane is seen addressing media at the IEC results centre, 10 May 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The Democratic Alliance federal leadership will meet today following mounting pressure over the weekend to make drastic changes in its highest offices after what some have called a dismal election campaign and result for the opposition party.

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi denied claims made in a report by the Sunday Times that the party was considering axing its leader, Mmusi Maimane. This followed lower-than-expected gains, and in some provinces outright losses, by the party in the election.

Malatsi said they had no plans to make any changes to their leadership, but would be discussing the outcome of the elections today.

“The leadership of the party was elected last year, including Maimane, who was elected unanimously, so they have a mandate to lead the party until the next caucus. There has not been any discussion about changing the current leadership,” said Malatsi.

“The election result only came out on Friday, and the party has a federal executive, which is the single decision-making body of the party and they will meet tomorrow.

“There will be a discussion on the success of the campaign, the outcome of the election, and that is where a discussion of a review of our performance in the election will be taking place,” said Malatsi.

The party’s former leader and occasional helping hand, Tony Leon, stepped in during the two weeks before the election to bolster its campaign efforts among certain conservative pockets of the DA’s support base feared lost to the party. Leon admitted yesterday that some of these fears came true as it appeared conservative minority interest party Freedom Front Plus (FF+) had made considerable gains proportionate to the DA’s losses in its major constituencies.

“I think it’s absolutely essential that we go back after an election when you didn’t reach the goals you set for yourself. It would be absolutely correct and appropriate to introspect, and to be honest and say what have we done right and what have we done wrong. We have to regroup and change accordingly,” said Leon.

Asked whether he thought voters may have been put off by Maimane, he cautioned against making hasty decisions that may fail to have the desired effect.

“The DA needs to do some intense research as to what switched people off, or what didn’t switch them on to the party, and without being hasty and consulting all of the necessary bodies. You can’t just replace the leader and think everything is going to fall into place. If you just replace the leader and change nothing else you will often get the same result,” Leon said.

Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said this election was characterised by a polarised electorate enamoured with identity politics.

“The interesting thing about this election is that people voted in terms of their identity and specific group interests and, in the case of the EFF, it was all about black identity and the specific interests of that group.

“In the Freedom Front Plus it was about white people in general and conservative Afrikaner people in particular, white fears with regard to expropriation of land without compensation and responding to groups like BLF and the EFF.

“So the biggest losers were the parties who were more to the centre, such as the ANC and the DA.”

Political analyst Gareth van Onselen said the DA should go back to the drawing board and conduct intense research to determine exactly where it went wrong.


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