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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Steenhuisen’s statement ‘a gift to Rise Mzansi’ (VIDEO)

The DA leader said smaller parties campaigning in the WC were “political opportunists and mercenaries”, gearing up to “loot from the provincial government”.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been likened to “a dog barking at a moving vehicle” by Rise Mzansi (RM) chief organiser Makashule Gana, indicating a growing rift between the two opposition parties ahead of the watershed May polls.

The strained relations were sparked by DA leader John Steenhuisen labelling smaller parties campaigning in the Western Cape as “political opportunists and mercenaries”, gearing up to “loot from the provincial government”.

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RM, the Patriotic Alliance and the Good Party have intensified campaigning in the DA stronghold.

As Gana equated Steenhuisen’s comments to that of a dog’s reaction during a television interview, political and communications analysts said the DA had presented Rise Mzansi with “a publicity gift”.

Making an impact

Gana said the Nguni phrase inja ikhonkotha imoto ehambayo (a dog barks at a moving vehicle) was “best to illustrate the DA move”.

“What it means is that if we were not making an impact, no one would be talking about us.

“Given the work we have done thus far and the work we will do in the [next] 40 days of campaigning, we are very hopeful to make an impact.

“I am confident that Rise Mzansi will be represented in parliament and in many provincial legislatures,” said Gana.

“People need new leaders and have received our message.”

With latest polls showing a declining DA majority, University of Pretoria politics lecturer Roland Henwood said if RM could take a substantial number of votes away from the DA, “it may impact the ability of the DA to govern the province”.

“While it is difficult to say who may benefit from those who are not loyal to the DA leading to the party losing votes, this is set to further fragment the opposition and may indirectly strengthen the ANC or groups opposing the DA,” said Henwood.

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A communications expert Sarah Britten said Steenhuisen’s statement had been “a gift to Rise Mzansi”. “Now everyone is talking about them – the sort of publicity you cannot buy.

“It is not unreasonable, based on Steenhuisen’s outburst, to assume the DA is genuinely worried and perceive them [Rise Mzansi] as a threat.

“This means the DA is not winning hearts and minds.

“I think this will strengthen the resolve of Rise Mzansi campaigners to keep pushing even harder in the Western Cape.

“Voters who are wavering might feel more confident about putting their X next to Rise Mzansi.

‘History of being perceived as unlikeable’

“This has been an unwise move by the DA, which has a history of being perceived as unlikeable.

“Among progressive voters who dislike the conservative white image of the DA but don’t want to vote ANC, the DA will probably lose votes to RM, due to the DA making these unforced errors.”

Britten said the country’s second-largest party should be “focusing attention on its good track record and ability to run a province.

“The DA gets drawn into the kind of identity politics where it will always be on the back foot,” she said.

“Now we are seeing references to swart gevaar [black danger] and wit gevaar [white danger], an insult to voters.

“We need people who can run a country and deliver decent services to citizens, not more mudslinging on social media,” added Britten.