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DA’s “Stop Zuma” 2009 election campaign; a telling reprise – Van Onselen

CAPE TOWN — The epitaph of comedian Spike Milligan, creator of the famous BBC Goon Show, reads “I told you I was ill.” Only, in this impeccably-researched, “we told you so,” piece by IRR politics chief Gareth van Onselen, the opposite pertains. Much as the mainstream media would love to have been right in its death-by-negative campaigning prediction for the DA, the opposite has proved true. Remember the DA’s “Zuma must go,” 2009 election posters? Well nearly all of the DA’s excoriating critics at the time jumped on that very large bandwagon eight years later. Accused of racism and personalising a negative election campaign, the DA’s publicly expressed fears all proved true as the Zuptoids stole the country blind. The portents of things to come were all there in 2009. Who can forget the NPA flip-flopping on Zuma’s prosecution, eventually dropping charges two weeks before the election in seeming total disregard of a telling High Court ruling? This article is pause for re-assessment of a popular and dominant anti-DA media discourse. Van Onselen says the DA rarely gets any moral credit for its positions because the press obsesses about personality, tone and style, as opposed to morality, reason and argument. This article first appeared on the Inside-Politics website. – Chris Bateman

By Gareth van Onselen*

Background

On 10 February 2009, President Kgalema Motlanthe declared that the 2009 national and provincial elections would be held on 22 April. The DA launched its official campaign soon afterwards and, central to it, was were two messages, carried on thousands on posters and pamphlets, “Vote to Win” and “One Nation, One Future”. For two months it ran a largely positive campaign on the back of this – as well as its refashioned brand as “a party of government” – but, in the background, there was an altogether different and significant drama playing out.

The ANC’s presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, had a wide range of very serious corruption charges hanging over his head. His henchmen had, for well over a year, done much to destroy the integrity of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and its case against Zuma, which, through the likes of Julius Malema, had been defamed as politically driven and without merit.

All this would culminate in a judgement handed down by Chris Nicholson on 12 September 2008, in which he found the NPA’s case against Zuma invalid on procedural grounds. The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned that judgement on 12 January 2009, which left the NPA seemingly in a quandary – whether to pursue its original charges against Zuma or not. Infamously, on 6 April 2009 – with just two weeks to go until the election – it dropped all charges against Zuma. It was a decision that, after a decade long legal battle led by the Democratic Alliance, has now been found to have been without merit.

The NPA’s decision changed everything. The prospect of Zuma facing the charges against him in court evaporated overnight. His path to the presidency now stretched out before him without any obstacle. The DA had, from the moment Zuma was elected ANC president at Polokwane in 2007, warned against him as a serious threat. But its faith in the justice system, as the ultimate check on the demagogic fever that had the alliance in its grip, had not manifested in any prosecution, as least to date. Zuma now loomed large and a Zuma presidency seemed unavoidable.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The DA went to battle. First it announced a court action to take the NPA’s decision on review. Second, on 13 April then-party leader Helen Zille put up the first ‘Stop Zuma’ poster, supplemented by an online campaign and petition for the public to protest Zuma’s presidential bid. Central to the party’s rationale was arresting any possibility the ANC might have had, of obtaining a two-thirds majority and, with that, the ability unilaterally to change the constitution.

Zille said at the time, “When we look back ten years from now, we must be able to say that we stopped ANC cronyism and corruption before it was too late. We must say that we stopped Zuma from getting the two-thirds majority he needed to change the Constitution.”

For the next two weeks, Zille would relentlessly drive this message, much to the consternation of the press. In truth though, the only thing that differed really, was the poster. Zille had delivered the same message throughout the election. On 11 March, for example, she had said: “Two-thirds is too much, it allows the ANC to change the Constitution unilaterally. And you can be sure that the ANC will change the Constitution to get Jacob Zuma off the hook.”

(Zuma using a two-thirds majority “to get off the hook” was supplemented by another DA fear – that the ANC might use a two-thirds majority to adopt an ANC draft amendment bill which sought to reduce municipalities to administrative arms of the central government.)

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Insignia of the ruling African National Congress (ANC)

On 15 April, Zille said, “Under Zuma, the ANC is going to get even more corrupt, because the party follows the example of its leader.”

On 18 April she would say of the prospect of a failed state under Zuma, “The DA is the only party that can prevent the same thing happening in South Africa. Only the DA is big enough – and strong enough – to stop Zuma from taking us down the path of cronyism, corruption and criminalisation. Only the DA will prevent Jacob Zuma and the ANC from turning South Africa into a failed state.”

She argued, “In ten years-time, when people look back, everyone will know that the DA was telling the truth from the start” and that the ANC’s “closed, crony society for comrades” was, “about making a few people rich and everyone else poor. It’s about jobs for pals and deals for political contacts. That is what has caused the failed state in many other countries on our continent.”

The DA’s campaign stood out for its conviction in an environment that, despite so much evidence of Zuma’s unsuitability for office, remained marked by a kind of concerned optimism – one that held, ultimately, everything would be alright. In an editorial on the eve of the election, typical of this kind of fence-sitting, the Mail & Guardian declared, “The M&G endorses … you”, elaborating that, “The M&G is not endorsing any party this election year. What we are endorsing is a victory of active choice over submission to the working out of political identities frozen in place after 1994.”

The election saw the DA increase its national percentage of the vote from 12.37% in 2004, to 16.66%. Significantly, it also saw the party win the Western Cape outright by a whisker, with 51.46% (up from 27.11% in 2004). It had, to quote the subsequent Cape Times front page lead, “routed” the ANC in the province. The ANC came in with 65.9% nationally, down from 69.69% in 2004, and missed out on a two-thirds majority by a hair’s breadth.

Afterwards, Zille would write in her weekly newsletter that, “The fact that the ANC failed to get its two-thirds majority is a direct result of the DA’s drive to ‘Stop Zuma’.”

I asked the DA’s then-campaign manager and party strategist, Ryan Coetzee, who devised the message, for some reflections on the ‘Stop Zuma’ poster and its role in the election. He said, “The primary purpose of the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters, a relatively small part of a far larger campaign, was to help drive up voter turnout among the DA’s core supporters in the final weeks. To do this, you need a credible and real threat, which Zuma undoubtedly represented. The decision worked extremely well, as is evidenced by the DA’s close victory in the Western Cape. It was probably the difference between the DA winning and losing that province. It was also true. The best messages always are.”

The media’s response

The media’s response to the ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign was almost entirely hostile. In fact, an examination of some 350 newspaper stories over the period 13 – 22 April reveals not a single endorsement. One possible exception to this is the Afrikaans press, the same search turned nothing up on that front but it is generally more generous towards the DA.

The criticisms in the English press – the majority of which are set out below – can be broadly divided into three categories: those that argued the campaign amounted to fearmongering (that it evoked the party’s, perceived as racist, 1999 ‘Fight Back’ strategy); that it was strategically unsound (by shifting the DA’s campaign from generally positive, to negative and thereby alienated those ANC voters who might consider voting DA); and that it unfairly personalised the election campaign (by targeting one man, at the expense of the ANC and other important policy considerations).

File Photo: Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg News

With regards the first category, Karima Brown argued the campaign amounted to “Zumaphobia” designed to “whip up minority fears about an ANC victory”, these were “scare tactics” and a futile attempt to turn the election into “some kind of moral referendum on issues of leadership”. Blogger 6K argued that, “Zille’s scaremongering tactics dragging the country’s name further through the mud.”

Steven Friedman suggested the posters were evidence of the fact the DA had “some kind of cultural problem” with Zuma; Charlene Smith argued that the posters were “encouraging people not to vote with their heads, but with emotion – against Zuma” and that this was “precisely the sort of position that’s got us into all this trouble”; Christine Qunta described the posters as “The swart gevaar moment of the 2009 campaign” and Siphamandla Zondi, said the decision meant the DA’s offer was, “turning into a swart gevaar campaign”.

Peter Bruce said, “I find the DA’s last-stretch ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign theme so disturbing I cannot even write about it”. He asked, “Is it ‘Stop Corruption. Stop Zuma’ or ‘Stop the Blacks. Stop Zuma’?”, before suggesting most people would interpret it as meaning the latter. John Maytham described himself as “revolted” by the campaign.

Regards the second category, Friedman described the campaign as a “strategic mistake by the DA”; Bruce as a “major blunder” and Zapiro as a “terrible mistake”; Marius Redelinghuys argued that Zille was, “becoming negative and confrontational. And instead of constructive engagement, Zille allowed this to cloud her paranoia about ANC President Jacob Zuma”. S’Thembiso Msomi argued that, “it is highly unlikely, however, that her goal [to grow among black voters] will be achieved with campaign messages such as ‘Stop Zuma’”. Raenette Taljaard said that the DA had ultimately, “degenerated into negative campaigning with the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters invoking memories of the party’s much-condemned ‘Fight Back’ campaign”.

But there were other strategic concerns raised. Sandile Memela argued that, “it does not help to be anti- Zuma” and a Business Day editorial argued the DA had been distracted by Zuma and the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters, “indicated just how effective the ANC strategy has been”.

Finally, with regards the third category, in an editorial, The Herald said it was, “not entirely comfortable with the wisdom of demonising Zuma as an election ploy” and argued that, “it is doubtful whether it is correct to single out a specific individual in this way even though he is currently the face of the ANC”. Patrick Cull described the posters as “personalising the campaign” and Siphamandla Zondi, writing after the election, that, “The ‘Stop Zuma’ slogan during the 2009 national polls… backfired because [it] over personalised the DA campaign by focusing on prejudice about Jacob Zuma.”

Why the media was wrong

What is remarkable about all of these criticisms is the sentiments projected onto their ostensible objectivity. Negative campaigning is a risk, but a perfectly legitimate election tactic, never more so that when there is a real moral threat about which a party can only ever take a firm moral position. Zuma was undoubtedly such threat and yet, for all the careful and detailed reasoning Zille gave in support of her party’s position, it was dismissed out of hand as inherently problematic. As it came to pass, almost everything she warned about came true, to the great detriment of South African democracy.

“Negative” – as evidenced by the accompanying criticism, that the campaigning harked back to the ‘Fight Back’ campaign (actually, a massively successful strategy that decimated the NP and established the DP as the official opposition) – was really a euphemism for “racist”. Any position on Zuma, as an individual, was really a comment on black people generally, the implicit argument went.

To argue the campaign was a strategic error was doubly misguided. The final weeks of any campaign, as Coetzee alludes to, is about getting out the vote. There are a few ways of doing that. A party can emphasise the fact that the prospect of winning is close but uncertain, and “every vote counts”; another is to describe the consequences of not voting. In the case of Zuma – a Zuma presidency and everything that represented. The DA did both. And both were credible. Thus, the DA was able to both win the Western Cape and bring the ANC below 66%, and the fact that they were only just able to do that, speaks to how close things really were and how important it was the party maximised turnout amongst its base.

The ANC Has Lost Its Way. More of Zapiro’s magic available at www.zapiro.com.

As for “personalising” the campaign, no one in the DA would dispute that. Just as no one would now dispute the damage one person can do to democracy and the office of the president. The DA’s emphasis was in direct proportion to the threat. And that threat, as Zille was at pains to point out, was not just to constitutionalism and competence, but the by-products of such things: “When these institutions [the judiciary, the fourth estate, the justice system] the fail, the economy fails. When the economy fails, the poorest suffer.”

But, of course, the ultimate mistake on the media’s part was a simple failure to understand just what a real and damaging prospect Zuma was, blinkered by their hostility to where that message was coming from. Many had their reservations about Zuma, but few were categorical in this regard. Knowing what we know now, anyone with some knowledge of what was to come, would in 2009 have supported the DA’s ‘Stop Zuma’ posters with vigour and enthusiasm, morally and strategically. Indeed, ‘Stop Zuma’ would become something of a South African mantra in the years to come – most famously in the form of the ‘Zuma must Fall’ movement – which united civil society, the fourth estate, the alliance, the opposition and even elements of the ANC behind it.

In turn, almost all of those critics cited below – including the political opposition – became, with time, the biggest advocates of any cause and argument that could be used to rid South Africa of Zuma.

The ‘Stop Zuma’ posters undoubtedly served their purpose, and successfully too, as a tactic and moral position. But the DA, as the originators of this message, got little credit for it, then and in the future, as the likes of the EFF, the unions and ANC-old school figures eventually found their moral conscience and captured the media’s imagination as they did so. The DA rarely gets any moral credit for its positions because the South African press obsesses about personality, tone and style, as opposed to morality, reason and argument. It came at a great, great cost in 2009 but, as you watch the way the media treats the DA even today, you wonder if has learnt anything. Style, tone and all the racial sensitivities that are often unfairly projected onto such things by the commentariat, continue to dominate its analysis of the DA and the choices it makes.

2009 DA Stop Zuma Archive

“…the DA’s clearly confrontational campaign is indicative of a number of attributes of the party. First, it is in line with Siphamandla Zondi’s claim that the urgency to gain power at the ANC’s expense turned Helen Zille – and by extension the DA – into a Leon-style politician with her becoming negative and confrontational. And instead of constructive engagement, Zille allowed this to cloud her paranoia about ANC President Jacob Zuma, the ruling party and the government. This has become too prominent a feature of her public persona. Zondi further argues that ‘holding the ruling party to account is one thing; demonising the country is counter-productive’ and that ‘the determination to defend the DA’s current powerbase is turning into a swart gevaar campaign’.” – Marius Redelinghuys, Thought Leader, The DA’s stop Zuma and size-matters campaign, 14 April 2009

“Clearly Helen Zille and her DA have already thrown in the towel, and shoved aside their entire manifesto, with the unveiling of a poster, ‘Stop Zuma’. This shows that the opposition is now scraping the bottom of the barrel to try and prevent an overwhelming victory for the ANC. Ironically, it is such messages that are galvanizing our people ever more towards a convincing ANC electoral victory come 22 April.” – SACP, Umsebenzi, Let’s keep our eyes on the ball: Vote ANC to consolidate and deepen the national democratic revolution!, 15 April 2009

“But for the DA to become the real political alternative to the ANC, it needs to exponentially grow its support base among black voters. Otherwise slogans such as ‘Vote to Win’ will forever sound hollow. It is highly unlikely, however, that her goal will be achieved with campaign messages such as ‘Stop Zuma’ and ‘Fight Back’.” – S’Thembiso Msomi, The Times, Zille campaign wide off the mark, 15 April 2009

“We are not entirely comfortable with the wisdom of demonising Zuma as an election ploy – irrespective of whether the DA believes he will seek to amend the constitution. It is doubtful whether it is correct to single out a specific individual in this way even though he is currently the face of the ANC. In any event, it will not be Zuma who amends the constitution but his party which will have been elected by the majority of the people next Wednesday in a free and fair poll monitored by international observers.” – Editorial, The Herald, ‘Stop Zuma’ ploy may backfire, 16 April 2009

Allan Boesak (1986)

“Cope Western Cape premier-candidate Allan Boesak has criticised the DA’s recently-launched ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign, saying it ‘reeks of swart gevaar tactics’. The Democratic Alliance was playing the man and not the policy in an effort to mobilise its support base among affluent South Africans, he said in a statement on Wednesday. ‘Opposition politics should be about policy, about what the party you vote for will deliver either as an effective opposition, or as a government for the people, by the people. Cheap rhetoric that smacks of racist undertones, playing the man and not the policy; welcome to the world of the DA, a party infused with apartheid-style politics which has no place in our country.’” – South African Press Association, Boesak slams DA’s ‘Stop Zuma’, 16 April 2009

“The DA is Still seen as a predominantly white party by some sections of the population. The ‘Stop Zuma’ slogan could remind people of the ‘Fight Back’ slogan they used before, which many people interpreted as having racial connotations.” – Human Sciences Research Council Executive Director Kwandiwe Kondlo, Sowetan, Where are ‘Stop Zuma’ posters? 17 April 2009

“[The posters were a] strategic mistake by the DA.”

“The posters indicate that they are worried about one individual because they have some kind of cultural problem with him. It is a setback for them because they have made an attempt to profile their black members and not be entirely critical of affirmative action during this campaign.” – Political analyst Steven Friedman, Sowetan, Where are ‘Stop Zuma posters? 17 April 2009

“And after the announcement came, the DA, which had run a positive campaign with the message ‘Vote to Win’, reverted to scare tactics. It took a new slogan to voters ‘Stop Zuma’. The ANC and COPE immediately dubbed the DA’s message backward and racist. COPE’s Western Cape premier candidate Allan Boesak said the slogan was akin to , the DA’s 1999 slogan ‘fight back’, which had been understood by many as ‘fight black’. The ANC slammed Zille as a racist, predicting her new slogan would backfire.” – Karima Brown and Amy Musgrave, The Weekender, Parties pull out all the stops, 18 April 2009

“The DA has already gone into overdrive mobilisation mode with a last minute ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign, reminiscent of the 1999 ‘Fight Back’ message that helped it over the crucial 10 percent threshold.” – Christelle Terreblanche, Sunday Independent, A revolution in SA’s opposition politics, 19 April 2009

“I find the DA’s last-stretch ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign theme so disturbing I cannot even write about it. Is it “Stop Corruption. Stop Zuma” or “Stop the Blacks. Stop Zuma”? It is still too early in Helen Zille’s transformation of the DA for this party, in particular, to assume we will all assume the former. I suspect a major blunder.” – Peter Bruce, Business Day, The Thick End of the Wedge, 20 April 2009

 

The decision to drop the charges against him prompted heated debate while the DA maintained the temperature by personalising the campaign with a last-gasp poster proclaiming, ‘Stop Zuma’. The result has been that the issue for many voters will not be whether the ANC has the best policies on land or health, for example, or whether the DA or PAC’s plans to revamp education are superior to others, but on whether Zuma should be president. That is sad.” – Patrick Cull, The Herald, Has been scant debate on party policy positions ahead of election, 20 April 2009

“Stop Zuma? Impossible, my dear. Yet that’s seemingly been the sole aim of Helen Zille and the Democratic Alliance over the past, final week of campaigning before the election. And it’s a tactic which has drawn criticism from many quarters for its negativity and single-minded determination to go after JZ, while there are plenty of other major issues and challenges which need addressing in this election. Sadly, it’s also a campaign which, as the international community sits up and takes notice in the run up to the election, has been reported around the world, with Zille’s scaremongering tactics dragging the country’s name further through the mud. See the New York Times’ report and the BBC’s South Africa ‘doomed under Zuma’. The latter is worth a look if only for the picture of Zille’s cabaret act – the article itself makes depressing reading. This evening on the way home from a hard day’s science, I listened into John Maytham’s show on 567 Cape Talk. Maytham described himself as ‘revolted’ by the Stop Zuma campaign and stated that he had been put off voting for the DA. Then, in a shock move for me, I found myself agreeing with Maytham’s guest Jonathan Shapiro – the cartoonist otherwise known as Zapiro. But what surprised me more was that Shapiro, who was apparently previously an ANC voter but who will not be voting for them this time because of Zuma’s reputation, was also disgusted by the DA’s recent campaign, describing it as a ‘terrible mistake’. Strong words indeed from a man who has himself been accused of harbouring a vendetta against Msholozi. While he said he was still undecided about who he was going to vote for, the DA had joined the ANC on his list of ‘definitely nots’. I don’t understand why the DA has suddenly taken this route. They are absolutely capable of winning the Western Cape in this next election, which was their stated aim. But whatever strategist persuaded them that moving away from campaigning on any other issue and concentrating on the futile task of ‘stopping’ Jacob Zuma – whatever that means, anyway – has done them a great disservice. As far as I can see, having spoken to people, read newspapers and checked in on the local media, this negative campaigning has turned the voters away from the DA, Maytham and Shapiro being the latest examples of this phenomenon. If they had nothing to fight for, that wouldn’t be a big issue, but with the Western Cape as tight as it is, I can’t help but wonder – have Zille and the DA shot themselves in their collective feet by solely (no pun intended) going after Zuma?” – 6K, 6000 miles from civilisation, Stop Zuma, 20 April 2009

“I find myself two days before the elections not knowing who to vote for. After what the ANC (African National Congress) did to the Scorpions, I wouldn’t endorse them. And I don’t like how the DA (Democratic Alliance) has ended their campaign with ‘Stop Zuma’.” – Business Day Editor Peter Bruce, Business Day, Editor’s indecision is final, 21 April 2009

“The attempt by opposition parties to turn tomorrow’s election into some kind of moral referendum on issues of leadership has failed to resonate with the majority of voters… This attempt has gone pear-shaped because the issues driving these elections are not about esoteric questions. That is not to say that political morality is not a serious issue. But South Africans are far more preoccupied about every- day worries. Millions don’t have jobs, or enough to eat, or clean water, or a roof over their heads, or access to quality education and safe neighbourhoods and quality healthcare… The DA’s ‘Stop Zuma’ posters have been short-sighted and will most likely result in alienating those few black voters whom Helen Zille had hoped would vote ‘with their hearts and not their hearts’, to borrow from her lexicon. Bad tidings for a party that says it is committed to position itself as a post-racial entity.” – Karima Brown, Business Day, Knives of moral outrage bound to fail against ANC big guns, 21 April 2009

Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader Julius Malema

“The ruling party has succeeded in setting the agenda of this campaign. Being able to portray Zuma as the victim of a conspiracy, and that the only way to thwart this outrage was to vote ANC, has suited it down to the ground. ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s boast that his outrageous stunts were intended to distract attention from Zuma is itself a red herring- it was Zuma who was in fact the decoy who drew all the opposition fire. The Democratic Alliance’s decision late in its campaign to concentrate on hanging posters urging voters to ‘Stop Zuma’ indicates just how effective the ANC strategy has been.” – Editorial, Business Day, One-man show, 21 April 2009

“The DA’s campaign started off relatively well and early, with the launch of a new party logo and image and efforts to reclaim the rainbow nation theme of the Mandela-era that was squandered so badly by the Mbeki administration. Unfortunately, subsequent posters including ‘Stem en Wen’ appeared more regionally myopic and ultimately degenerated into negative campaigning with the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters invoking memories of the party’s much-condemned ‘Fight Back’ campaign.” – Raenette Taljaard, The Times, An imperfect choice awaits, 21 April 2009

“The DA’s ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign has me (a historical DA supporter) concerned – so much so that I was compelled to agree with 6K, which is rare on matters political. The DA probably has the best pollsters and analysts of all the SA parties, but they got this one wrong. I’m convinced that it will be a vote-loser. As “Dismayed” comments at 6000 miles… (linked above), it will only appeal to a small set of current DA voters, and perhaps turn a few current DA voters off too. Helen Zille has done a great job of undermining the negative perceptions of the DA under Leon, particularly the perception that they were all about being ‘anti’, rather than building their own profile as a party fit to govern. The campaign (until ‘stop JZ’) was great, as it did exactly that – far less carping about what others were doing wrong, and far more trumping of the DA’s virtues as a party ready to lead. ‘Stop JZ’ is uncomfortably reminiscent of the ‘Fight back’ campaign, easily caricatured as ‘Fight Black’. The undecideds who were thinking that maybe the DA is no longer a ‘white’ party, and that perhaps it’s time to give them a chance, have now been given a firm shove away from voting DA. To be clear: I do think Zuma should be “stopped”. Not necessarily stopped from being President, but stopped from riding roughshod over the rule of law, and stopped from undermining some of the values people have fought so hard for in SA’s short democratic history. But our best chance of stopping him – and cynical populist rabble-rousers like Malema – is to create a genuine democracy in this country, where it’s feasible that someone other than the ANC can win an election. The only power the voter has is that parties and leaders feel that they can be (and are being) held to account for their actions, and for as long as the ANC is guaranteed election wins, that’s not going to happen here. To make that happen, we need to strengthen the opposition, and the opposition is not strengthened by confirming the prejudiced view of the majority of the population: that the DA is a shrill, reactionary – and white – party. I do not believe that the DA fits this prejudice, but can certainly understand why some people believe it. The average voter makes their cross based on these perceptions and prejudices, not necessarily on a careful weighing of options. We simply don’t have the maturity to be that kind of democracy, and nor do most of our population have the educations that those sorts of choices presume. It comes as a great surprise to me, but I can’t say with any confidence that I’ll be voting DA tomorrow. – Jacques Rousseau, Synapses, SA Elections: The DA’s “Stop Zuma” campaign, 21 April 2009

“In my casual observation and study of people who support and follow the ANC I have discovered that there are very few who are willing to consider what the leaders of the opposition have to say about him. As far as these supporters are concerned, the opposition has no agenda except to try to ‘Stop Zuma’ from taking up his rightful position as President of the country. Unfortunately, not enough analysts and experts have stood on the rooftops to shout this obvious truth (which was displayed at the Coca-Cola Stadium in Johannesburg last Sunday): that it does not help to be anti- Zuma.” – Sandile Memela, Daily Dispatch, Analysts missed the obvious, 23 April 2009

“I hated those tacky DA posters encouraging people not to vote with their heads, but with emotion – against Zuma. And that’s precisely the sort of position that’s got us into all this trouble anyhow.” – Charlene Smith, Saturday Star, The dry white season of SA politics, 25 April 2009

“Appealing to voters also isn’t rocket science. Simply find the lowest common denominator and cancel out everything else”. More cartoon work available at jerm.co.za.

“The DA’s professed post-racial view of itself was once again exposed as mere window-dressing when it used Zumaphobia – seen by many as a ‘swart gevaar’ ruse – to whip up minority fears about an ANC victory. The DA will have to accept that it is going to take more than learning how to toyi-toyi in the townships to get the majority of South Africans away from the ANC. Nor will patronising attitudes, which say black people who vote for the ANC are somehow irrational, help draw sufficient attention to the serious shortcomings in the ruling party that people can be persuaded to vote differently.” – Karima Brown, Business Day, Nation-building vital after consolidation of racial voting blocs, 28 April 2009

“In these elections, every time Zille talked about the ANC, she used the words corrupt and incompetent. The swart gevaar moment of the 2009 campaign was the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters. Most DA members, including Zille, were beneficiaries of the apartheid system, which was declared a crime against humanity by the UN. One of apartheid’s legacies was entrenched notions of racial superiority and inferiority. These still prevail.” – Christine Qunta, Pretoria News, Notions of racial superiority still entrenched in our society, 20 May 2009

“But what message does the DA have for poor South Africans struggling to make ends meet? Those who worry about food, housing, health, unemployment and education? That it will continue to expose corruption? I might have missed it, but I didn’t see a DA poster that read ‘Stop hunger! Stop poverty!’ alongside the ‘Stop Zuma’ posters that went up just ahead of the elections.” – Rapule Tabane, Mail & Guardian, Bring the love back to our politics, 18 June 2009

“The ‘Stop Zuma’ slogan during the 2009 national polls… backfired because [it] over personalised the DA campaign by focusing on prejudice about Jacob Zuma.” – Siphamandla Zondi, The Witness, Negative campaigns, 10 May 2011

  • Gareth van Onselen (@GvanOnselen) is the head of Politics and Governance at the South African Institute for Race Relations and the Editor of Inside Politics (@insidepols)
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