Love it or hate it, you have to admit that the DA is in meltdown. Over the weekend, the party elected Helen Zille – a controversial figure – as chair, sending what some see as a signal it plans to respond to its electoral troubles with a shift to the right, perhaps hoping to win back the voters it lost to the FF+. The DA also seems poised to end its problematic electoral deals with the EFF.
In response to these moves, Herman Mashaba, one of the DA’s most senior black politicians and the mayor of Johannesburg, said he’ll be quitting the party and his job. It also looks like Mmusi Maimane will face a leadership challenge at the party’s upcoming national conference. This bodes ill for the DA’s chances of expanding its appeal beyond its traditional base of white liberals. Indeed, the DA could easily end up fielding a mostly white slate of top candidates come election time in 15 months. If that happens, we can safely conclude that the DA will never be more than a small opposition party.
So, bottom line: the DA is failing in its bid to build a large base of support to challenge the ANC. The EFF is growing fast but still lacks scale. All the other parties are small and unlikely to get bigger. Which means that the future looks much like the past – the ANC will dominate in the absence of a meaningful alternative. This gives Ramaphosa breathing room – but may not be great for our democracy.