The DA move to dissolve parliament and force an early election smacks of desperation. It has no chance of succeeding.
It is a tactical miscalculation after the motion of no-confidence that ended in President Jacob Zuma keeping his position, but exposing cracks in the ANC.
The move by the opposition to put up a united front alongside civil society, business, labour, ANC veterans and current leaders opened up the possibility of a different kind of politics – one in which the interests of South Africans are set above petty party politics.
This contrasted starkly with the position of the ANC, which was exposed for choosing Zuma and its own survival over the country and its citizens.
Then came Mmusi Maimane’s announcement that it was time for parliament to dissolve and for an early election to be called. This, in effect, unravelled opposition party efforts to get rid of Zuma, whether the motive was altruistic or not. It gave credence to the ANC perspective that the opposition was trying to unseat the democratically elected government of the day through a coup, an argument bereft of any constitutional or democratic respect and understanding.
The DA has realised that it only has a small window of opportunity and waiting for the next general election in 2019 might give the ANC too much time to change perceptions, especially with its elective conference coming up.
The opposition party wants Zuma gone, but it is concerned about what would happen if Cyril Ramaphosa were to become the new leader of the ANC. He is seen to be the darling of business and labour and his presidency would be far more credible than Zuma’s. Even an Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma presidency might present a threat to the DA’s electoral prospects.
Should Dlamini-Zuma win in December, the realignment of politics outside the DA’s control could take place quite rapidly with the South African Communist Party’s (SACP’s) intention to contest elections alone through a broad front.
The DA banked on winning the motion of no-confidence and the ANC being so divided that it would be unable to elect a new candidate. It should have had a Plan B and strategised accordingly to maximise the cracks exposed. Instead, it played into the ANC’s hands by announcing it would lodge a motion to push for an early election.
Maimane announced in May that the ANC was dead and the time for the realignment of politics was now – and he would do anything to make this happen, implying that this included dissolving the DA in its current form. But his and the party’s actions of late tell an entirely different story, one that shows a DA that lacks the imagination to change its stripes dramatically enough to win the hearts and minds of the majority of South Africans.
The DA’s growth in 2016 was marginal seen against its 2011 and 2014 performances, despite it winning three new metros through coalition and co-operation agreements with other opposition parties. Its support in 2011 stood at 22% and grew to 24.5% in 2016.
But instead of nurturing and building on the relationships it forged in 2016, the DA is quickly alienating its partners.
Maimane failed to consult the opposition parties, which have been meeting frequently, on his latest motion and has already lost their support in this regard.
The haste in announcing the DA’s next move has unravelled co-operation in the opposition, which took more than a year to build.
This was shortsighted, as the DA will clearly need its coalition partners if it wants to get near the premier’s office in Gauteng or the Union Buildings in 2019.
The DA should abandon this frivolous motion.