Avishkar Govender
Avishkar Govender

Woza 2014 :-)

German Studies Association October 9 1993: “Although I do not subscribe to what Fukuyama called the end of history and the ultimate triumph of liberalism, my guess is that a new political agenda of post-cold-war politics and post-social-democratic politics causes a great deal of general liberal concern, which could feed a liberal party. Liberal politics could emphasise a new economic approach for both the small industry and business, which are the most innovative and sensitive to environmental concerns. Liberal politics could harbour the claim for national autonomy and decentralisation of the political and social system. Liberal politics could underscore the role of civil liberties in an era of potential government and business encroachment upon the individual. Liberal politics could make a major contribution to the current discourse, which is about democratic constitutionalism and civil society, civic virtues and social and economic interests. The liberal party that takes its liberal commitment seriously is, I think, bound to survive.” Hans Vorlander

Sunday Times December 5 1993: “The new South Africa requires a fundamental shift from the politics of victimology which are currently being ventilated, often ruinously, in South Africa. The sort of slogan which says, with whatever justification: ‘I have been discriminated against and you owe me.’ That will not achieve any form of lasting liberation.” Tony Leon

The Star June 15 1994: “Why did a party whose ideas have triumphed, whose whole history has been vindicated, fare so badly in the election? The DP had plenty of campaign funds and more overt press support than any other participant yet its performance was far worse than anyone expected.” Allister Sparks

The Sunday Independent May 26 1996: “Just before World War Two, the very concept of non-racial liberalism was unthinkable. Alan Paton’s Liberal Party, with a franchise policy in the mid-1950s that was adopted 40 years later, was regarded by nearly all whites as a haven for dangerous madmen. The rather less liberal Progressive Party of the early 1960s, with its quaint idea of a qualified franchise, was hardly less threatening to nervous whites.” David Williams

Finance Week June 18 1999: “Contesting its first election without press endorsement, the former Progs’ ‘fight back’ campaign, which attracted 1.5 million votes, succeeded in breaking the NNP’s dominance, of at least the white vote.” Paul Pereira

Democratic Alliance 2003: “The then newly formed Democratic Alliance won more than 20% of the popular vote in the local government elections of 2000, that is that almost 2 million South Africans voted for a constructive opposition which provides viable alternatives to the hegemony of the ANC. Results in by-elections from then to now indicate that the 2004 election will see the DA win 3 million votes in the national poll, despite the defection of the NNP to the ANC, because South Africans feel that they deserve better governance than that provided by the ANC.”

SAIRR to Democratic Alliance 2004: “One of the tasks opposition parties face is to strengthen Parliament itself. They need to be particularly vigilant about this when the distinction between party and state becomes blurred, the danger being that Parliament becomes a rubber stamp for decisions taken elsewhere. We get told of course that the ruling party is a very broad church, but no amount of debate behind closed doors is a substitute for public debate in parliament itself.” John Kane Berman

Election results 2006 (ward ballots): “ANC 6 093 605 votes (64.38%); DA 1 547 643 votes (16.35%); IFP 655 037 votes (6.92%); ID 202 407 votes (2.14%); ACDP 119 808 votes (1.27%); PAC 105 213 votes (1.11%); UDM 96 236 votes (1.02%); FF+ 90  746 votes (0.96%)” Independent Electoral Commission

Election results 2009 (national ballots): “ANC 11 650 748 votes (65.90 %); DA 2 945 829 votes (16.66 %); Cope: 1 311 027 votes (7.42 %); IFP: 804  260 votes (4.55 %); ID 162 915 votes (0.92 %); other parties 805 950 votes (4.56 %)” Independent Electoral Commission

One wonders whether the Official Liberal Party of South Africa (aka The DA, the sole South African member party of Liberal International) considers the last 20 years well spent given that the monumental increase of near 100% growth in just 3 years between 2003 and 2006 (after 10 years of inertia) is largely attributable to the individual personality and profile of Her Worship now Madame Premier Helen Zille.

Apart from the bitter liberal-conservative squabbles between 1989 and 1993, the odd repositioning between 1994 and 1999, the rollercoaster ride during the Thabo & Tony years between 1999 and 2004 and the new enlightenment of the Zuma vs Zille showdown between 2004 and 2009, the DA has been a largely underrated political force, and having played its trump cards at Codesa 1 and 2; having fought back during the final constitutional processes between 1992 and 1996 and having recast its image-profile no less than eight times between 1989 and 2009 (whereas the ANC has done so just twice, in the same period) the DA has returned to Parliament with a new mandate to serve as the official opposition, a perch it has already held tenaciously for the last decade.

However a brief stroll through the DA’s 2009 election manifesto reveals a rather conservative party desperate to cast itself as the only alternative to the ANC. Over the last five years the DA has made concession after concession on fundamental liberal principles and this election spiel was no different.

Indeed we were treated to a full-blown “Een Taal, Een Nasie, Een Volkstad, Een Toekoms” exorcism of Ou-Maties long since dead against the background of a leader-driven campaign that would have had us believe that Zille and All Her Children would save South Africa from disaster and stop Zuma from wielding a two-thirds Constitution-changing majority.

Now, I am a devout informal trader, I fully support the right of the “little guy” to claim his or her vending space in an open, competitive, opportunity-laden market and as such when the DA says it will take on the ANC’s oligopoly, I naturally think that that can only be good for the quality of competition and the levels of productivity in the political industry.

However the “Stem en Wen” con job and the “Stop Zuma” effort were cracker-tacky in the extreme and have revealed an inner weakness of the DA’s thinking, which seems to ignorantly hold that DA voters will lap up whatever the party dishes out because they have nowhere else to go.

Indeed the DA’s own success has created the conditions wherein the IFP issues DA-cloned “two-horse race” pamphlets, wherein Cope lip-synchs the DA’s ideological broadstrokes, wherein everyone else tries to pilfer the DA’s goodwill and wherein further seat allocations in the run-up to 2011 will mean that more unseated would-be politicians go looking elsewhere for almost-DA-parties, thus destroying any sort of non-ideological monopoly the DA could have held over its party faithful.

As to why the DA and ID have yet again failed to unite their parties is beyond me, and given the votes cast for the election of the president on May 6 in the National Assembly, I’m going to say that the DA has failed in its bid to coalesce 100 MPs into a new multiparty coalition, given that JZ’s 277 + Cope’s 30 + the DA’s 67 abstentions leave only 27 other MPs, yielding at most a group of 94 DA and almost-DA MPs, with which to build a united anti-ANC voice.

I assert that it’s not the parties which cannot agree, that it’s not the MPs who cannot see eye to eye and that it’s not the prospect of ANC patronage which has thwarted the DA’s bid to organise the non-ANC politicians in South Africa but rather that the method in which the DA seeks to build coalitions or co-operation pacts is wholly flawed and indeed subsumed in an almost schoolyard SRC logic, which says we must hold power and our partners must be content with the crumbs.

And the 277 votes out of 400, which JZ polled on May 6, is 69.25% of the vote in the National Assembly, so much for the whole “Stop Zuma” DA Camplain; it seems the ANC will be able to amend the Constitution on non-controversial matters with some ease and a little elbow grease.

As to whether the DA’s electioneering from 2001 to now has been money well spent is a question that can only be answered when looking at the net cost per vote. Once you remove the effects of inflation, it is clear that the net cost per vote was lower between 1989 and 1999 than it was between 1999 and 2009 despite the number of votes having increased in the latter period in comparison to the former period, which should, together with improvements in technology, lower production costs and increased volunteer labour, have yielded a lower net cost per vote in the latter period.

And so in all sincerity and with great benevolence I enumerate six key things that the DA must now follow in order to return to its intended growth path so as to capture 6 million votes in 2011 and 9 million votes in 2014.

  1. Stop changing the identity, image, brand, iconography, structure and message set of the party every 3 years, rather spend more time explaining and decoding the existing message(s) for the people.
  2. Stop trying to enforce the future leadership succession of the party into every two-bit media and publicity stunt. If ambitious leaders have real support they will succeed without indoctrinating the members or abusing executive office.
  3. Stop denying the liberal nature of the DA and the DA’s stated policies and principles as all that is doing is allowing the other parties in SA (including the ANC) to selectively crib off the DA’s song-sheet without taking the heat for touting liberalism.
  4. Start ensuring that the people who represent the DA are able to critique government (as opposed to ANC) policy and performance in an incisive and cogent manner. The DA is in the running to provide governance for South Africa not to take over the running of the ANC. The ANC has been allowed to define the DA for too long and this must stop.
  5. Start inviting every one of the democratic, moderate, almost liberal, liberal and libertarian parties on the list of between 26 and 30 contesting parties to wind down their parties like the DP and FA have done, to take their parties into the DA, to secure DA membership for all of their members and to hereinafter conduct all of their political work through the DA. Start with those parties which are unrepresented.
  6. Start being that alternate government, not just in the Western Cape but everywhere as there are too many instances of bad policies, bad pieces of legislation and bad political ideas, which the DA may have objected to but to which the people had no tangible alternative. The restructuring of higher education is just one such example where none of the parties have anything cogent to offer.

In any event, I’m sure we are all in for an entertaining parliamentary term, well that is until the ANC’s next succession battle starts. One wonders whether aping the very people you disparage is any sort of way to endear your supporters to your cause.