It was recently announced that DA leader Mmusi Maimane was considering standing for the premiership of the Western Cape – a decision that has since been revoked.
At the time, this relatively low-hanging provincial fruit did appear to be rather a strange goal. It begged the questions: Why would he do it? For his party or for himself, to ensure his nest remained feathered if the DA failed to make the intended inroads?
Does Maimane feel intimidated by Ramaphoria?
And then the about-turn. Which was just as well, since confirming the decision would have sent all sorts of unfortunate messages regarding the party’s self-confidence ahead of the 2019 general elections.
So what exactly is Maimane facing?
Like the 2016 local government elections that took place at the height of former president Zuma’s tentacular, vociferous, and insatiable rampage through the country’s public funds, the 2019 general elections will be a watershed moment.
They will take place on the back of revelations of the extent of criminal rot – a deadly cancer that has metastasized over the past 10 years, and most probably before – that would have emerged thanks to the Commission of Inquiry into state capture.
We’re still in the early stages of the commission’s sweet and sour revelatory trajectory, of course, but the information already seeping out shows us that the tentacles of state capture had enablers and defenders very strategically placed.
These were not only the usual suspects whose names have been bandied about in endless media reports in recent years.
For instance, many may have found it strange that Gwede Mantashe, former ANC Secretary General, never seemed to take seriously the reports alleged to have been taken to him by his own comrades – Mcebisi Jonas, Vytjie Mentor, Themba Maseko, Makhosi Khoza and others.
But who would have guessed that he, the charmer in media conferences, would have been part of a meeting that sought to intimidate Standard Bank, and probably others, from acting lawfully to stem the looting?
The alleged actions of the so-called Mosebenzi Zwane-led inter-ministerial committee and the summons by the head honchos at Luthuli House – none of which can be described as having been taken to safeguard the interests of the country – might have failed, but this shouldn’t stop us from wondering if Zuma and his many known friends were the only beneficiaries of the looting. And this is pure speculation, but what if some of the loot ended in party coffers?
Would Zuma have had this sort of thing in mind when he repeated his threat that he would not go down alone if attempts were made to bring him down?
We do not know any of this for sure, of course, but it’s hard not to ask big questions when a party whose brand was built through blood, sweat, tears – never mind actual lives – would risk so much reputational fortune in the defence of a high-level delinquent who easily took to threatening his own when faced with legal sanction.
We should hope that something pushes Zuma to the point where he snaps and tells all. At least that would give the country a clearer idea of what it’s dealing with.
SA needs alternatives
In the face of all of this, Maimane would be a coward – and the DA should get rid of him – if he were determined to drop his spear in submission when the opposition party he leads is preparing for an electoral battle of battles – for the sake of the country, to boot.
If he is not to be the man of the moment, the DA must find someone else to lead the charge.
The ANC has done what it could: the good, the bad, and the very ugly, since it came into power; but ours was not designed to remain a China-style one-party democracy forever. Not only has this former liberation movement run out of ideas, it has become too encumbered with dodgy characters whose leadership positions are an insult to the people of South Africa.
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Their being kept in positions of power, even when Ramaphosa seems to be doing some things right, remain a painful reminder of what our country has had to go through over the past ten years. People like Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane, and Bathabile Dlamini might be necessarily pills the ANC has to take in order to maintain a semblance of unity, but they’re no longer worthy of the positions they occupy in government.
Wanted: Strong opposition parties
This is why the 2019 general elections should be a watershed. They should save South Africa from the ANC, and the ANC from itself.
The DA might have its reputational issues to deal with, especially the stubborn, and often misplaced, perception that it’s only there to serve the interests of white people. Yet it can bring interesting ideas to the table on how best South Africa can be turned into a winning country again.
Its contribution is needed, but this cannot be done without a strong leader who can articulate a vision of what South Africa can be like if governed differently, lawfully, and to benefit all South Africans, irrespective of race or ethnicity.
SA needs strong opposition, and the DA will need a leader who doesn’t back off when the new ideas s/he puts on the table to challenge the status quo are met with resistance. Moreover, such resistance cannot be based on “better the devil we know”.
SA needs better, alternative ideas that ensure that we stop running around in circles trying the same failed strategies, yet hoping for different outcomes.
South Africa is hungry for solutions. The DA alone need not be the bearer of these, but as the major opposition party, it must continue to play its role, alongside others. There will be several new parties to choose from in the 2019 ballot paper – and to grow and win again, SA needs new ideas, and less concentration in the same old hands.