Darkest before the Dawn: Part IV The Democratic Alliance (DA), the future

The Democratic Alliance, on the other hand, is a very different proposition for SA’s future. It is a party of wealth creation, which is what the nation most requires, with a proven track record of effective governance. Now, it has a black rather than white leader which gives them general appeal. There has been, and will continue to be, a massive shift in sentiment as the population no longer chooses a party for its past associations like the ANC, but for its ability to govern and give its children a bright economic future. I suspect that across SA the wheels in the townships and rural areas are turning despite the negative sentiment. It is this sentiment that will only increase the dissatisfaction with the ANC. It will simultaneously create increased support for the DA. The next surprise will come as the rural,  once thought of uneducated voters discern that the wealth creation policies of the DA could bring economic benefit to their region. As the ANC destroys its covenant with its supporters they will inevitably switch to the DA in droves.

However, the DA have many changes to make before they are guaranteed a path to victory in 2019, though their success is very likely. They need to portray their current leadership as strong and not under the influence of Helen Zille. They need to rebrand the party as one that is perceived as a ‘black’ rather than ‘white’ party, and they need clear polices that give SA a vision to economic prosperity again.

If the DA choose to harness the natural energies of the population by championing the correct policies, they will resonate with the electorate at this stage of the cycle. Then just as the ‘leave’ camp did for Brexit in the UK and Trump did in his campaign, they will be successful in 2019.

One major challenge that the DA faces which is unique to SA is the combination of democratic and hierarchical leadership models within the electorate. The democratic leadership structure is well entrenched in the white population, strongly reinforced by the historical links to Britain and Holland who share a history of protestant democracy that has long defined their connection to democracy. However, the black population derives from the social architecture of land power in the form of large hierarchical tribes such as the Zulus and Xhosas. As such, in common with a large majority of the world, especially Asia, the predominant social structures are still based on hierarchy of leadership. Thus, it will be critical that the DA understands this difference and seeks to appeal to the demographically larger black cultural bias.

In a similar vein, the DA needs to suborn the tribal loyalties and identities of the various elements in SA society to the greater bonding meme of the ‘Nation’ through specific policies, i.e. an individual is South African before one is Zulu or white or Xhosa.

One such potentially defining policy would be to harness the anger and hostility present in the poorer sections of society. These feelings are an expression of their frustration at the non-existent rate of change. One natural outlet of their frustration has been in violence against foreigners who are perceived to be competing for resources such as jobs which are already scarce, hence the acts of violent xenophobia. This raises a critical issue: until SA seals its borders with a high fence, any future economic advance will be diluted by the mass flow of hopeful immigrants from the north. Furthermore, although this may appear isolationist, until SA gets it house in order it will be unable to help its neighbouring nations in any meaningful way. Thus, any such border solution should be viewed as a temporary, but necessary accelerant to growth. Notably, such a policy could never be enacted by the ANC with the support it once received from neighbouring nations during its struggle against Apartheid. The EEF would also not consider such a policy, leaving only the DA.

Meanwhile, we should expect the pressure on Zuma to continue from all sides, with the positive effect of uniting all other sides against him. However, Zuma is a cockroach and will probably hold on longer than we would expect possible. The ‘tide is going out’ for Zuma though, as on top of the domestic pressures we can anticipate another significant downturn in global commodity prices. This will worsen the economic situation in SA and negatively impact perception of the ANC. By the time the 2019 election comes along, the commodity cycle should be at its a low, and as such the economic damage will increase the chances of the DA winning outright. Thus, for SA a new day is close but not yet upon us. The situation will worsen, and then dawn will appear after the darkness. However, despite the negative mood in the white tribe, the dawn is coming. Critically, Zuma’s continued presidency is a massive opportunity as the ANC destroys itself and opens the path for the DA to be elected outright in 2019. This is dependent on the DA taking the right steps internally, to allow it to be perceived as being ready for the mantel of power, and representing the Rainbow Nation with the appropriate policies of wealth creation.