According to a study, 76 percent of white South Africans vote for the Democratic Alliance (DA). This is not because the DA is the ‘best’ party in South Africa, but is because white South Africans identify strongly with the DA. Hence race will always play an important part in our politics and which party we choose to vote into power.
The reality in South Africa is that you cannot win the elections unless you have the majority of black South Africans supporting you. The greatest hurdle that the DA needs to climb is the one relating to race. Most black South Africans couldn’t be bothered what your track record is in the Western Cape, when there are perceptions of your party being a ‘white party’ they simply will not vote for you in their millions.
The majority of black South Africans, including the ‘clever blacks’/educated blacks, can hardly identify with the DA. To an ordinary black South African on the street, the FF+/VF+, NP and DA/DP are one and the same. They are all led by a white person and therefore represent a very dark past that we as the majority black people haven’t forgotten about and still suffer from. An issue the DA tends to forget is that voting and politics in SA is mostly about identity and race. Blacks were oppressed because of their identity and race, hence this will always feature when blacks cast their votes.
There is a common shared view of the DA among poor, middle class and rich black South Africans. They strongly believe the DA is a ‘white party’ and represents white people’s interests and not necessarily the black Africans’ interests that directly affect them. When one throws the question of the rampant corruption committed by some ANC leaders at any black South African they agree and quickly say “it’s better than voting DA as they might bring back apartheid”.
We all know that the DA would not bring back apartheid if it came into power, but the reality on the ground and belief is that if a white person like Helen Zille were to be in power they would bring back apartheid. This is a perception that prevails in the black community. We all know the majority black people are impoverished in SA because of white people and policies implemented by the apartheid government. Black people might have forgiven what the architects of apartheid did to them, but they certainly have not forgotten how life was under the leadership of a white person.
Hence it will always be a challenge for the DA to attract the 11.6 million voters who voted for the ANC in the 2009 general elections. The DA might be able to attract about 500,000 black voters, but not in their millions.
You cannot declare that SA is now non-racial and a “rainbow nation”, even though the ANC is failing blacks and expect the majority of blacks to vote for a white president; when whites for the previous 350 odd years subjugated blacks. There is a trust deficit and blacks simply do not trust a white person. Blacks simply don’t trust a white person with political power based on the past sins committed by the likes of Dr Hendrik Verwoerd.
The DA has failed to transform in the last 20 years of democracy post-apartheid to have a black leader. In Gauteng only five African candidates made it into the party’s top 20 spots: Mmusi Maimane, Refiloe Ntsekhe, Solly Msimanga, Khume Ramulifho and Lebogang More. In the Western Cape, where the party is set to win the province, the DA only has five black candidates in its top 27 list for the provincial legislature. The DA simply doesn’t have enough black Africans in top leadership structures that represent them – including in parliament.
The DA is very naive and presumptuous to think it will make a huge dent when it has failed to identify a suitable black leader. They had a chance to choose Joe Seramane when Tony Leon vacated his leadership position, but opted to stick to their comfort zone and voted for a white leader. By not electing a black person to lead, the DA is signalling to the blacks in SA that they do not believe that a black person can run their party, let alone the country.
If the DA really wants to get far and attract many black African voters, it will need to create more and more black African political heavyweights within its ranks. They must not ‘rent-a-black’ leader like the failed marriage with Dr Mamphele Ramphela. Thus, to gain meaningful traction among the black masses, the DA will have to address, confront and manage the perceptions – such as being a white party with the blacks in leadership only for window dressing to create smoke and mirrors – if it is to make serious inroads.
Black people who are unhappy with the ANC will cast a “protest vote” against the ANC but sure as hell it won’t go to the DA. The “protest vote” will most likely go to EFF, COPE or Agang SA. The ANC is not at all threatened by the DA, they are more concerned about EFF, hence they have been disrupting EFF rallies and meetings.
In any normal democracy, when citizens are unhappy with the incumbent government, they vote for the opposition party. But this is not the case in South Africa as black people prefer to go out in the streets, burn tyres, burn down buildings and damage government property, rather than vote for the DA. Black South Africans would even go as far as boo the president of the ANC in front of world leaders (as it happened at FNB Stadium during Nelson Mandela’s memorial) to express their dissatisfaction with ANC leaders.
If race were not a factor and if black people saw the DA as an alternative, they would not blockade roads and hold the country to ransom if their needs were not met. They would simply go out and vote for the opposition party – the DA. But no, black South Africans prefer to protest against service delivery and burn things. At times blacks prefer to withhold their vote by staying at home instead of voting the DA if they are not happy with the ANC. That is a sad indictment on the DA and proves that we as black people hate the DA and have no faith or trust in them. The DA tends to perform better in elections when there is a low voter turnout, because when black South Africans go out and vote, they vote ANC and not DA.
We are a young democracy… we still have bleeding wounds of yesteryear. Seeing any skin that’s not black in political power scares us as black people. Hence 1.3 million South Africans voted for COPE instead of the DA in the 2009 general elections. That COPE vote could well have been a “protest vote” against the ANC. In its current form with leaders like Helen Zille at the helm, the DA will never win the general elections. As some ANC leaders confidently say, _ “ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes”._
It will take more for someone like Helen Zille to convince the 11.6 million South Africans who voted ANC to switch their vote to the DA. Helen Zille’s party needs at least 5 million votes to achieve their 25-30 percent target during these elections. It is highly unlikely that millions of black South Africans will vote for the DA.
Cameron Modisane_ is an auditor by profession and a political animal by passion. He is also a gay rights activist and a social media junkie. Follow him on Twitter: @Youngster_Cam_
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