Debate: Democratic Alliance and its search for identity

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has achieved successes in the Western Cape and major metros across the country, especially in the last local elections.

Despite this success, it has been criticised over time for its ideological leanings, as well as it’s parliamentary make-up when appealing to the South African majority.

According to a 2014 report by _Mail and Guardian, _in a 2013 survey of 3 009 respondents between the ages of 15 and 34, 52% of black respondents believed that the DA would bring back some form of apartheid.

26% of Indians, 21% of coloureds and 19% of whites shared the view that if victorious in an election, the DA would bring back apartheid.

Political analyst Prince Mashele and Sithembile Mbete deliberate on the party’s intellectual thinking and policies.

Officially it wants to projects itself as a truly South African party but ideologically it sticks to a problematic ideology of liberalism.

Prince Mashele, Political Analyst

Liberalism has been a problematic ideology in South Africa because it has been instrumentalised by colonisers to dominate and conquer the indigenous people of South Africa... that is the history of liberalism that the DA is grappling with.

Prince Mashele, Political analyst

The myth of the DA, the way in which the party thinks of itself, is in this world of western liberalism so there is a tension between that and the political imperative to grow if you want to have real political power.

Sithembile Mbete, Political analyst

The pressure to grow the party means attracting a different constituency of black Africans in South Africa and that constituency is not a constituency in which that classic western liberalism resonates.

Sithembile Mbete, Political analyst

They suggest the party may have to shift its decision making power and that this will determine how long it lasts.

Mashele says the party needs to reconceptualise its position.

The DA is struggling with a conception of the self and how you embody that politically, particularly in a society like ours. How do you navigate that space between maintaining a pure liberal character and acknowledging and advancing the interests of those who have been historically disadvantaged?

Prince Mashele, Political analyst

702 caller, Mark, supports the DA and argues that people need to step away from what he says is a 'populist rhetoric'.

What is this thing about the DA being a white party? They have proven themselves over and over again that they can run the province and cities better.

Mark, 702 caller

It's got nothing to do with race based politics, its got a lot to do with service delivery and a leader of the country that people no longer trust.

702 caller

As the debate continued, Mbete did not dispute the DA's growth and position as a strong opposition.

However if analysed closely, the millions of voters the party has obtained from 2014 to 2016 is not a 'dramatic' growth, she added.

The story of the growth, of the DA's growth in 2016, was actually far more about the spread of municipalities that it's managed to win and the significance, than of the scale of increase in its voting support.

Sithembile Mbete, Political analyst

Interim leader of the DA in the Western Cape, Bonginkosi Madikizela has slammed Prince Mashele and says he is being disingenuous.

Madikizela says amid the changes that have happened within the DA, the highest decision making body in the DA is the federal council and the provincial councils which he says is non-racial.

If you look at the number of votes we have received from predominantly black areas, we have received more numbers than any other party besides the ANC.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, Interim leader of the DA in the Western Cape

What are your thoughts? Listen to the full debate below...


This article first appeared on 702 : Debate: Democratic Alliance and its search for identity


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