The DA’s pale male dominance is choking its very existence and future

GETTING THE BLUES: The DA turned Johannesburg into a sea of blue during a march led by Mmusi Maimane. This unity seems to be over for the party as an internal struggle plays out over its future, says the writer. Picture: Antoine de Ras/African News Agency (ANA Archive)

As democracy stretches its muscles in Nelson Mandela Bay, the rest of South Africa can be assured that the failure of the DA-led coalition in that metropole can squarely be laid at the feet of the former mayor, Athol Trollip. Yet this is the last thing Trollip wants to hear. Failure is just never his fault.

In the media briefing following the elections of the new speaker and mayor, Trollip even blamed former President Zuma for his simple inability to have worked with his coalition partners. He should simply have asked Helen ZIlle for advice as she would have explained how she managed to work with maverick politicians even such as Badih Chaban. Yet she made the DA-led coalition of the City of Cape Town work. So successful was she that the DA could claim the province two years later.

However, in the DA pale males simply cannot be incompetent. Incompetence is reserved for a certain group of people. Take the recent sentiments raised by some DA leaders that the provincial leader of the DA in the Western Cape is simply just ‘unfit’ to be premier.

Dineo Bendile in her article in the ‘Mail and Guardian, ‘W Cape [sic] leader ‘unfit’ to be premier’ on 24 August 2018, details how Bonginkosi Madikizela is blamed for the crisis engulfing DA run municipalities across the Western Cape. These crisis, Bendile points out, includes the Patricia de Lille saga, the water crisis in Cape Town and the mayors of Knysna and George, who just simply do not know their place.

The reality of course is that the de Lille matter was handled by the national leadership of the DA and the disastrous mismanagement of James Selfe and Natasha Mazzone in particular. Now DA ‘leaders’ in the Western Cape are pointing to Madikizela who they had hoped would simply move into the mayoral position once they had disposed of de Lille. Pale males such as James Selfe and Athol Trollip cannot be held responsible for disaster in the DA.

The water crisis, originating in the city since the days of Mayor Zille, was a mismanagement by de Lille and her team which Xanthea Limberg should take particular responsibility for. While de Lille has always intimated that Madikizela was after her chain, the rest of the caucus in Cape Town seem to be distancing themselves from their provincial leader.

The DA leader, who is one of the sources for Bendile’s article, admits that many of the municipalities in the Western Cape ‘are falling apart’. The fact that municipalities are in disarray is squarely laid at the feet of the DA provincial leader. How absolutely convenient.

Even worse still is not only the DA’s willingness now to ‘set up’ Madikizela so that he may take the fall and make way either for Alan Winde or David Maynier but that the Mail and Guardian article states that “it is believed that there are not enough prominent coloured [sic] leaders to take over the reigns from Zille”. This, after they opined that the majority demographic of the province must be taken into account.

Needless to mention that the DA is prepared to defend Tshwane mayor, Solly Msimanga, against allegations but would not defend Patricia de Lille against allegations. Their argument is that these were their mayoral candidates and that the electorate voted for these men. However they refuse to use the same logic with de Lille. The DA has always been the party of double standards and this remains in tact.

Madikizela being declared ‘unfit’ comes as somewhat of a surprise though but not wholly shocking. He has always been seen as a favourite of the establishment in the DA. In an article in the ‘Daily Maverick’ on 4 October 2017, Rebecca Davis explains that Madikizela is portrayed as “DA establishment favourite” while Lennit Max, his then contender in the provincial leadership race, was seen as “a charismatic man of the people”.

The article goes on to explain how Madikizela remained a DA establishment favourite despite “the stain on his record”. A stain caused by his infamous birthday cake. Despite his inability to spend his budget in human settlements, sorely needed in the Western Cape and Cape Town in particular, Madikizela then already acknowledged that the party, the DA that is and not his birthday one, was “fraught with internal conflicts”.

The question is: what has changed that the DA today finds Madikizela ‘unfit’ to be premier of the province. The answer is both nothing and something. What has not changed is that the DA applies doubles standards. It has rules for Helen Zille and it has a different set of rules for Patricia de Lille. It has one set of standard for Solly Msimanga and it has another set of standards for the mayors in Knysna and George. Bonginkhosi Madikizela is simply a victim of the DA’s double standards.

What has changed is that the DA knows that its base in the Western Cape and Cape Town in particular is under serious threat. Unprovoked by political organisations, communities, especially in DA heartland, has revolted and literally taken to the streets. Not since the state of emergency during the nineteen-eighties has one seen such an uproar and taking to the streets by communities such as Bonteheuwel, Parkwood, Kensington, Fractreton and Lavistown.

The racist DA knows that their base is starting to feel alienated after decades of non-service delivery and therefore Bongikhosi Madikizela is simply not the right man to do the job of securing the DA base. He was good enough to grow the party, he is simply not good enough to secure the base. It is therefore important that he be disposed of as early as possible in order to drum up DA support.

As a result, the DA is in shock mode. Instead of allowing for Madikizela to spread the party’s wings and grow it in the areas where DA growth is needed, the DA leadership look inwards and to the past. They see their saviour in Helen Zille, suggesting she goes back to the city as mayor, rather than looking for fresh blood in someone as capable and proven as Madikizela. Madikizela has a long track record in governance, even in the city, and therefore there should be no doubt that he is fit for purpose and will grow the party.

In fact, the candidature of Bonginkhosi Madikizela will once and for all dispel the notion that race matters in the DA in the Western Cape. He has defined himself and been able to win the leadership of the party’s provincial structure. Allow him now to lead the government of the province.

In the wake of the death of Mme Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela it will be a fitting tribute to the mother of the nation, if the DA were to nail their colours to the Madikizela mast. South Africans from all walks of life will be seen as a party which not only associates with the past but truly builds a future. No longer will it be viewed as a party which practices double standards but rather it will be one that embraces change to build a future. Mmusi Maimane has heralded a dawn for one South Africa for all. Only Bonginkosi Madikizela can herald one Western Cape for all.

Meokgo Matuba is Secretary-General of the ANC Women’s League