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South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance under pressure

By Crystal Orderson, in Cape Town
Posted on Tuesday, 16 April 2019 13:45

Patricia De Lille leaving a Cape Town court in 2018 / REUTERS / Mike Hutchings

Patricia De Lille's party – the 'Good Movement' – serves to underscore how strong the DA are in their home province, and how little appeal they have beyond it

The Western Cape province has always been the jewel in the crown for the Democratic Alliance (DA). Since 2009, the party has increased its majority in the Western Cape both in the local and provincial government. But recent election polls suggest the DA’s majority “is on a knife-edge”.

  • DA support has dropped below 50%, a large drop from the 62.5% it got in the 2016 municipal election.

Patricia De Lille and her new party, the Good Movement, may be driving those numbers.

  • The former mayor of Cape Town resigned as DA mayor in October 2018 after an exhaustive battle with the DA.

Who is Patricia De Lille?

From working in a canning factory, to running a union, to becoming an MP in the first democratically-elected parliament, De Lille is now a veteran politician.

  • A firebrand leader in the Pan African Congress, she was a whistleblower in the now infamous arms deal, and eventually formed her own political party, the Independent Democrats, which merged with the DA in 2010.

Speaking to The Africa Report ahead of the May 8 election, De Lille called her relationship with the DA “as an abusive one” and that the DA had used her to increase their voter support:

  • “I am building an alternative, I am committed to the bigger picture for South Africa and our people, the issue of race in the DA is an issue and the leadership is not really reflective of the racial make-up of the country,” says De Lille.
  • The Good movement is four months old and the polling shows the party is “accounting for 2.5% of the electorate’s intentions”.
  • “I’ve travelled to all the nine provinces and speaking to people I find that 1 out of 3 people told me they do not want to vote; people are feeling disillusioned and feel hopeless. God forbid 25 years into democracy people feel that way. I told them they have to vote – voting is not about me it is about our country and our children. I do think we might have low voter turnout on the 8th of May”.
  • “People tell me the ‘old parties [DA/ANC] have failed us and I respect people”.

De Lille says her focus on housing will swing votes in Cape Town, where around 320,000 households are living in over-crowded or informal housing, according to a recent study.

A few seats, then what?

“There is no doubt about it that Good will get around 2%. But what is the plan after they get a few seats?”, asks political analyst Ralph Mathekga, who points to other stalled movements, such as the Congress of the People (COPE).

  • He also doubts that the DA is really in trouble in the province. “The DA is comfortable in the Western Cape. DA voters know who they are voting for, they vote for the DA. They are educated and know what the party is capable of. The Western Cape voters engage critically with the parties and I do not think voting is based on race”.
  • But Mathekga is more skeptical about their national chances.

According to a poll conducted by the South African Institute of Race Relations:

The DA currently stands on 21.8% nationally, up 3.1% points from December (18%)
That is 0.4% points lower than the 22.2% it secured in 2014

Their key weakness: “They do not know how to be an opposition to Cyril Ramaphosa”, says Mathekga, who believes that Ramaphosa’s moderate centrism has removed the wind from their sails at a national level.

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