Following a Sunday Times report that Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen is open to the notion that the opposition party could enter a coalition with factions that exist within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) – including President Cyril Ramaphosa – former DA leader Mmusi Maimane has lashed out at his former colleagues in a series of tweets, claiming that it was Steenhuisen and DA Federal Executive leader Helen Zille who were responsible for the party’s failure to advance in the political arena.
Maimane said that the admission by Steenhuisen – which represents a stark departure from the DA’s long held rejection of the prospect of collaboration with the ruling party – is ill-advised and tantamount to an “admission of defeat”.
Steenhuisen: ‘I believe there are reformers in the ANC’
The newspaper reported on Sunday 28 February that Steenhuisen would consider entering a form of mutual cooperation with the ANC if there is a stalemate in the 2024 National Elections, but insisted that the prospect of such a partnership is reliant on Ramaphosa being in charge. He said that under no circumstances would such a partnership be possible if it in any way involved Deputy President David Mabuza or Ace Magashule.
Steenhuisen told the Sunday Times that he believes that there are members of the ANC that are motivated to effect change in the troubled party, and that there is room for collaboration with these – and only these – members.
“I believe there are reformers in the ANC who are pro the growth agenda, and I think there is potential for a realignment around the centre of South African politics, the rational centre of South African politics, which is where I think the DA should play,” he said.
He insisted that the failings of the party to gain ground on the ANC was down to a “weak campaign run by then leader – now One SA Movement (OSA) leader – Mmusi Maimane, who Steenhuisen accused of being reposnsible for the loss of identity experienced by the party.
“People didn’t really know who we were, what we were standing for and what the DA was trying to achieve. We ended up having this wishy-washy campaign that, in trying to appeal to everybody, ended up not appealing to anybody. There was no major growth into new markets, and there was a retreat in terms of the base.”
Maimane denies responsibility for DA failings
Maimane clapped back on Sunday morning, saying that his detractor and Zille were the real culprits behind the failure.
“In 2019 the DA did not lose because of me, but because of John and Helen Zille,” he said, saying that the notion that there exist “good and bad” ANC factions is baseless and that Steenhuisen’s comments are a “recognition that they can’t grow”.
“We have seen corruption from both factions and we have seen 27 years of mismanagement and misappropriation of state resources.”
“I wanted us to grow our voter base among the middle class and the youth of SA. That requires speaking to them about issues that matter to them. John and Helen closed that gate. As you can see from their present messaging and tactics,” he said.
Maimane said that his gol was to promote diversity within the party, as this was glaringly demanded by supporters and potential voters.
“As a leader I can’t go to a university student and say there is no white privilege, race is not a factor in South Africa. I would be lying to them and they would call me out on my BS,” he said.
‘John and Helen don’t care about fixing problems’
Maimane said that there is a fundamental issue in South Africa that stems from a lack of social cohesion.
“It’s a very big challenge and unless we work on it we will not progress. It takes more than sports and braais to fix our divisions. I am committed to doing that work. It’s why I joined the DA. I thought they shared my view.”
“John and Helen do not care about fixing the problems of this nation. They care about the Western Cape and maintaining power there.”
He said that the DA has now effectively shown itself to be disillusioned by the challenge of gaining ground on the ANC and effecting change, and is now solely focused on ensuring that the party maintains its grip on the Western Cape.
“They have given up on the national project and are now going back to the historic voters of the party and abandoning the rest. It’s obvious,” he said.