POLITICS

Mmusi Maimane And The Opposition Are Going Great Guns

The DA's efforts to unite the opposition ahead of the 2019 election is gathering momentum.

16/05/2017 17:22 SAST | Updated 16/05/2017 17:26 SAST
Pieter du Toit
Mmusi Maimane, DA leader, delivering a speech at the Women's Gaol on Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, on Tuesday.

ANALYSIS

There was a swagger to Mmusi Maimane when he delivered a speech at the old Women's Gaol on Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, on Tuesday morning.

He stood on a podium in the atrium, in the centre of the complex, with a backdrop consisting of large images of five South Africans' faces -- one white, two black, one Indian and one Coloured -- and surrounded by nine national flags affixed to golden flagpoles.

We are seeing the realignment of our politics happening before our eyes.

Last year, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) won their biggest victory yet in the Constitutional Court's Nkandla judgment. They were supported by the DA.

The DA -- with Maimane leading the charge -- took over the mayoralties of three metro councils in August last year.

And now the United Democratic Movement (UDM) have gone to the country's apex court to try and force Parliament to hold a secret ballot to force out President Jacob Zuma.

READ: Maimane's full speech here.

There's an understanding among opposition leaders that there's a real gap come the 2019 election. Now Maimane is gunning directly for gatvol ANC members.

Maimane's speech on Tuesday, dubbed the "vision" speech by his aides, was a clear and unequivocal invitation to "the good people" in the African National Congress (ANC) to join the DA in "rebuilding" the country. It was also part of the party's efforts to prepare the ground for coalition politics and to try and occupy the national leadership vacuum, according to aides.

You see, without realising it, I have been in mourning. Not for South Africa . . . No, I have been mourning something else. The end of something I once thought would live forever. Mmusi Maimane on the ANC.

Titled "The ANC is dead, long live South Africa", Maimane's speech again used his personal history to try and locate himself as a beneficiary of the ANC's liberation struggle and as someone that venerated ANC leaders Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela.

"You see, without realising it, I have been in mourning. Not for South Africa... No, I have been mourning something else. The end of something I once thought would live forever. The demise of something that seemed woven into the very fabric of our collective consciousness," he said.

"And that is the death of a once proud liberation movement that fought the apartheid government, and for our right to belong to any organisation we choose."

It's a rather startling admission, but not the first time Maimane has showed reverence for the governing party. He has previously also lamented the ANC's current struggles, recalling his own youth in Soweto and the impact the ANC has had on him personally.

Maimane has been buoyed by the malaise within the ANC, especially the turmoil in the party's parliamentary caucus, where DA and ANC MP's work side by side and where collegial conversations during smoke breaks and chats in the lobby have recently shifted to another gear.

The strategy it seems is to beef up the DA and its leadership's "struggle credentials", transmitting to the electorate and disaffected ANC members that the party does understand the ANC's place in liberation lore and that it does recognise the role leaders like Luthuli and Mandela played. In theory, this could help establish the party as the legitimate guarantors of the hopes and dreams of those once great leaders whose vision has been betrayed by Zuma's ANC.

Maimane has been buoyed by the malaise within the ANC, especially the turmoil in the party's parliamentary caucus, where DA and ANC MP's work side by side and where collegial conversations during smoke breaks and chats in the lobby have recently shifted to another gear. It's eminently clear that there is serious worry about the ability of the ANC to remain intact if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the party leadership race in December, and once stoic ANC MP's -- the loyal cadres of yore--– are speaking their minds.

The values that must form the core of our political realignment are: constitutionalism, inclusive economic growth, non-racialism, a capable state and zero tolerance for corruption.Maimane

Maimane wants to capitalise on that and he added: "The values that must form the core of our political realignment are: constitutionalism, inclusive economic growth, non-racialism, a capable state and zero tolerance for corruption. This is real transformation, this is real redress."

Anyone who shares these values will be welcomed on board, he said, before adding: "This includes people in the ANC. There are still many good men and women in the party who want what's best for South Africa. It is time for each of them to accept that their party is irredeemable, that our country's salvation lies in building a new political formation united around shared values."

The DA's consolidation of the opposition is on track. The ANC is gearing up for an epic, divisive and destructive leadership contest in December while relations between the DA, EFF and other parties have never been better. In fact, it seems that the DA and the EFF have hit it off in ways not thought possible: there is regular contact between the respective leaders, broad agreement on a plan of action and a recognition of each other's roles.

Maimane's swagger seems justified.