In a remarkable twist of events, the launch of our new VIP: Voting is Power campaign coincides with the the merger of the country’s official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) with everyone’s favourite new kid, Agang SA on Tuesday 28 Jan 2014.
However rosy, visionary and all-things-rainbow-nation the rhetoric at yesterday’s press conference in Cape Town was, the merger raises a few important questions about how we can expect our country’s political landscape to evolve in future. Like, for example, what happens to Agang SA, which at it’s inception was considered to be a credible alternative to the ANC for a burgeoning youth and black middle-class vote?
Though I can appreciate that racially-informed politics is something the DA is keen to see driven out of SA political discourse, we also know that however admirable the cause, this has perhaps made them appear rather insensitive to the grievances that many in black society continue to face today. In the past, the DA’s unwillingness to strongly contest or focus on issues such as land reform, employment equity or even the (often institutionalized) racism that exists in Cape Town has made them appear unattractive to most black voters, a fundamental issue the party has struggled to get past for years. Now, enter the internationally-respected, apartheid-credentialled Dr Mamphela Ramphele as the DA’s presidential candidate in 2014. All is addressed? I think not.
The move only begs the question: how sincere or grounded is Dr Ramphele’s move to the DA really? Is this a case of hasty and ambitious electioneering or a genuine attempt at redefining South African politics by beginning with the redefinition of the DA itself first? When Dr Ramphele claimed that the DA would move South Africa beyond identity politics, I wondered how important it was to the DA that Dr Ramphele was black. I think it was very important, ironically.
At this point, in fact, I feel the only thing about the move that would make any person change their mind about the party is race. Not their manifesto or policy framework. Nope. Race. Dr Ramphele has diluted the DA’s whiteness. Yet, if this is not a disingenuous attempt at swinging the black vote above all, can we expect Dr Ramphele’s ideas to reflect on the DA’s manifesto announcement? Also, after years of Mmusi Maimane and Lindiwe Mazibuko being active as DA leaders, how much does Dr Ramphele move change the DA’s perception as a “white” party? Finally, what happens to the only party that looked like it could realistically eat out of the ANC’s constituency – Agang SA now?
The answers to these questions, as #LiveVIPZA continues to bring you all things #Elections2014, will reveal whether Tuesday’s press conference was a case of pretentious cosmetic surgery or whether Dr Mamphela Ramphele will widen the DA’s consciousness and recognition of the challenges that affect young and old black people, thus TRULY redefining SA politics. Time will tell.
Merger, defection or nothing at all? We continue to uncover the AgangDA sitch here.
Stay tuned as #LiveVIPZA, starting now, aims to get the answers to these questions and more from party representatives, your peers and of course, you.
Join our ‘VIP: Voting is Power’ campaign
Do you sigh when you hear the words ‘Elections 2014′? We want to do something about it and feel we need your voices to be heard. Cue our VIP: Voting is Power campaign…Some of our plans for action in 2014 include encouraging you to post your concerns on our dedicated Facebook page, hosting live debates on Twitter and in person, and writing stories or making videos about the real VIPs (people making change) in your community.