The DA in crisis

This article continues the series we began over a month ago with the first part (1a) on the ANC. In this article, part (1b), we examine the electoral prospects of the DA, which is followed in part 2, by the EFF and the final part 3 on the way forward.

The DA’s post-apartheid evolution

The Daily Maverick’s (DM) (10/09/2023) political party funding analysis, based on the last two years of the now compulsory disclosures, underscores the extent to which the capitalist ruling class is in a state of desperate panic over the outcome of the 2024 elections. The ANC, which the capitalist class has relied on to protect its interests in the post-apartheid capitalist parliamentary democratic order, is no longer capable of commanding the support of the black working class majority.

Although the ANC factions occupy the same side of the capitalist ideological spectrum, divided only over how to loot and plunder, the capitalist class considers the Ramaphosa faction the more dependable. Just how much and exactly who in big business donated to bankroll Ramaphosa’s candidacy for the ANC presidency in 2017, remains a mystery after the High Court ordered the records sealed. Estimates range from half a million to a billion. Terrified over the weakening of Ramaphosa’s factional grip, big business is investing millions in parties firmly on the same side of the ideological spectrum to shore up hopefully, from their standpoint, a Ramaphosa-led pro-capitalist coalition.

Like investors spreading their portfolios, big business is bank-rolling several capitalist political parties in preparation for a post-2024 capitalist coalition. According to the DM’s analysis, 8 capitalists have made regular donations to a range of parties totaling R161.5m. The biggest, Capitec Founder, Michiel Le Roux donated his entire R50m to the DA. The no.2, online gambling tycoon Martin Moshal spread his donations between the DA R46.5m, ActionSA R14.5 and Build One SA (Bosa) R2m. That four of the donors who donated a total of R40m spread also between the DA and ActionSA, are descendants of Harry Oppenheimer, an architect of SA’s modern racist capitalism, is a resounding confirmation of colonialism, apartheid and post-apartheid democracy’s capitalist foundations.

The DA received over R120m. The donors include black billionaire, Ramaphosa’s brother-in-law, Patrice Motsepe, mimicking the name of his companies, African Rainbow Minerals company, donated across the board: R19m to the ANC, R4.2m to the DA, R2m to the EFF, and splitting a million between the IFP and the Freedom Front+. Former DA leaders Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA (R45m) and party leader Musi Maimane’s Bosa are both the DA’s political and ideological off-spring.

The DA’s political and class origins

For the capitalist class, the ANC’s ascent to political power was an unavoidable necessity. The mass movement of the oppressed black majority, beginning with the 1973 strikes, the Soweto Uprising in 1976, and the boycott of the Tricameral Parliament that birthed the United Democratic Front in 1983. This was followed by the now united insurrectionary youth and workers movement of 1984-6, in the middle of which, in December 1985, Cosatu, the most powerful and ideologically radical workers movement in SA history was launched.

It was not only white minority rule that had been rendered unsustainable. The guiding layers of the working class and youth had drawn socialist conclusions. This posed the greatest danger for the capitalist class in SA and imperialism. Apartheid and capitalism could be swept aside in an uninterrupted or, in Trosky’s theory, permanent revolution.

A movement that could not be crushed by military force alone, required, for the capitalist class and imperialism, the services of a political formation with authority amongst the masses, to derail an incipient socialist revolution. That organization was the ANC. To their pleasant surprise, the teams of captains of industry, bourgeois politicians and senior state intelligence officers discovered that contrary to the apartheid regime’s propaganda, far from being communists, the ANC, the representatives of the black capitalist class, was equally committed to the preservation of capitalism.

Whilst the capitalist class was content with the ANC’s servile class collaboration, it needed a political formation to exert pressure on it from the right to counteract the pressure of the masses from the left. The bourgeois constitutional safeguards, providing for private property rights (i.e. private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy) to be sacrosanct, were not enough. The promises of the ANC leadership to leave capitalism intact alone could not be relied upon. It was the pressure the working class masses could exert on the ANC to shift them to the left they feared most.

The Nationalist Party NP), the last party of white minority rule, could not reconcile itself to collaborating in a government that, though officially described as a Government of National Unity, was based on black majority rule. It was not prepared to spend the rest of its political existence in life-long repentance and self-flagellation for the subjugation of the black majority. De Klerk, who refused even to apologize for apartheid until his death bed, viewed his appointment as deputy president as a life sentence for a crime he maintained he did not commit – the oppression of the black majority. Rather than collapsing the GNU, a contrivance made possible by the handing of the Western Cape to the NP and KZN to the IFP in a manipulated vote, its painless death did not disturb a single hair on the head of what was an ANC government. The GNU was a cover to provide the pretext for betraying the expectations of the working class majority.

After a four-year orphanage, the NP’s gifted electoral base was directed to a new home on the right– the Democratic Alliance.

…. historical role

The DA was formed in 2000 by the Democratic Party, a white liberal capitalist opposition under apartheid (itself the result of splits and re-combinations). It first absorbed the small Federal Alliance of beer tycoon, Louis Luyt. Next, to be rescued were the renamed New NP’s half a dozen survivors from its political shipwreck broken up by the tidal wave of the mass revolt that ended apartheid.

With Gear already 4 years old, when the DA came into being, the ideological distinction between it and the ANC on the fundamental question of economic policy had been narrowed to insignificance.

Though the ANC’s neo-liberal capitalist policies were destined to disappoint the expectations of the working class of all races, proportionately more so the black working class than their “minority” class brothers and sisters, the heightened social and racial tensions provided the perfect climate for the DA – the living embodiment of SA capitalism’s congenital racism.

Gear may have rendered the DA surplus to requirements on economic policy, but its role was primarily political: to inflame and exploit the fears of the white, Coloured and Indian “minorities,” it promoted the notion that the ANC would push them to the back of the queue for jobs, education and housing etc in favour of the black majority. The DA‘s political and electoral strategy was to project itself as the protector of the interests of the white minority, and later that of the Coloured and Indian electorate, against the black majority on whose electoral support ANC rule was based.

The DA feeds on the ANC’s reactionary position on the national question

The DA’s ability to play on the minorities’ fears, has been aided and abetted by the ANC’s economic policies and reactionary approach to the national question.

On the one hand, the ANC’s neo-liberal policy accelerated poverty, inequality and mass unemployment proportionately more on the black African working class than on their Coloured and Indian class counterparts. On the other the ANC, having undertaken to leave the wealth and property of the predominantly white capitalist class intact, found its pursuit of the development of a black capitalist class was slowed. It was in direct competition for self-enrichment with not just the white but also the wealthier Indian and Coloured capitalist class. In frustration, Sihle Zikalala former KZN premier, for example, proposed amending the Employment Equity Act to exclude Coloureds and Indians from the designation “previously disadvantaged individuals” for business opportunities.

The “explanation” to the black African working class was that their privations derived from the refusal of whites, Coloured and Indians to surrender their privileges. The new ANC narrative inverted the pyramid of apartheid oppression. Coloureds had not been oppressed as yard slaves under apartheid. They were privileged, preferring to be ruled by whites. The late ANC deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte increasingly spoke out against the ANC’s exclusion and marginalisation of Coloureds before her passing in July 2022.

These developments are the result of a combination of the ANC’s capitalist economic policies and its historically African exclusivist position on the national question. It played right into the DA’s hands. It also went directly against the grain of the non-racial traditions of the oppressed forged in the struggle against apartheid and capitalism by the youth and organised workers in Cosatu and the UDF.

It is an important factor in the inflammation of racial tensions today when not a single one of the ANC’s promises of a prosperous, non-racial, non-sexist SA has been fulfilled for the overwhelming majority of the masses of all races. Socially, the bottom of today’s social post-apartheid capitalist pyramid is still occupied relatively and absolutely by the African majority in competition for poverty and destitution with Coloureds especially.

A similar fate is well underway for the Indian and white working classes as they are sucked into destitution. The ANC’s policies are an attempt to shield the entire capitalist class, black and white, and its capitalist government from responsibility for the crisis. In a grotesque betrayal of its non-racial claims, it is pitting the working class of different races against each other and has become a hot hotbed for tribal rivalries for senior state positions.

This fertilised the ground for the emergence of even more racist right-wing formations like ActionSA, the Patriotic Alliance and the Cape Coloured Congress who have cynically exploited the mistaken perception of targeted discrimination of minorities. It has also aroused secessionist aspirations amongst the more extreme in KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape. On the national and the class question, the ANC thus finds itself on the same side of the fence as the DA, EFF, and the new reactionary political parties mimicking its methods. They have taken racism and xenophobia to levels even the DA leadership would be embarrassed to express publicly away from the privacy of their champagne glasses at dinner tables in the suburbs.

The DA’s anti-working class positions

Campaigning as the protector of the “minorities,” the DA, thus condemned itself to be seen for what it is – a racist, right-wing opposition party yearning for the fleshpots of apartheid Egypt. Whilst the DA and the ANC’s historical origins on the race question are separated by oceans, on the class question they surf on the same waves.

From the onset, the DA demanded the ANC go even further to the right, calling for speedier privatisation of state-owned enterprises. It opposes impotent attempts to break down institutionalised racism like the Employment Equity Act. It condemns even the mild social concessions like the miserly social grants and the slave minimum wage as “socialist.” It portrays organised workers as privileged, and their trade union rights as a reason for mass unemployment and poverty. The rampant corruption in the ANC, which DA administrations are not immune to as recent examples in KZN and the Western Cape show, is so overwhelming that it enables the DA to posture as anti-corruption crusaders in a capitalist system that is inherently corrupt.

Such a strategy meant the DA was condemned to be no more than a stridently right-wing opposition. The polarisation between the classes accelerated by Gear, had already begun to be indirectly reflected in the ANC at first in the split at the Polokwane Conference in 2007. It resulted in bourgeois favourite Thabo Mbeki being deposed, and the formation of the Congress of the People.

The strategists of capital recognised that the DA was not fit for purpose as a viable alternative to the ANC should its political authority and electoral support collapse or even split further in future. Big business exerted pressure on its leadership to expand its reach into the black electorate by funding Agang established by revered Black Consciousness leader, Steve Biko’s former partner, and wealthy businesswoman, Mamphela Ramphele. The arranged DA/Agang marriage failed spectacularly.

After the 2014 elections, the DA’s big business funders stepped up the pressure, humiliating leader Helen Zille into relinquishing the leadership in tears, unmoved by her pleas that she had just led it to its best ever election result. The installation of Maimane as its first black leader, in what was more a coronation than an election as Institute of Race Relations and exiled former DA leading official Gareth Van Onselen aptly described it, itself ended in humiliation, this time for Maimane. He was forced out as a failed “experiment” in former DA leader, Tony Leon’s demeaning words.

Under Maimane’s leadership, the DA’s 2019 vote fell to 20%. It not only failed to increase to 25% nationally – the goal it had set itself under the intoxicated euphoria of the 2014 result. Delusions had also taken hold that it would rise to 25% in the 2019 elections and expand provincial control beyond its Western Cape base to other provinces. After reaching 30% by 2024, or 2029 at the latest, it would be the ruling party by the 1930s. All those delusions were shattered.

The influx of middle-class black aspirant capitalists who saw in it an opportunity to advance as many of their social types had succeeded in the ANC, accentuated rather than attenuated its reactionary political and capitalist class character. This consequently failed to reverse the DA’s decline. Maimane’s humiliating removal precipitated an exodus of some of the ambitious black petty bourgeois, including the xenophobe Herman Mashaba despite his impeccable credentials as a successful black capitalist and former head of the right-wing neo-liberal think tank, the Free Market Foundation FMF).

Just what the FMF stands for is revealed in the cold-blooded language of class animosity to the working class of contributing editor Mphiyakhe Dhlamini in BusinessLive (2/10/2023). “It would be better for SA in the long run if the SRD grant had never been introduced but now that we have it, the government should do everything in its power to end it as soon as possible. The country cannot afford to pay 70% of SA’s unemployed 15-24-year-olds and 42.4% of all working-age adults a monthly stipend indefinitely. He goes on to condemn the recent public sector wage increase (which followed a 3-year wage freeze) as the reason for the fiscal crisis and unfilled vacancies. He denounces amongst others, the Minimum Wage Act despite the miserly minimum and the “destructive” Labour Relations Act for the “corrosive power of unions (which) government … must deal with once and for all … the review of collective bargaining … which forces everyone working for a company where some union dominates to join that union against their will … in clear violation of (the) right to associate or disassociate freely. That only 25% of workers are in unions is too much for this far-right “libertarian” who would feel at home in Hitler’s Germany.

Mashaba’s xenophobia, the blood relative of the DA’s racism, was no disqualification for DA leadership. But Mashaba found the racist undertones of Maimane’s dethroning too much.

The DA reverts to type

The DA has reacted to this reversal in its electoral fortunes by publicly repenting its “sins” – its collaboration with the EFF from 2016 to 2019. For the sake of the EFF’s support for its mayors, it offered the EFF access to lucrative positions in portfolio committees with budgets worth billions to satiate its greed. The EFF’s main goal was to weaken the ANC in preparation for offering it a helping hand to stay in power with it in a coalition at the national level as we pointed out at the time.

The DA believed that it had used the EFF and enhanced its non-racial credentials. But it was the EFF that was the rider and the DA the horse that enabled it to secure mayoral control of the Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg metros after the 2016 local government elections. The EFF had exploited the DA’s appetite for power. But the DA has retreated like the NP it replaced, into the laager of the white component of its white electoral base.

Although the more far–sighted sections of capitalist analysts are in despair over the incompetence of a DA that has replaced a windbag Maimane, with a hologram Steenhuizen, and ActionSA’s crude xenophobia, they have no choice. With the ANC no longer being able, on its own, to keep the capitalist class’ boots on the necks of the working class – a role the capitalist class had assigned it – they would need the help of the DA and even, if it cannot be avoided, that of the EFF.

The Moonshot Pact

The DA’s belief, originating in its 2014 election result – the biggest since its formation – that it was poised to secure a majority in the decade or so afterwards, was always delusional. Like the EFF, it benefited then from the absence of a mass workers party. Their 22% was an anti-ANC vote born of widespread anger over the 2012 Marikana massacre rather than born of any illusions amongst the working-class electoral majority in it. The DA is now poised to play the role as part of a pro-capitalist coalition government, that it has played from the opposition benches – as a right-wing neo-liberal bulwark to keep a weakened and possibly split ANC on the capitalist road it has been on from birth.

The DA’s serenading, to the tune of “Fly me to Moon,” of the comically named Moonshot Pact merely confirms its leader John Steenhuizen’s shallowness. He proudly believes he is taking the DA forward when its trajectory has gone into reverse. In pulling together what they delusionally referred to as a “national convention” initially, the DA has had to fend off completely justifiable criticism that it was doing exactly what it was: bullying this motley collection of parties. They are themselves not the least bit under the illusion that they can be anything other than opportunist formations exploiting minorities using backward ideas for key positions in local government and metros exercising power completely out of proportion to their actual level of electoral support.

The better-known of these are ActionSA, the Patriotic Alliance, the IFP and the FF+. The IFP under apartheid carried out atrocities the regime described as “black on black” violence costing thousands of lives. It has exploited DA members disaffected by its dalliance with the EFF whose leadership is vocally anti-white and calls for the expropriation of land without compensation for white-owned farms invasions. This has enabled the FF+ to eat into the DA’s white electoral base.

Some of them have been used, and in turn used, the shifting factional alliances formed and reformed by the bigger DA, ANC and EFF to create the chaos that has reigned countrywide in local government since 2021. The scenes in the collapsing “world-class African city”, Johannesburg, have come to resemble a bar room brawl, with eight mayors since 2021 and a ninth possible.

They have shifted allegiances by auctioning themselves off to the highest bidder. This has resulted in Johannesburg residents suffering the misfortune of being led twice by the same party, the DA not by elections, but by horse trading senior lucrative positions. Mpho Phalatse, the first Black woman mayor of Joburg, was removed, then reinstated then removed again. Another two are from Al Jama-ah, which uses Islam to the disgust of millions of Muslims to promote homophobia. The first Al Jama-ah mayor was forced by public indignation to resign after just three months over his complete incompetence. The second faces a no-confidence motion over allegations of running a Ponzi scheme.

In between, the xenophobic and Coloured racist nationalist Patriotic Alliance’s, Kenny Kunene acted as mayor, seizing his brief stint to carry out public raids on abandoned buildings in his version of the SA Police” Operation Fiela” to sweep out destitute African foreign migrants onto the streets. This convicted scammer spent half a decade behind bars before forming the PA with Gayton Mackenzie, a self proclaimed reformed convicted bank robber who calls for the return of the death penalty.

Despite initially refusing to get on board the DA’s pact to join the crew on the flight to the moon, the PA had accused the DA of hypocrisy by demanding all the moonshot vehicle crew members sign a pledge not to join an ANC/EFF coalition. He was correct. Steenhuizen had publicly committed the DA to join a coalition with the ANC provided it was Ramaphosa-led. The PA has now joined Snow White as the seventh leprechaun, after relenting to appeals by fellow xenophobe, Action SA’s Mashaba.

After attracting entirely predictable public ridicule, the moonshot pact undressed its circus clown costume and rebranded itself as the “multiparty charter for South Africa.” At the centre of its 8 principles is a shared commitment to “An open market economy” – the same capitalist economy, that is in a protracted death agony worldwide whose crisis no party in parliament can solve. This charter promises the working class more misery, poverty, inequality and mass unemployment. It has a much greater chance of sinking to the bottom of the ocean in its submersible crushed by the pressure of the intensifying class struggle than landing on the moon as an alternative government.

A pro-capitalist coalition government will be one of crisis

The EFF has indicated that it would be willing to form a coalition with the ANC, provided it is led by the current deputy president of the ANC and the country, the corruption-tainted Paul Mashatile. Though the EFF’s conditional support implies the removal of Ramaphosa who remains the EEF’s propaganda target, it would enter a coalition regardless. The ANC itself is deeply divided over whether their preferred coalition partner should be the EFF or the DA. The ANC national leadership, supported by its Veterans and Youth Leagues is pressurising Mashatile’s ANC Gauteng base to end its de facto ANC/EFF coalition in the Ekurhuleni Metro Council.

The anarchy in Johannesburg is a foretaste of what such a government of squabbling opportunists attempting to exploit the ANC’s travails, would look like. This could have the opposite effect. Voters might end up voting for the ANC devil they know. What is much more likely is that the DA’s hypocrisy will be exposed. The Moonshot Pact’s main stated aim is to prevent an ANC/EFF coalition. Despite their preference for Ramaphosa-led ANC and the EFF for Mashatile-led ANC, all three will, especially if there is the possibility of a constitutional crisis, set aside all pre-election promises to their voters, members and coalition suitors. They will succumb to pressure from the capitalist class which will knock heads together to form a government “for the sake of the country” in a new government of national unity possibly including new formations such as Rise Mzansi.

It will be a pro-capitalist coalition as incapable collectively of solving the crisis of capitalism as they are individually. The working class must demonstrate the same determination to defend its interests as the capitalist class. This crisis can be resolved only by the working class uniting all struggles under a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme.