Like many others, I too waited in anticipation for the unveiling of new original ideas in the DA’s Vision 2029, which was, in the end, a letdown. Some cringeworthy displays left me wondering whether DA leader Mmusi Maimane realises that originality in politics goes a long way.
Last month, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Federal Congress in Nelson Mandela Bay adopted a ‘Values Charter’, which is the new cornerstone of all party policies and now appears in the preamble to the party’s Constitution.
In what appears to be an empty document in content, DA leader Mmusi Maimane promised that the Values Charter would be the stem that assists in developing new policies for the party. At face value, the Values Charter is a general blue skies document that could have been lifted from any religious text or feel good book. In essence, however, it tells of a party that is bringing religious philosophy into party politics.
In his speech in Jabulani, Soweto – launching a branch of the Values Charter, Vision 2029 policy – as he always does, first up Maimane invoked the name of President Nelson Mandela, a former African National Congress (ANC) president and country president. Maimane boasts that he and his party are the only true custodians of the Nelson Mandela legacy his party, the ANC, has vacated.
In acknowledging the historical facts of DA’s origin, Maimane said; “In the last twenty years we have grown our party from 10 seats in Parliament to more than 100.” This was his referencing of the Democratic Party as the bone marrow of the party.
Mandela regarded the Democratic Party (DP), the DA’s parent party, as a racist party that was only interested in protecting white minority capital. He had numerous confrontations in Parliament with Tony Leon, the then-leader of the party. The Democratic Party had black leaders then too.
With Maimane’s acknowledgement that the DA’s seed is the DP, he still insists in mentioning ANC leaders as role models and hardly ever mentions Helen Suzman, Zach de Beer, Tony Leon or Joe Seremane – these being leaders of the last few decades his party had.
As usual, Maimane once again ended his speech in Jabulani with the socialist slogan “Amandla!” (power), which politically means state or people must have full power over capital and markets through redistribution and regulation. This is the antithesis of what the DA stands for.
The DA’s political cultural appropriations continue to confuse many about the party’s ideological standing. The party is still a part of international liberal groupings and still attends international liberal conferences, yet locally it invokes socialist slogans and whitewashes socialist Mandela as the patriarch of theirs.
Shouting “Power – Amandla!” after mentioning Nelson Mandela’s name a few times in one’s speech could be easily regarded a left-leaning politics – in the DA’s case, however, it is not so. These cultural appropriations are a game, a ploy to make blacks feel at home. Mandela stood against everything Maimane’s DA stands for politically, and appropriating him time and time and again will not change this fact. The very laws Maimane criticises are a Mandela creation.
The ANC is currently celebrating 60 years of the Freedom Charter, its socio-economic and political policy of 1955, which the party says continues to guide all its policies and guided it during the Constituent Assembly drafting of the country Constitution.
With the Freedom Charter buzzing about in all ANC speeches, Maimane could not stop himself in declaring the DA as a chartists party too in Nelson Mandela Bay’s unveiled ‘Values Charter’. When the ANC talks of the Freedom Charter, Maimane talks of his Values Charter.
President Zuma introduced a concise medium-term policy called Vision 2030 within the National Development Plan (NDP). Again Maimane could not help himself in introducing his Vision 2029, a one year shy of the Vision 2030 policy.
Maimane has frequently been accused of mimicking US President Barak Obama and cleric Martin Luther King Junior in his speeches, the body movement, the elocution, tele-prompters and hand gestures – leading to CNN referring to him as the ‘Obama of Soweto’.
Like the DA’s Values Charter, its Vision 2029 is empty in content and talks of a fanciful dream world with no regard for global forces and international markets.
Maimane’s Vision 2029 does not address how he will deal with the Western Cape’s social racism, job preservation for whites and other remnants of a pre-1994 society. Maimane’s fanciful Vision 2029 lacks the grasp of the globalised economic environment. He regurgitated the discredited eight percent growth plan and called for Eskom to be broken. The continent did not feature and the general gist tended to favour western politics.
DA’s Vision 2029 ignores the AU Agenda 2063, SADC Region Industrialisation Plan and goes on a tangent about the size of the Cabinet, clearly declaring the party’s federalism, or in South Africa, bantustanism, where poor provinces are left to rot.
In Jabulani, as though not cringeworthy enough, the political cultural appropriations did not end with “Amandla” and “Nelson Mandela” but immediately followed by ANC’s Mkhonto we Sizwe ‘toyi toyi’ and guerrilla liberation songs. All this is done without the deep understanding of the meaning and symbolism – it’s just fun.
To succeed, the DA must differentiate itself and stop the attempts to be a mini ANC or ANC ‘light’. Wanting the black vote is good, but mimicking and appropriating a rival’s slogans and culture is shameful and does not instil confidence. Maimane must start quoting his own past leaders when making speeches and let the ANC leaders be ANC leaders.
When Julius Malema is bratty in Parliament, Maimane tries to upstage him. Outside of the ANC, Maimane is now the most important politician in the land. One wishes that he was respected enough to now and again have private tea with the State President on matters of state and country. President Zuma has simply ignored Maimane in Parliament, and this is not good for the nation as a whole.
Casting Mandela as a DA-like person is crass, opportunistic and plain inappropriate when selling policy that Mandela himself disagreed with to the point of submitting to death if needs be.
Black Empowerment and Employment Equity laws were signed by Mandela. The notion of Eskom being a state-owned company is a Mandela policy – he clearly stated that Eskom was too strategic for the poor to be sold off or broken down.
Originality goes a long way in politics, so Vision2030 can’t just be appropriated into Vision 2029; the Freedom Charter can’t be whitewashed with a Values Charter.
The DA ought to plainly articulate its policies on black business, employment equity, land and other redress policies, and stop hiding behind ANC policies. The public needs to see and feel the competing policies, not nuances.
As is, some 300,000 whites are unemployed, with over 7 million blacks unemployed beside them. With this reality, Maimane still sees Employment Equity as “unfair”. Over 90 percent of economic net value in South Africa is still white-owned, and Maimane is placing blocks on emancipating black business.
One of Maimane’s pet policies is to turn black townships into vendors; a nation of vendors with their homes locked in cash loans, as he demands a widespread issuing of title deeds so homeowners can get credit to start small vendor businesses. Soon, these people will have difficulty servicing the loans and they’ll be mass asset attachments for banks and loan sharks. Another issue to consider with the title deeds Maimane calls for is gentrification, where loans would be used to improve homes and cause for the poor to be out of place.
Vision 2029 is a gimmick and gimmicks are not historical. DM