DA leader Mmusi Maimane, speaking yesterday in Durban, laid out his party’s plan: to win the Pretoria and Port Elizabeth municipalities and reduce the ANC’s majority to below 50% in Johannesburg.
It will fight to retain its Cape Town stronghold.
An analyst said the party might have to get into bed with unlikely partners to achieve these aims.
Maimane said the local government elections would provide a great opportunity for citizens to bring the DA difference to many more municipalities.
“In metros such as Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and the City of Johannesburg, current market research shows that change is on the horizon,” he said.
He was speaking to media after a two-day meeting of the DA federal council, its highest decision- and policy-making structure.
Political analyst Mzoxolo Mpolase said it was a good plan for the DA to focus on cities instead of stretching itself to contest provinces.
“They will not have a scenario like the one they had last year. They summoned millions of rands for the Gauteng campaign and found they could not even become an official opposition in North West and Limpopo. They were doing a spray-and-pray scenario . they found that it did not yield results in Gauteng or in peripheral provinces,” Mpolase said.
It made sense for the DA to target Tshwane and Port Elizabeth as the vote in those cities had not produced an outright winner, he said.
Maimane said: “We have to succeed. We have to work to make sure we achieve those objectives. It’s a strict target, but it’s well within our reach.
“Best case for us is the retention of Cape Town, wins in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay [and] the reduction of the ANC to below 50% in Johannesburg.”
Against the current backdrop of unemployment, corruption and a weakening economy, the DA had “no choice” but to win.
Local elections present their own challenges.
“Local elections have a notoriously lower voter turnover than general elections,” said Ebrahim Fakir, a manager at the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in South Africa.
“The level of interest is not high, nor is there enough hype. Voters don’t believe that local elections are as important as general elections. But the converse is, in fact, true.
“But there was a spike in voter turnout in 2011. There was a 50% increase in voter turnout. The DA did better. It recovered. And got people out to vote. Whether they can do that again is yet to be seen.”
If the DA lost Cape Town, Fakir said, it would be its own doing, not because of the ANC.
“Nelson Mandela Bay is more complicated. The opposition is splintered. There are the EFF, UDM, Cope, United Front.
You’ll find the DA forming pre-electoral alliances or post-electoral coalitions. Despite the dissonant policies, they will cobble together a coalition. The appetite against the ANC is so high, you might find unlikely bedfellows.”
Fakir said the problem the DA faced in Johannesburg was that the premier, David Makhura, was “saying the right things” to impress voters.
Mpolase said the DA had to have a strategy for fighting the Economic Freedom Fighters.
“But they are not talking much about what are they going to be doing about the EFF, which has identified some of [the same] metros as targets [for elections].
“You need to focus on all of the parties. If your research shows that the EFF will grow by such a percentage, you need to know that that percentage will come from somewhere – either from the cannibalisation of the COPE vote or [from] the DA or the ANC.
“When they [the DA] were targeting Gauteng, they did not think about what they should be doing about EFF, which took much of the vote despite the funds the DA spent on the Gauteng campaign,” Mpolase said.