The Democratic Alliance (DA) faces the prospect of losing more votes at the 2024 national and provincial elections as more black leaders are set to dump the official opposition in protest against the organisation’s alleged marginalisation of black leaders.
Several black leaders who have left the party this week told Sunday World that black members are unhappy with how senior black leaders are being targeted, and how a dominant white grouping within the organisation is fighting against policies meant to redress the wrongs of apartheid.
This week’s resignation of Gauteng member of the provincial legislature (MPL) and former deputy federal chairperson of the party, Makashule Gana, is set to trigger a fresh round of resignations by senior black leaders as the party prepares its strategy to fight the 2024 elections.
Gana, a former leader of the DA’s youth wing, was one of the last remaining members of the so-called “black caucus”, a group of influential black party leaders that included former DA leader Mmusi Maimane, former parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, former KZN MPL Mbali Ntuli and former MP Phumzile van Damme, among others.
In September 2020, Sunday World reported Gana, Mazibuko, Van Damme and Ntuli had been targets of a white grouping in the party led by party leader John Steenhuisen and federal council chairperson Helen Zille.
The party’s disciplinary committee, the federal legal commission, is accused of being used as a weapon to target vocal black leaders. Gana, Ntuli and Van Damme were all in the process of being hauled before it when they left.
A DA MP said many black leaders are aggrieved by the direction the party has taken since the ascendency of Steenhuisen and Zille.
“There are many blacks who are going to leave. The DA is going down. They are regrouping as white people.”
A source close to Gana said his resignation was a long time coming. The leader, who sits in the party’s federal council, said Gana had been fighting what he called white domination.
In November 2019, Gana squared off with Steenhuisen for the position of party leader following Maimane’s resignation. The party’s federal council voted for Steenhuisen.
Maimane was forced out of the DA after the party’s decline in electoral support from 22,23% in 2014 to 20,77% in 2019. The party also declined in its Western Cape stronghold, dropping from 59% to 55%.
Gana told Sunday World on Friday that the DA has lost the desire, appetite and ambition to grow. “There is no drive to expand the support base and grow in all communities.”
DA’s chief whip in KwaZulu Natal Zwakhele Mncwango, MP Patricia Kopane and under siege Western Cape legislature speaker Masizole Mnqasela are among other senior black leaders who are understood to be aggrieved.
DA spokesperson, Siviwe Gwarube, did not respond to questions, while Charity McCord – speaking on behalf of Steenhuisen – referred all questions to Zille.
The DA has been in the grip of a race war since the departure of Mazibuko in 2014. Mazibuko had a public fallout with Zille following the former’s support of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Bill and the Employment Equity Amendment Bill.
Mazibuko was replaced by Maimane in 2015. However, Maimane’s insistence of race and redress being part of the party’s policies caused a major fallout and he left the DA in 2019, along with former Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba.
Mashaba accused the party of being used by a rightwing cabal to target black leaders.
“You’re still going to see more key leaders leaving the DA. They are pushed out by right-wing elements’ tendencies,” he said. In 2024, the DA will lose more members and electoral support.”
Sizwe Mchunu, who was once at the helm of the DA in KZN, said promising black leaders were leaving because of a toxic environment within the party’s ranks. He said those who were still inside suffered in silence as they feared being targeted if they spoke out.
Follow @SundayWorldZA on Twitter and @sundayworldza on Instagram, or like our Facebook Page, Sunday World, by clicking here for the latest breaking news in South Africa. To Subscribe to Sunday World, click here.