The Democratic Alliance may be in crisis but the Public has short memory. And pragmatists may vote for them simply because South Africa needs an opposition party. For all the DA’s chronic and repeated flaws and lies, the awkward fact is that the ANC has more power and is thus responsible for more wrongdoing. The DA will likely decline but how hard or soft will that landing be?
DA specific, the most important point is that Helen Zille is in control. Her return (although I don’t believe she was ever gone) shouldn’t be underestimated. She brings in funding which will be used to change narrative. She protected DA corruption, even rewarded those involved. That will likely continue to be one of her key roles.
Consequently, the report that was used to destroy her enemies shouldn’t be read as a reference in an article. The report, itself, must be read. Notably, Zille’s major failings mentioned within became irrelevant. Only Maimane and his supporters were counted… and subtracted from power.
I realise it’s a Monday (wherein readership drops) so I encourage you to bookmark it for when you have the time. I’ll comment on it tomorrow.'Same Shit, Different Government' pdf (2215 downloads)
Here’s the report in full:
REVIEW OF THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
Final Report 19 October 2019
Compiled by Ryan Coetzee, Tony Leon and Michiel le Roux
In the wake of the general election, Mmusi Maimane asked Ryan Coetzee to chair an independent review into the party’s election performance and broader circumstances. Mmusi also asked Tony Leon and Michiel Le Roux to join Ryan and together they formed the panel that conducted the review.
The review’s terms of reference were as follows:
“The panel will conduct a review of the party’s fitness to achieve its stated objective of building a constitutional liberal democratic alternative to the ANC. The review will investigate the underlying drivers of the party’s performance in the 2019 general election and will encompass the capacity of the party’s leadership and public representatives, its political identity, policy platform, strategy, structure, processes and operations as well as any other considerations that may be relevant to achieving the party’s objectives.”
All public representatives and staff of the party were invited to make written submissions to the panel. Over 200 submissions were subsequently received. In addition, a series of meetings was held with key office bearers in the party and a number of people outside of party structures.
The panel would like to thank every person who made a submission or attended a meeting for their contribution. We were enormously impressed by the thoughtfulness, insight and honesty with which party members and friends of the party made their submissions and very careful consideration was given to each one.
We would also like to extend our appreciation to the party leader for setting up the review and ensuring it could operate without fear, favour or interference. We believe it was a good, courageous decision made with the best interests of the party at heart.
Finally, we would like to thank Sandy van Hoogstraten who was deputised by the leader to assist us and has been indefatigable in providing us with every form of support required.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE REPORT
In reaching our conclusions, the panel has of course been informed by the submissions, views and information we have studied, but in the end the findings and recommendations are the product of our own carefully considered analysis.
The panel took the view that in order to be useful, the review needed to:
- Be based on an honest assessment of the challenges the party faces no matter how uncomfortable.
- Focus its findings and recommendations on the defining and fundamental challenges the party faces rather than comment on every aspect of the party’s business or attempt a detailed reworking of the party’s systems and operations.
- Produce clear, decisive recommendations.
- Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater by making recommendations that compromise what is best and most successful about the party.
- The report is ordered into a series of themes informed in large part by the submissions we received and designed to provide focus on the priority issues.
THE IMPERATIVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND ACT DECISIVELY
South Africa urgently needs a credible alternative to the governing ANC, an effective opposition and a strong constitutional liberal-democratic current in its body politic. It is therefore deeply concerning that the Democratic Alliance regressed in South Africa’s 2019 general election, falling 1.5 percentage points to 20.7% from 22.2% in 2014, losing 470 000 votes nationally and official opposition status in two provinces. This marked the first regression in what had been a consistent trend of electoral growth over 25 years.
Subsequent to the election, the DA has gone backwards in a number of by-elections and is tracking at below 20% in its internal polling.
Against this backdrop, the DA faces a date with destiny in 2021. The losses at this year’s general election could well pale into insignificance against the likely disintegration of the party’s support at the 2021 local government elections.
In most of the submissions received and discussions held there was a very clear acknowledgement and acceptance that the party needs to change in order to succeed. However, we also detected a tendency to blame others for the circumstances in which the party finds itself and a consequent tendency therefore to expect others to do the changing.
It is of course true that what the DA seeks to do is hard and that the environment in which it operates is tough. But it won’t do to blame the rise of racial populism, a hostile media, the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, the Twitter mob or the legacy of ANC mismanagement of the councils we run. And it’s true that the DA has suffered indiscipline and factionalism of late, but it won’t do to blame others without taking a long hard look at oneself first.
That way lies the road to ruin.
It is absolutely vital, therefore, that every leader, public representative and staff member is willing to confront the party’s failings and take decisive action to turn its fortunes around. Failure to do so could fatally compromise the party’s future and the future of the country.
In the wake of the 2016 local government election four objectives were set for 2019:
- National growth
- Bringing the ANC under 50% in Gauteng
- Bringing the ANC under 50% in the Northern Cape
- Retaining a majority in the Western Cape
In the event, only one of those objectives – retaining a majority in the Western Cape – was achieved.
The critical question is thus: what happened between 2016 and 2019 to cause this negative turn in the DA’s election fortunes?
In our view, the primary causes of the party’s failure predate the election campaign. A series of missteps over a 3-year period led to:
– A significant shift away from the DA among white voters, particularly white Afrikaans voters.
– A less sharp but nevertheless noticeable shift away from the DA among coloured voters.
– A marginal increase among black voters, where much larger growth had been expected.
– Lower overall turnout of DA supporters.
These conclusions are borne out by the table below, which shows the percentage of voters overall and from each population group that voted for the DA in every election since 2000.
What is striking about the DA’s decline in 2019 is that it came against the backdrop of a very significant upsurge in the party’s support immediately after 2016, unsurprising given that voters generally shift towards parties in the aftermath of successful election outcomes.
The party’s tracking of its support shows that it reached its peak in early October 2016 (31%). Then, over a period of 27 months it fell a precipitous 17 percentage points before regaining some ground to end at just over 20% on election day.
The following events and incidents occurred during that period, each of which damaged the party’s brand and dented its support level:
– Helen’s Zille’s tweets about colonialism and the subsequent handling of the issue.
– The protracted and confusing ejection of Patricia De Lille from the party.
– The water crisis in Cape Town.
– The failure to factor in and plan for the ascendancy in December 2017 of Cyril Ramaphosa to the presidency of the ANC and the country in 2018.
– Many and varied disputes over race issues, from the leader’s tweet about Ashwin Willemse to the party’s handling of the Schweizer-Reneke controversy to race-based redress policy.
– The loss of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.
The rest of this report focusses on the themes and issues we believe underly the DA’s poor electoral performance and party management leading into and through the 2019 campaign.
It is our carefully considered view that the single most important factor in shaping the DA’s current circumstances is a failure of effective leadership.
Significant and widespread concern was expressed in submissions and during discussion regarding the effectiveness of the party’s leader and wider federal leadership.
The overwhelming view of those who made submissions or with whom we held discussions is that the party leader, while immensely talented, committed to the cause, hardworking and widely liked, can be indecisive, inconsistent and conflict averse and that this has led to:
– A lack of clarity about the party’s vision and direction.
– Confusion about the party’s position on key issues.
– The erosion of the party’s unity of purpose.
– Deep divisions within the national caucus.
– A breakdown in trust between the leader and some of the party’s structures
– A failure to produce a credible policy platform.
– A general erosion of discipline across the party.
– The ‘outsourcing’ of key leadership matters and decisions to the CEO of the party in the face of such a vacuum, which has had a ratcheting effect on the breakdown of trust between key party formations and the federal head office.
It is striking that some or all of these views were expressed by almost every person or delegation we met and are contained in a number of key written submissions we received.
The relationship between the leader and the chairperson of the federal council has become dysfunctional. The relationship has come to be characterized by a lack of trust and a failure to communicate effectively.
The key nexus of the leader, the chairperson of federal council, the chief executive and the chief whip has ceased to function as a team as distrust and division makes unity of purpose impossible.
The national management committee has become overly large and is no longer regarded as a forum where frank conversation is possible. In consequence it no longer functions as the “kitchen cabinet” it is meant to be.
Taken together, the preceding points suggest there has been is a critical failure of leadership at the top of the party resulting in confusion about the party’s values and vision, uncertainty about its direction and a fragmentation of its purpose.
There is a widespread view among members of the federal executive that the federal head office of the party dominates decision-making at federal executive meetings. While this may be so, the complaints actually speak to a failure of the leader and the federal executive to perform their duties effectively. In particular, the federal executive and, more broadly, the federal council has failed to take full and proper responsibility for the party’s strategic decisions.
In addition, members of the federal executive fail effectively to take ownership of its decisions and communicate them to their constituencies. As a consequence, the body fails both to be the representative forum it is meant to be and to exercise authority over the party, rendering it ineffective and contributing to the general vacuum of leadership at the top of the party.
The relationship between the senior staff leadership and much of the party’s federal and provincial leadership has become seriously strained and, in some cases, dysfunctional. There is fault on both sides. However, the central fact is that the chief executive has lost the confidence of the federal and provincial leadership.
Given the above, we have come to the conclusion that significant changes are required to restore functional and effective leadership to the party. It is also our view that the party’s supporters and potential supporters need to see that the party understands it has performed sub-optimally, accepts responsibility and is prepared to change. Consequently, we recommend:
– That those ultimately responsible for the leadership and management of the party – the leader, chairperson of federal council and chief executive – step down and make way for new leadership. We note that James Selfe, the chairperson of the federal council, has already retired from the post. James has served as chairperson of the federal council for almost two decades, has done so with great success and enormous distinction and is the most committed of party stalwarts. We wish him well in his new role providing oversight of and guidance to the DA’s governments. We note also that Paul Boughey has also announced his resignation. Paul has served the DA in a variety of senior roles over the past 15 years. We recognize his commitment to the party and outsized contribution to the cause over the years and wish him well in his next role.
– That a federal congress is held as soon as constitutionally possible to allow for the election of a new leader and make possible a number of other recommendations contained in this report.
– That the national management committee be reconstituted to include only the leader, chairperson of the federal council, chief whip and chief executive, with select others joining for discussions relevant to their responsibilities.
– That the national management committee should participate in a programme at least once a year designed to enable effective teamwork.
– That term limits are introduced for the national and provincial leaders of the DA, the chairperson of the federal council and the chief whip. We suggest that these leaders may serve for a maximum period of 10 years before a break of at least 5 years is required.
– That future CEOs are contracted for a period of no more than five years.
– That the party source and deliver much more effective leadership development specific to the DA and its needs. It is essential that the party craft and instill a specific DA approach to leadership that is designed to enable its long-term success.
– That the federal executive of the party establish a ‘board of advisers’ consisting of sympathetic and expert ‘outsiders’ deeply committed to the DA project who can act as a sounding board for the party leadership. Meetings should be quarterly or thereabouts, held in a convivial atmosphere, be entirely off the record and allow the leadership to obtain advice from a distance and from genuinely disinterested people.
PURPOSE AND VALUES
The second theme to dominate submissions was the feeling that there is a lack of clarity and consensus about the party’s purpose and values. At the heart of this concern is the view that the party is both uncertain and divided on how to approach the question of race and that this has had a particularly negative impact on its election performance.
The panel discerned five separate but related aspects of this particular issue:
- A general incoherence in the party’s philosophical approach to the issue of race.
- An insensitivity on the part of some public representatives to the feelings generated by South Africa’s racialised past and present.
- The party’s approach to redress policy.
- The party’s approach to racially charged public issues and incidents.
- The party’s approach to race in its own structures.
- It is our view that these issues are all a consequence of the party’s difficulty in developing a coherent and principle-based approach to race that allows it to make clear, consistent, communicable decisions, especially when hard choices are required. It is not enough to operate in slogans and generalities. We offer here a recommended approach and recommendations designed to assist the party in charting a course forward.
We start from the premise that the DA’s purpose is to promote substantive freedom by ensuring every person has the right, space and wherewithal to live a life they value. This is a statement of purpose that simultaneously privileges the individual as the touchstone of value and recognizes that individuals require more than constitutionally enshrined rights in order to be free.
At the centre of this project is the imperative to transcend South Africa’s history of competing racial nationalisms and the discrimination, division and inequality that are the legacy of racial oppression in South Africa. Unless we do, South Africans cannot enjoy the substantive freedom for which the DA stands.
Within this framework it is possible to develop a view of some key concepts that relate to race and about which the DA requires clarity.
The individual – The DA view should be that every person is an individual in that each of us has a unique perspective on the world and is consequently best placed to determine what we value in life. This does not mean that people exist in isolation from any context. Each person is the product of a complex interplay between nature and the familial, psychological, social, economic, cultural and historical forces that shape who we are. And as a consequence, we all have multiple aspects to our identities. But none of us is first and foremost a representative example of a group, including a race group. This is a critically important conclusion because anyone who sees themselves primarily as a representative of a group should not feel at home in the DA.
Non-racialism – In the framework set out above, non-racialism means: non-discrimination on the basis of race; seeing people as individuals and not as mere facsimiles of abstract racial archetypes; avoiding assumptions about people on the basis of their race; recognizing the need to redress the consequences of racial discrimination.
Redress – Redress concerns making right a wrong. It is, in other words, a matter of justice. In the South African context, the purpose of redress should be to compensate people who suffered discrimination and exclusion in the past and who still suffer from the consequences of that discrimination and exclusion. The second part of that sentence is particularly important. In the DA’s framework, it is not just to compensate someone for wrongs they suffered if they have already been compensated, especially if there are others who have yet to be compensated.
It is also worth pointing out that it is not possible entirely to compensate people for the injustices of the past. There are things – like the loss of loved ones, for instance – that can never be made right. And the most effective way to ensure a better future is to promote policies that support social cohesion and enable prosperity. No redress policy can ever match the positive impact that excellent education, better healthcare, safer streets and a successful economy would have on the circumstances of South Africa’s poorest citizens. But it’s not either/or. Opportunity policies and redress policies can and should both be pursued, provided they are targeted at individuals, not groups.
Diversity – The value of diversity lies in the wide variety of skills, attributes, perspectives, backgrounds and experiences different people can bring to bear on the world’s challenges. It does not and should not simply mean racial diversity, not least because people of the same “race” are not all the same and do not all share the same perspective. In promoting diversity, for example in selections and appointments, the DA should employ this broader approach to diversity rather than a narrowly racial one.
Representivity – Representivity is the idea that people from a particular demographic group can and should represent others from the same group. This idea is profoundly at odds with the DA’s philosophy in that it is premised on the idea that people are not individuals but rather iterations of a larger entity. It should have no place in the DA.
Reconciliation – Reconciliation is an idea that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years but remains foundational to the building of a successful constitutional democratic state because it requires empathy, insight, judgement and patience and, above all, requires a commitment to the inclusion of all who live in South Africa. These qualities are sorely lacking in much of what passes for political leadership in South Africa today.
Given the above and the wider need to ensure the DA’s staff and public representatives understand and internalise its core values, we recommend:
– That every DA public representative and staff member is given thorough training in the DA’s political philosophy, vision and values.
Understanding and empathy
Many conflicts over race are a consequence of a lack of understanding and empathy. The truth is that unless leaders and parties are sensitive to people’s feelings, intellectual debates over philosophy and policy will fail to resolve tension, generate trust or build consensus.
For example, it doesn’t help to accuse black South Africans who want the material and emotional consequences of apartheid acknowledged and addressed of being racial nationalists.
Equally, it doesn’t help to accuse white South Africans who are concerned about their legitimacy, place and prospects in South Africa of racism and “white privilege”.
And it doesn’t help to ignore or dismiss the views and feelings of coloured and Indian South Africans who suffered their own particular form of oppression in the past.
Transcending South Africa’s past, and leading a political party that seeks to do so, requires a sensitivity to feelings. It requires empathy, insight, patience and generosity. And it is possible to possess and display these attributes without compromising any principle.
Unless every member, public representative and leader in the DA embraces this reality the party’s effectiveness will be compromised at best and at worst, its prospects capsized.
Our recommendation in this regard is covered in the recommendation on leading diversity, below.
Before dealing specifically with redress policy, we would note that the party has failed over the past few years to develop a compelling policy platform designed to achieve the open, opportunity society for which it stands and that this is one of the reasons so much attention has been focused on the subject of redress policy in particular. Redress policy should never be presented outside of a broader policy platform designed to empower South Africans to live lives they value.
It is common cause inside the party that many South Africans remain disadvantaged as a consequence of past discrimination and that this disadvantage should be addressed in part through a policy of redress. There is some disagreement however on whether race should be used as a proxy in determining who the recipients of this redress should be, or whether disadvantage is identifiable without recourse to a proxy.
Our view is that much of the disagreement stems from a suspicion about motive: some people who oppose using race as a proxy are suspected of a lack of empathy for the circumstances and feelings of black South Africans and even an unspoken opposition to any form of redress; some people who support race as a proxy are in turn suspected of being racial nationalists who are at odds with the party’s core principles, and that such people leverage race as means of personal and political advancement.
Without suggesting that there is no disagreement on this issue at all, our view is that there is greater accord inside the party than public disputes on the subject suggest.
Having said that, the party cannot avoid a clear choice on this issue. We recommend the following:
– That the party develops and adopts a compelling redress policy programme grounded in DA values and that this is developed as part of a wider policy development programme.
– That the party targets its redress policies at people who currently suffer disadvantage as a consequence of past discrimination and does not use race as a proxy for disadvantage.
Racially charged issues and incidents
There is very significant dissatisfaction inside the party with the way in which certain incidents and issues have been dealt with. The most significant of these is the incident in Schweizer Reneke but others were also frequently mentioned, including the leader’s tweet about Ashwin Willemse and comments about “white privilege”, etc.
It seems to us that these issues have been caused by two factors: first, a failure to establish the facts before taking public positions and second, the desire to use incidents of alleged racism to reaffirm the party’s non-racist credentials.
While the party should indeed take a stand against racism, we believe that it is wrong and unhelpful to take positions on incidents before the full facts have emerged and that in any event it is tactically unwise to become embroiled in every blow-up on social media. The party’s anti-racism agenda should be clearly thought-through, properly articulated and prosecuted through sound policy and constructive engagement with the public.
Consequently, we recommend:
– That the party and its public representatives establish the full facts of incidents reported in the news or on social media before taking a public position on them.
– That the party avoid embroiling itself in social media storms in general.
The place of race inside the DA
There seems to be significant internal division over the place of race in the life of the party.
On the one hand, there are those who feel the party seeks to achieve diversity by promoting people on the basis of race and that this is contrary to the DA’s values. There is further concern among this group that some public representatives are increasingly mobilising on the basis of race in pursuit of their personal career objectives. Finally, there is concern that the DA as an institution has begun to succumb to an element of racial nationalist thinking.
On the other hand, there are people who feel that too many in the DA fail to understand their experience, seek to exclude them from full participation in the life of the party and resist the need for diversity and redress.
What struck us during our discussions with people inside the party, however, was that while these groupings and views existed, people generally seemed thoughtful, reasonable and open to the views of others on this subject. It is important therefore to conduct discussion and debate on this issue in a manner that seeks to enhance understanding, not exacerbate division.
We would also strongly urge DA leaders, public representatives and members to unite around the ideas set out in the “philosophy” section of this chapter.
In addition, we recommend:
– That together with training on the DA’s philosophy, the party sources and provides training on how to lead diverse groups of people in emotionally charged environments for every person in national, provincial or regional leadership positions as well as national, provincial and metro caucus leadership positions. It is not possible to legislate for every aspect of human relationships in a political party. Leadership is critical and needs to be exercised more effectively across the board.
Promoting diversity inside the DA
Promoting diversity inside the DA is a fraught undertaking. We need to be honest here: on the one hand, selecting or promoting people simply on the basis of their race or other demographic characteristics is a violation of the DA’s values; on the other hand, lists and caucuses that are not diverse undermine the DA’s claim to be a party for all South Africans.
The DA’s current nomination regulations are actually an impressively sophisticated attempt to square this circle. Through three distinct and sequential processes, they seek to reflect the need to respect internal democracy (the election of a “pool”), reward competence (the assessments) and achieve diversity (allowing for a limited adjustment of the lists).
It is important to note that the “competence” part of the process offers no guarantee that those who find themselves in electable positions are in fact properly qualified for the job. All it achieves is a relative measure (ranking) of the people on offer.
Nevertheless, it seems to us that the system has the merit of honesty: it respects principle and where it compromises it does so in a limited fashion, acknowledging that the compromise in indeed a compromise. But the aim of course should be to achieve diversity without having to adjust lists.
In order to arrive at this outcome as soon as possible – and here we think the party should target 2024 – we recommend steps that could help achieve two things: first, better quality candidates of all races, genders and backgrounds; second, an assessment framework that recognizes and rewards all the various skills and attributes successful public representatives require.
We therefore recommend the following:
– That a structured always-on programme is established to recruit a wider range of high-quality candidates into the party.
– That the programme is headed by someone appointed as a deputy chairperson of the federal council in accordance with our recommendation in section 10 of this report.
– That a mechanism is established which allows for the insertion of some of these candidates into the party’s lists in electable positions. (For example, positions 3, 13 and 23 could be used for this purpose.)
– That the same person may not be “promoted” to a higher position on any list more than once in their careers on the grounds that five years’ experience of being a public representative should be sufficient to empower anyone to compete without the need for such promotion.
– That the training and development programme for public representatives be intensified and designed to impart concrete, measurable improvements in the skills and attributes required to succeed at the job.
– That the assessments used during candidate selection are reviewed with the aim of ensuring all the skills and attributes successful candidates require are recognized and fairly accounted for.
Taken together and implemented well, these recommendations should ensure that the party is able to produce diverse groups of electable candidates without over-reliance on artificial methods of doing so.
An organisation’s culture is defined by the way in which its people behave and the way in which people behave is driven by the values they believe in. It is therefore easy to identify an organisation’s animating values by observing the behaviour of people in that organisation.
During the review process we detected a number of behaviours that we think militate against the party’s success. These are identified below.
Authoritarianism – We have been struck by the rigid formality and coded aggression with which people address each other in the party. Communication often seems to be delivered with a possible legal challenge in mind. Allied to this is an attachment to hierarchy, position and title that is frankly out of place in a party like the DA. All in all these things can make the party an unpleasant place to work, whether as a public representative or a staff member.
Fear of speaking out – A surprising number of people contacted us for reassurance that submissions would be kept strictly confidential. Far too many people are afraid of expressing their views for fear of some sort of reprisal. This state of affairs is clearly not healthy in a democratic organisation.
Internal litigiousness – Over the past few years it seems that internal disciplinary processes are increasingly used by aggrieved parties to prosecute disputes and by party authorities to prosecute indiscipline. This is an unhealthy state of affairs that creates both an unpleasant internal environment and embroils the party in drawn out quasi-legal processes that damage its credibility with voters.
Destructive behaviour on social media – Paradoxically, over the past few years there has been a significant increase in public and often very personal contestation and destructive behaviour, most often on social media. While members and public representatives should not be forced to conform to straight-jacketed thinking and public debate of competing ideas is not in and of itself a problem, there is something dysfunctional about willfully and stubbornly engaging in behaviour that damages the party’s prospects.
Leaking – The party has become unable to discuss anything without it almost immediately being leaked to the media, often in a purposefully distorted fashion. This undermines trust between colleagues, makes honest interaction difficult and compromises the effective functioning of the party.
Leveraging race – There is a tendency for some DA leaders to suggest a racial motive on the part of those they disagree with or are competing against. This makes reasoned debate impossible, causes division and has the potential to fatally destabilise the party.
In light of the above, we recommend:
– That the party survey its public representatives and staff in order to map the current culture of the organisation and then engage in a process to define the values and behaviour it wishes to see manifested internally. In short, a functional culture needs to become something that leadership and members work actively to nurture and protect.
– That the DA should abandon its social media policy and require members only to adhere to the party’s constitution by not bringing it into disrepute. While the party must protect its reputation, the social media policy is both authoritarian and impossible properly to police and apply. The best protection against those who damage the party on social media is a strong internal culture and more effective leadership.
– That the party seeks first to resolve discipline issues through the exercise of leadership and reserve the use of formal disciplinary processes as a last resort. Further recommendations in this regard are to be found in section 10.
– That the party adopt a “first name basis” policy. We think this might help to make for a more collegiate environment.
Over the past few years, the party initiated a number of policy development processes and appointed at least one person to head up policy development. None of the policy development processes reached a conclusion and the policy head resigned from the job on the grounds that the party failed to take policy making seriously. In the end, the manifesto was cobbled together at the last minute by a team at the federal head office.
A substantive, values-driven, evidence-based and properly costed policy platform is critical to the party’s long-term credibility. The failure to produce one is in our view further evidence of the failure of leadership at the top of the party and the lack of clarity over the party’s values and vision refenced earlier. It is also a consequence of the privileging of organisational matters over philosophical and policy concerns. It speaks to a lack of interest in and commitment to ensuring the philosophical and policy infrastructure of the party is in good order.
To remedy the situation, we recommend:
– That the party urgently undertake a well-structured policy development programme to give effect to its vision for South Africa, that it is both values-driven and evidence- based and that appropriate resources are made available for it.
– That the foundation of the policy programme should be an economic policy that would enable growth, opportunity and inclusion.
– That the programme is headed by a suitably qualified person appointed in consultation between the leader and the chairperson of the federal council, after consultation with the federal executive, as per our recommendation below in section 10 of this report.
– That all public representatives and structures of the party are invited to be part of the policy-making process.
The party’s political objective – to bring about an Open, Opportunity Society for All in South Africa – has not changed. Neither has the route to that objective shifted: winning power at local and provincial elections and ultimately becoming part of a national government.
In order to achieve our objective, however, it is necessary that the party
- holds onto the support it has,
- wins new support and
- governs in a way that starkly and positively contrasts the DA and the ANC.
Since the 2016 local government elections, the party has struggled to execute in all three of these areas.
We have discerned three key drivers of the party’s strategic approach over the past few years.
- The view that the primary obstacle to greater support among black voters is a belief that the party exists primarily to promote the interests of whites.
- The assumption that white voters have “nowhere else to go”.
- The decision to enter a number of arrangements with the Economic Freedom Fighters after the 2016 elections, putting the DA in government in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
We will address each of these in turn.
Winning more support from black voters
There is an enormous amount of quantitative and qualitative data that suggests the party does indeed have a serious trust problem among black voters, the most obvious of which is of course actual election results over the past 20 years. There are two reasons for this: first, many South Africans think about their interests through the prism of race, which is unsurprising given our history; second, there were and are weaknesses in the DA’s appeal to many black voters, not least the tendency of some DA members and public representatives to display little understanding of their experiences or empathy for their circumstances.
The party has undertaken a range of initiatives over many years to address this problem and it is commendable that the DA has been prepared to confront its own weaknesses in an attempt to broaden its electoral appeal. The challenge, however, is how to do so without compromising its values or unnecessarily alienating its existing supporters, and this is where we believe there has been an element of failure over the past few years.
In particular, we believe that the party has:
– Adopted certain policy positions (on BEE, for example) that compromise, or at least flex, a clear application of its core principles.
– Reacted to events (such as Schweizer Reneke and Ashwin Willemse) in a way that was impulsive and alienating of white voters.
– Struggled to promote diversity inside the party without it leading to resentment and division.
Leaving aside any contradiction of the party’s values, even seeming to choose between races is an approach that is destined to fail in a country awash in racial and ethno-nationalist parties who are much better at nationalism that the DA could ever be.
It is important to clarify what we are saying here. Very few of the voters who deserted the DA in the last election would have done so because they were dismayed at some sort of liberal slide-away. It is unlikely, for example, that voters who choose the FF+ or the ACDP over the DA do so because the DA is not liberal enough for them. But one of the benefits of liberal principles as opposed to nationalist ones is that they allow the DA to be for everyone equally. They allow the DA not to have to choose between races. It is precisely because the DA views people as individuals that it can seek to build one South Africa for all.
In the end, if the DA is to grow, it has to grow on the basis of its core values. To attempt otherwise is to risk either hollow success, where growth is achieved at the price of principle and impact; or outright failure, where limited growth among black voters is outweighed by the loss of support among minorities.
This is not to suggest the DA should not concern itself with the trust problem it continues to experience among many black voters. It is rather to suggest that success for the DA depends on avoiding either:
- compromising its principles in a way that leads to long-term incoherence and ineffectiveness or
- leaves any of its potential supporters with the impression that it chooses some voters over others on the basis of race.
In light of the above, we recommend:
– That the DA undertake a study designed to identify a group of voters of all races that fundamentally agree with the party’s values and then determine how best to overcome any obstacles that may exist to winning their support. The purpose of such research should therefore be to help the party work out where its values intersect with voter need and to pitch the party from that position. This research would feed into the development of a larger growth strategy for the party.
Assuming white voters have nowhere else to go
The party’s relentless focus on winning more support from black voters is understandable given the frustrations of the party’s failure to do so over many years. But taking existing voters for granted is always a mistake. It is striking that over a period of many years, the DA failed to heed a number of warnings that it was alienating sections of the white Afrikaans electorate.
In particular, two significant analyses published in Afrikaans language newspapers seem not to have been given the attention they deserved.
The first, by Professor Hermann Gilomee, was published in September 2017 under the heading “DA versaak Afrikaanse kieser” which contained an explicit warning that the DA was at risk of losing the support of Afrikaners.
The second, by Professor Roger Southall was published a year later and contained a similar warning.
Historically, the DA has been extremely sensitive to the prospect of shedding support and would be more alive to the risk of doing so than academics or newspaper editors. That seems no longer to be the case.
Consequently, we recommend:
– That the party take urgent steps to reengage disillusioned Afrikaans voters in an effort to win back their trust, and that it does so on the basis of the DA’s values and vision of an open, opportunity society for all.
Arrangements with the EFF
While appreciating the complexity and difficulty of the decision at the time, our view is that forming governments with the EFF’s support in Johannesburg and Tshwane was a mistake. There are two related problems with the move: first, our governments in those cities are unable to prosecute a properly DA agenda because we are overly beholden to the EFF; second, it is corrosive of the DA’s brand to rely on the EFF’s support to govern given that party’s political philosophy, policy agenda and general behaviour.
It is of course true that if the DA is to succeed it has to learn to succeed at managing coalitions and other forms of cooperation in government. It is also true that the party has previously participated in coalitions and relied on other parties for support to govern. The issue here isn’t solely the ideological incompatibility of the EFF and the DA; it is also a matter of strategy and tactics. Where the DA can dominate coalitions and protect its identity and brand while doing so, it should not hesitate to enter cooperative government. If it cannot do that, it should avoid such governments. In Cape Town in 2006, for example, the DA formed a coalition with a range of parties including the FF+, the ACDP and the African Muslim party. But there was never any doubt who was in control and the party’s agenda in the city was an almost entirely a DA one.
We understand that the DA has now ceased any formal arrangement with the EFF but continues to govern in both cities. Our view is that this has not resolved the issue. First, it is unclear that voters know there has been a change in the relationship between the DA and the EFF and second, it does nothing to overcome the problem that the DA is not in control of its own destiny in either city.
Having said that, we believe the party should not make a final decision on whether to exit government in Johannesburg or Tshwane without a proper study of voters’ views and a careful consideration of the consequences. To that end, we recommend:
– That the DA immediately undertake research to determine current voter perceptions of its brand and performance in Johannesburg and Tshwane and assess the impact on voter sentiment of exiting those governments. Having done so, it should determine (a) whether to resign the mayoralty in those cities or (b) how to proceed in a manner that will increase rather than decrease the party’s support in the 2021 local government elections.
Developing a strategy for 2021 and beyond
Factoring in the analysis and recommendations made in this report, on the basis of a clear commitment to its values and vision and underpinned by a values-driven and evidence- based policy agenda, we recommend:
– That the party develop a refreshed growth strategy, focusing in the first instance on the local elections in 2021 but also laying the foundation for future success thereafter.
POLITICAL STRUCTURES AND PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVES
Having listened to representations from the party and studied the way in which the political structures of the party function, we have reached the following conclusions:
Neither the federal council nor the federal executive are used effectively for political decision-making, in particular, in respect of strategy and policy.
There is an unnecessary duplication and proliferation of positions at federal level.
In particular, there is no compelling reason to retain the position of federal chairperson and therefore of the deputy federal chairpersons. The position of federal chairperson was originally designed to provide status without responsibility for a senior figure in the newly formed progressive party. That situation pertains to this day, except that three deputy posts have been attached to it. The original reason for the creation of the deputy posts was to create the image of a more diverse leadership, but again, the positions don’t involve any substantive responsibility.
The job of the federal council chairperson is overly large and complex and cannot be done by one person. Indeed we received from the chairperson of the federal council a 19-point job description, some individual points of which themselves constitute a full time job.
Provincial leaders and chairpersons don’t adequately communicate discussions and decisions at federal level, contributing directly to a disconnect between the federal level and other levels of the party.
We have also looked into the PPAS system in some detail having received a number of complaints about it. In our view it is a very sophisticated system that allows for great flexibility in determining the areas on which each individual is assessed and in determining how those assessments are done.
The challenge for any performance management system for public representatives is
(a) that it requires implementation by a great number of people and such implementation is therefore always likely to be variable and
(b) that it requires implementation by people who rely on those they are assessing for political support and
(c) that it is open to the possibility of abuse given its centrality to people’s re-election prospects. It is also true that some public representatives simply resent being assessed for performance at all.
It is difficult to avoid these inherent challenges to a performance management system of public representatives in a political party. We make some recommendation below that might help. But in general we think the PPAS system is credible, fair and necessary.
Federal Legal Commission
There is a general unhappiness with the federal legal commission which revolves around the idea that it treats people unequally and therefore fails to dispense justice. It is difficult to establish the veracity of these claims but in the end the fact that the commission seems to have lost the confidence of so many in the party is the key finding.
It is however important to note that the federal legal commission merely makes recommendations to the federal executive. In the end, it is the federal executive that makes the final decision. It is therefore incumbent on the federal executive to ensure it acts impartially and is seen to do so.
In addition, we propose:
– That the party strengthen its recently adopted measured to promote mediation rather than litigation as a means to resolve disputes.
– That the party obtain independent legal advice on how to simplify and improve its existing disciplinary procedures to ensure appropriate and acceptable outcomes from such processes and to ensure, to the extent possible, that restores the confidence of party members in the efficacy and even-handedness of any outcomes from disciplinary processes.
In light of the above, we recommend:
– That federal executive and council meetings are refocused on political matters.
– That provincial leaders are required to provide their provincial executives with written feedback on political discussion and decisions at federal executive.
– That the positions of federal chairperson and deputy federal chairperson of the party be abolished.
– That the chairperson of the federal council continues to be elected by the federal council, but that the following deputy chairpersons be nominated jointly by the chairperson and the leader and approved by two-thirds of the federal executive.
o A deputy chairperson for policy development
o A deputy chairperson for DA government oversight and development
o A deputy chairperson for the PPAS and the development of public representatives
o A deputy chairperson for legal matters
o A deputy chairperson for talent acquisition
– That PPAS reviews happen no more than twice a year and that further training be given to those who deliver the system across the country.
– That the party consider eliminating the use of PPAS in the selection of candidates except in so far as it should be able to identify those who should not be eligible for reelection, and use it exclusively to improve performance, as this would incentivize a better and more accurate use of the system.
The DA has, over the years, built a very effective operational and campaigning capability. Most DA staff are committed, competent and effective, and are a credit to the party. Having said that, it is appropriate after an election to reassess the party’s operational capability with the purpose of ensuring it is best able to deliver on its mandate which, put simply, is to maximize the DA’s electoral outcomes.
Relations between FHO and party structures
The relationship between the federal head office and the provinces and constituencies has always involved a degree of tension on account of naturally occurring competing interests or imperatives. However, if relations break down and become dysfunctional, the party’s effectiveness as a campaigning organisation becomes compromised. It is our view that relations in recent years have become severely strained and, in some cases, dysfunctional.
The feeling in many provinces is that the federal head office fails to listen adequately to provincial and local concerns or take into account local expertise, is overly controlling and sometimes dictatorial.
The feeling in return is that many leaders and structures lack competence and commitment and that vested interests in certain structures override the party’s interests.
Broadly speaking, we think there is merit in both views although we would point out that the generalisations captured above certainly do not apply to every individual involved in the relationship between federal head office and the provinces, regions and constituencies.
In the end, one cannot legislate for every conceivable human interaction. Leadership and effective communication are the ingredients that best ensure a functional relationship between FHO and the provinces (and constituencies).
Given the above, we recommend:
– That the party institutionalise consultation and discussion between FHO and the provinces through the establishment of a forum devoted entirely to operational matters. The forum should include FHO leadership, provincial directors and provincial chairpersons.
The design of FHO
It is also the view of the panel that the federal head office is overly bureaucratic, especially in relation to its human resource management. Many of the representations made by both public representatives and staff included this concern. We understand of course that the larger an organisation becomes the more it requires processes and controls, but these should nevertheless be designed for maximum possible efficiency.
We are also of the view that a rationalisation of the number of posts and staff is required, especially in light of the election result. We believe this process is already underway.
Given the above, we recommend:
– That the federal executive institute a thorough review of the staffing, structure and systems at FHO with a view to ensuring it is (a) staffed by the best possible talent, (b) designed to deliver world-class campaign success and (c) operates efficiently and effectively, specifically in so far as the management of people and money is concerned.
Operational structure in provinces
Much unhappiness was expressed about the bifurcation of the operational structure in provinces between an administrative head and a campaign chief.
While it makes sense to separate campaign and administrative functions at provincial level, and certainly in the bigger provinces, it is our view that there needs in each province to be one staff member in charge of operations, and that person should be the provincial director. It is still possible to split campaigning off as a separate function, but if that is done the campaign chief should report to the provincial director and, with the concurrence of the provincial director, to the campaign director at head office. It is not clear to us why this would be difficult to achieve.
– Our recommendation is therefore to give effect to the structure outlined above.
The field reorganization was mentioned in a large number of submissions and discussions. Having looked into the genesis and design of the system, we would note the following:
– It makes sense to design a field organisation working backwards from the objective of maximizing the impact of the ground war, and the field redesign does that.
– It also makes sense to find ways to recruit and empower volunteers to deliver the party’s ground war effort, and not to rely solely on public representatives and people who are paid to do so.
– It makes further sense to design a field organisation system around geographical areas that make sense to voters, rather than to the party or the demarcation board.
– The system was extensively piloted in 2017, both federal executive and federal council were briefed on it on a number of occasions since 2017 and a significant effort was put into training the party to use it.
– Having said that, there is a clear tension between the field organisation system and the existing constituency system (and to a lesser extent, the ward system).
– The constituency system is designed to give voters the sense that there is a senior DA public representative they can turn to for help and hold accountable more generally, while ward boundaries are determined by the demarcation board. The field redesign, by contrast, is designed to arrange the ground war in a way that maximizes campaign effectiveness. These are all competing imperatives.
Given the above, we recommend:
– That the federal executive institute a review of the field organisation system with a view to finding ways to enhance compatibility with constituency structures and branches, but that it should not discard the field organisation system simply because it requires difficult change.
– That the party accept that the field organisation system does not need to be applied in exactly the same way in every province and region, given inevitable differences between them.
South Africa is at a perilous time in its history.
Every ‘outsider’ interviewed by this panel emphasized this and coupled it with dismay at the DA’s situation and performance.
Every party member who made a submission or was interviewed displayed both a deep commitment to the Party and a large measure of distress at its current situation.
We were encouraged by the fact, however, that we did not discern an irretrievable irreconcilability of interests even between so-called ‘factions’ within the party. However, these differences can only be managed by the most assiduous, wise and strong leadership and management.
The path of least resistance for the Party is to ignore the signals from the electorate, and attempt to diminish the meaning and effect of the Party’s backsliding in the 2019 election and further and significant by election losses since and attribute these to a variety of factors beyond the control of the DA. However, such a path in our experience usually leads downhill at an accelerated pace. It is equally imperative, to repeat the introductory remark, that ‘the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater’. There are critically positive and indeed unique political properties owned by this Party. But their mere possession is no guarantee, absent of necessary changes, for their continuance.
Our recommendations are crafted in response to these deeply felt imperatives.
We cannot guarantee that the full implementation of this report will address all the challenges and lead to an inevitably successful outcome. No one can offer that reassurance.
However, it is our view that, in the absence of a step-change along the lines of these recommendations, and possibly other corrective measures beyond the purview of this report, the Democratic Alliance’s current travails will intensify and metastasize to the huge disadvantage of the democratic project in the country and could over time lead to the destruction of the DA as a political force for the good in SA.
While no two political processes are parallel or exact, it is noteworthy to recall the demise of the New National Party between 1994 and 1999. After the 1994 election it was, by far, the second largest party in South Africa, occupied 80 seats in Parliament and governed the Western Cape and Cape Town. Within five years, it had been reduced to a 27-seat parliamentary party, lost its national opposition status and was forced into a coalition government in the Western Cape. It ceased to exist within five years of the next election.
Obviously different issues pertain now as opposed to then. However, it is salutary and instructive to bear this example in mind and to remember that no political party has a preordained right to exist, and without taking hard stock of itself and applying stringent remedial measures when necessary, a political party, however meritorious, can face fracture and even extinction.
Note that this document was first posted on Politicsweb, a seemingly liberal website on the side of a faction of the Democratic Alliance. I have queried them if my articles about DA corruption are still banned. I made style changes for easier reading, and removed the summary which was unnecessarily lengthy repetition.
READ ABOUT THE CORRUPTION OF THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
- Easy Guide to DA Corruption
- Same Shit, Different Government
- Affidavit against the DA (submitted to the Hawks)