The Democratic Alliance: The future liberal government of South Africa?

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The Liberal Democrats have had a strong and flourishing relationship with the South African Democratic Alliance (DA) for many years, and we continue to work together through the Africa Liberal Network (ALN) and the Young Leaders Programme. In this series of profiles of our liberal sister-parties overseas, Luke Akal, ALN Coordinator, gives an account of the DA:

On 27-30 January this year, the 13th annual Africa Liberal Network (ALN) General Assembly is being held in Johannesburg, hosted by South African member party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA is a shining light of liberalism on the African continent and, as the main opposition party in South Africa, is an inspiring model for liberal parties around the world.

Since its establishment, the DA has increased its vote share in every election, going from 12% in 2004 to 22% in 2014, gaining 89 MPs and becoming the main opposition party. In 2009, the DA gained power in the Western Cape province, giving the party an opportunity to deliver on its promises. Over the past 6 years, the Western Cape has seen an impressive decrease in crime, as well as improvement in infrastructure, and demonstrating that the DA is a safe pair of hands in government.

Last year the DA launched ‘Vision 2029’, an ambitious plan to become the ruling government party by the end of the next decade. With the ruling African National Congress (ANC)’s failure to tackle staggering levels of inequality, crime, unemployment and the legacy of apartheid, and the recent crisis in which President Jacob Zuma was forced to appoint his third finance minister within a week, the need for a change of government in South Africa is clearer than ever.

The DA has achieved its impressive growth by running on an unapologetically liberal platform, in stark contrast to the uninspiring and corrupt leadership of Zuma’s ANC. They advocate an ‘Open Opportunity Society for All‘ in which all people, regardless of gender, race or sexuality, are empowered to live their lives, pursue their dreams and develop their full potential.  They stand for a free market economy, in which the role of the government is to provide every citizen with a minimum basic standard of quality services and resources, and have ambitions to significantly extend access to education and health care, tackle the HIV-AIDS crisis and address South Africa’s dangerous carbon footprint through green energy and environmental policies.

At the core of its success is the DA’s unique investment in its youth. Through its Young Leaders Programme, supported by the Liberal Democrat International Office, the DA organises a series of retreats for a group of young members within the party every year, and provides them with mentorship and training in leadership skills, with the long-term goal of empowering the next generation of leaders both within the party and in the country. Alumni from the programme have gone on to become activists, councillors and MPs, and are undoubtedly the future leadership of the party.

The DA faces challenges ahead, with the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a political party exploiting the prevalence of poverty and unemployment and advocating a politics based on division, blame and hatred. But with continued commitment to the principles of liberalism, the DA is well placed to become the future government of South Africa.

The DA is the most diverse party in South Africa, now well-recognised and progressed under the leadership of MP Mmusi Maimane. Maimane, as a previous mayoral and premier candidate for the DA, will address the ALN’s General Assembly on Friday 29 January 2016 on the topic of Principles for Liberal leadership: Shaping the Africa of our dreams. He will address the audience along with the ALN’s President, Olivier Kamitatu.

This year, the ALN General Assembly focuses on the theme “Winning Elections: Strategies, Policies and Solutions for Success”. The ALN’s 44 member parties, from across the African continent, will gather in Johannesburg to share experiences and strategies on how to win elections and achieve liberal governments in their home countries. With the DA gaining ground in South African politics every year, we cannot think of a more appropriate host for this event!

Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the DA, said:

It is our goal to build a South African society based on the core values of Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity for all, where no child is left behind because of the circumstances of their birth. The DA is committed to building a political home for all our people, uniting South Africans around shared values, and ensuring that every single South African has a voice and a say in the future of our nation. 

It is an honour for the DA to be hosting this year’s Africa Liberal Network General Assembly. Internationalism and liberalism go hand-in-hand and we cherish the opportunity to meet and work with our fellow African liberals to help usher Africa into a brighter, more liberal future.

* Luke Akal is Coordinator of the Africa Liberal Network

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  • Harry Hayfield 22nd Jan '16 - 7:12pm

    For information, the complete history is as follows:
    Election 1994: 2% vote share winning 7 seats
    Election 1999: 10% vote share winning 38 seats
    Election 2004: 12% vote share winning 50 seats
    Election 2009: 17% vote share winning 67 seats
    Election 2014: 22% vote share winning 89 seats

  • Lester Holloway 22nd Jan '16 - 8:23pm

    This Africa Liberal Network appears like a secret forum. I sent a message to the then chair in 2013 and then 2014 and received no response. As I’m an African and he isn’t I was a bit put out by that!

  • @ Lester Holloway. We are all africans in the sense that all our ancestors left Africa about 30,000 years ago. Your point seems rather mean-spirited & a bit tetchy. There could lots of reasonable explanations for someone not replying.

  • Excellent article and subject . The Democratic Alliance has a terrific history , great Liberal figures like the author Alan Paton and Liberal international prize for freedom recipient , Helen Suzman ,as part of its development , and now in the present and for its future , the leader Mmusi Maimane . Anyone who sees him speak in interviews , or read what he writes , could not fail to be impressed , a very likeable and charismatic man. Hope for them and our party and us , with such closeness .

  • P. S. do go on the Liberal International web site and on you tube , and catch Mmusi delivering a remarkable speech just this week in South Africa , see it and wonder that it should take as long as several years , to elect this exciting political innovator president . I think we may find it happen , and soon . Anything we can do for our sister party , which we , as Liberals Democrats , share so much with ,in our values, and a country we , as Britons are so linked to , in our history , we should .

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jan '16 - 9:54am

    When Helen Suzman came to London she had meetings at F&CO and spoke at the National Liberal Club in the evening. Despite the size of the room it was necessary to provide an overflow room whith close-circuit television.
    Alan Paton’s book “Cry The Beloved Country” points out that apartheid was an unintentional enviromental disaster as well as a deliberate human rights crime. It also contributed to the substantial increase in sexually transmitted diseases among guest workers from neighbouring countries, such as Lesotho, because the wives of the migrant mine-workers were not allowed into South Africa and the work contracts in the gold mines were for several months at a time.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jan '16 - 10:05am

    David Steel also brought Donald Woods, a newspaper editor to a large meeting at conference. The editor, Donald Woods, a white man, had been “banned” but had escaped. The victim, Steve Biko, a black man, had been killed.
    Donald Woods also contributed to the name debate of our newly merged party
    “David, we are Liberals after all”.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Jan '16 - 12:14pm

    The Test Match Special team are discussing the Hansie Cronje affair, including an interview with a bookmaker who promised a contribution to charity but did not deliver. He did pay 50,000 rand, for information and a leather jacket for Hansie Cronje’s wife. Professional gamblers apparently look for certainties and this match had been affected by three days of rain at the end of a dead rubber which South Africa had won two nil.
    In the politics Nelson Mandela had set an example. Nestle offered one million US dollars for his charities with only one condition, which was that they could take a photograph of him with their board of directors. He did not take the money and did not say why.
    There are two possibilities:
    1) Nestle had been advertising and selling milk powder of undoubted quality, except that it needed to be mixed with clean water, which is not a problem with mothers’ milk.
    2) How would such a photograph have been received around the world? Would cynical opponents have accepted that the money had gone to the charities and been spent as intended?
    The next day Nelson Mandela stopped at a level crossing and talked to a pedestrian in school uniform. So, what price Nelson Mandela? Free!
    Helen Suzman told us that the apartheid regime had said that they “did not want to be dominated by the ANC”. The Progressive Reform Party did not want to be dominated by the ANC either. Therefore they supported proportional representation, which they achieved by party list, despite widespread illiteracy, with photographs of the leaders on the ballot papers.
    David Steel MP was one of the election monitors. They declared the first general election with a universal franchise to be free and fair.
    The elected parliament decided on the President, which was Nelson Mandela. He decided to stand for one term only and was a unifying figure in the rainbow nation.
    Lord Acton was and is right.,_1st_Baron_Acton

  • Mark Turpin 25th Jan '16 - 7:55am

    With all due respect, there is no evidence of an “impressive decrease” in crime in the Western Cape under the DA – in fact the opposite appears to be the case:

  • Readers may be interested to know a little more about Mmusi Maimane, new leader of the Democratic Alliance. He is a pastor of the Liberty Church, about which you can find out more here, and which has been described as ‘deeply conservative’:

  • Mark Turpin 24th Feb '16 - 7:45pm

    Lest anyone become too starry-eyed about Mmusi Maimane as leader of the Democratic Alliance in South Africa, this article may also be constructive:
    I guess the question is to what extent Maimane can truly be seen as a ‘liberal’…

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