The Democratic Alliance’s problems are bigger than just axed Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
After its 2016 municipal election gains, and with three new metros under its name, the DA seemed optimistic that it was carving out a path towards greater success in 2019. The party set itself the task of winning Gauteng and began to envisage forming coalitions and a future in national government.
But, in a quick turn of events, 2018 has seen the DA staggering from one mishap to another, threatening not only to undo its most recent electoral achievements but also to sabotage some of its targets in next year’s polls.
The DA’s response to the water crisis in the Western Cape, its loss of the Mogale City municipality in Gauteng, its strained relations with coalition partners in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro and squabbles in the Cape Town caucus have cast an image of a party that could struggle to govern more than just the Western Cape.
Internally, disagreement over issues of transformation, diversity and representation are allowing questionable DA race relations to remain a hurdle that the party has struggled to overcome for years.
But the DA is not the only party that is seeing internal conflict spill over into governance issues.
It joins the ANC, which is also preoccupied with damage control at a time when it should be focusing on elections.
The luxury the ANC enjoys, however, is an emotional connection with the majority of the country’s voters. Justified or not, that allows it to retain influence in many areas despite some of its supporters’ many misgivings.
The DA on the other hand is a party that has admitted to being lacking and is still seeking an emotional engagement with the majority of the country’s voters. Therefore, even if it makes fewer mistakes, it may still find itself with less room for forgiveness in the hearts of potential voters.