Irfaan Mangera10 April 2024 | 10:45

IRFAAN MANGERA: It's clear Steenhuisen and the DA don't fully comprehend multiparty democracy

'Mr Steenhuisen and the DA, regardless of whether you call us mercenaries or that you deem our democratic right to contest elections in the Western Cape as counter-productive, we'll meet you in the arena of contest,' writes RISE Mzansi's Irfaan Mangena.

IRFAAN MANGERA: It's clear Steenhuisen and the DA don't fully comprehend multiparty democracy

DA leader John Steenhuisen delivered the key address at the launch of the party's election manifesto in Pretoria on 17 February 2024. Picture: Jacques Nelles / Eyewitness News

In the most on-brand turn of events, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen has been in a frenzy about RISE Mzansi.

His recent public engagements have showcased that John and the DA do not fully comprehend the depth and nature of our multiparty constitutional democracy. 

He claims that the posture and contest by RISE Mzansi in the Western Cape do not make sense to him. This after months of branding the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as enemy number one, and forging a fruitless moonshot coalition with a couple of parties, some of whom haven’t even been able to make it on the ballot.

John has brandished RISE Mzansi as ‘mercenaries’ for campaigning in the Western Cape, a province he claims to be the best run, where residents are subjected to unmitigated gun violence and gangsterism, where residents carry the weight and pain of spatial injustice daily and where Coloured and Black people have their dignity stripped from them by an uncaring administration who doesn't prioritise the most vulnerable but are happy to lay the red carpet out for northern nomads. 

John fails to understand that you cannot govern a province and still consider yourself an opposition there. The DA has been in power for 15 years and has still not fundamentally challenged the status quo, but has entrenched inequality.

There's a deep dissonance in the way the DA carries itself, and the cracks are showing. 

His angst with RISE Mzansi is not about the contest, but rather that they believe they are entitled to governing when they have clearly shown voters from working and poor families that their lives mean less than those with affluence.

Their own base of supporters has also started to see past the public relations bluster. The DA is running scared.

For the first time in 15 years, their hegemony over the Western Cape is threatened. It might be bad for the DA, but it is good for the people of the Western Cape who have been failed by a one-party dominant province with no effective opposition.

The DA’s arrogant and entitled posture once again showcases the emptiness of our politics in general, including the lack of ideas and the erosion of a strong democratic culture. There is a desperate need for new leaders, which will not be found in the DA or the African National Congress (ANC).

RISE Mzansi continues to grow support across the country because we have developed strong, community-rooted and committed leaders and activists who come from diverse backgrounds.

These new leaders are the type who focus on tackling the real issues that have plagued South Africa and not just the unseating of the corrupt and incapable ANC. 

Our politics has to be about realising new vision of building a safe, prosperous, equal, and united South Africa in a single generation. Steenhuisen unfortunately represents stale, dated and dying politics that don’t provide anything new for South Africa.

The DA has been saying the same thing for decades. Nothing has changed. It has reached its electoral ceiling, and cannot actually win votes from the ANC.

It is truly unfortunate that for years, the DA has had the opportunity to counter the rotten ANC but squandered it, and in many ways, they perpetuate the same behaviours as the ANC.

What is clear to us is that the political establishment as a whole needs to change if we want the country to progress past the toxic mudslinging, and anti-democratic practices and behaviours. 

The DA, like the ANC, will continue to lose support because they're led by people who cannot engage in the arena of intellect. They prefer shortcuts and quick fixes to try and solve the deep painful divisions of our beautiful nation. 

Mandates to lead and govern are given by the people. At the RISE Mzansi Peoples Convention in October 2023, I emphasised to some 800 delegates at Constitution Hill that "Our Pact (as RISE Mzansi) is with the people. Not about flying to any moon".

It is this fundamental principle that we ought to build upon, to ensure that the people choose who they deem best to fight in their interests and to lend their support to for the next five years.

Failure to deliver on that mandate provides fertile ground for removal through the ballot box, which is exactly what is going to happen come 29 May 2024 as more people grapple with this reality. 

So, Mr Steenhuisen and the DA, regardless of whether you call us mercenaries or that you deem our democratic right to contest elections as counter-productive, we will meet you in the arena of the contest.

But please, don't pass your insecurities on to us. If you were truly delivering, you would not be worrying about voter confidence in you and your uninspiring leadership.

Competition like ours will keep you honest and force accountability to all the people of the Western Cape. This country needs more leaders who will do the painstaking work of keeping those in the executive accountable for the promises they've made to the electorate. 

It is time for new leaders to rise and create a safe, prosperous, equal, and united South Africa, based on a shared vision. 

Irfaan Mangera is a member of RISE Mzansi’s National Leadership Collective (NLC).