• Hlanganani Gumbi

Newly elected DA leader must start a new democratic consensus in SA

We have all come to accept that South Africa is in a total crisis. Our economy is crashing and our politics isn’t working. We are stuck in what looks like inevitable failure with an entire generation of young people set to lose everything.

As a member of the DA and a public representative in parliament, of course I believe we (as the DA) represent the best potential for South Africa. For all our faults, our governments are considerably better than the ANC's. We have respect for the rule of law and public resources and for a long time have tried to build a party for all South Africans, underpinned by core values we do our best to uphold.

It therefore goes without saying that it is a priority for me to see the DA in government. I want us to make fundamental changes to the fortunes of our country so that we save an entire generation of South Africans from unemployment and the indignity of poverty and lack of opportunity. I want to secure our prosperity. It is why the DA leadership contest is so intensely contested because even as members of the party, in our own way, we all have deep concerns about the future of the country and our ability to rescue it by building a credible political movement which can inspire people from all walks of life.

I have openly declared my vote for Mbali Ntuli because I believe she is best positioned in the DA and South Africa to achieve this, or at least get us a step closer. Be that as is it, by the 1st November, we will have a new party leader elected by the federal congress. A party that has developed a major trust deficit with many voters in spite of the major strives and accomplishments we have made in our legislatures and governments.

So what does this mean for South Africa - a country clearly running out of time? Will this be enough? To find new hope solely in the election of a new leadership with a new promise.

Personally, I fear this would not be enough to save our crippling country. It may “save” or “fix” the DA in the words of both Mbali or John. It will even go some way towards filling the political vacuum so gapingly open between the current political establishment and the many voters looking for an alternative. But will it heal and then build South Africa at the speed necessary to avoid the collapse and civil unrest simmering beneath the surface. Of course Mbali or John as the new leader could get the DA into office through a minority government with a significantly reduced voter turnout if they have the relationships across the political landscape, but will that matter if we do not have real power because of a criminal state which will prolong any structural changes we want to make?

Slowly I am beginning to believe, no matter who is elected, they need to be prepared to lead a new democratic consensus in South Africa which will break the stranglehold that all our politics currently has on our democracy. This doesn’t mean that the DA leadership election is irrelevant, on the contrary, the person who leads the party must be best positioned to be the catalyst for the full realignment of South African politics and ultimately a whole new democratic consensus into the future. The new leader will need the political stature, relationships and those networks ingrained with different sections of society to build bridges of trust that form stable governments and some way forward after the local government elections. This has to be the precursor to that consensus.

How or what would this consensus look like? 

For starters, it comes with a deep seated understanding that no leader or any one party has a monopoly on all the solutions to fix our country. We need room for people from all walks of life to be part of building South Africa. This is often difficult for strongly opinionated politicians who are unable to draw the line between imposing their views on people and actually building a society those very people agree with and contribute to.

Secondly, it comes with accepting that our political system is simply not working. I have dedicated over a decade to contributing to building an alternative in South Africa. We have done well, but we are running out of time. Our politics works for insiders and not the people locked out the system. It serves political parties and politicians more than it does constituents. Without a doubt, a new consensus means urgently changing laws to allow for independant candidates to meaningfully contribute to democracy, as the constitutional court ruling recently forced parliament. Changing the road to public office and all the built in incentives which corrupt the system and evade accountability must be on the agenda.

Thirdly and most importantly, it means being able to bring together the opposition in a movement of patriotic South Africans around core values including non-racialism, justice, opportunity, transparency, integrity, accountability and constitutionalism. This is important, not just to oppose and remove the ANC, but because we have strong convictions about what our country can and should be. Bringing together the political opposition AND SOUTH AFRICANS currently locked out of our politics, does not always mean being at the forefront of leading them. It means being brave enough to build a movement for change that may take many forms because you are choosing South Africa over your own party and leadership position. Bringing together civil society, business and activists calling for change without expecting them to take a back seat to the political egos which has engulfed our politics. You must be prepared to lose everything to save the country. Not sometime late in the future, but upon taking office because our very democracy and it’s fortunes currently hang in the balance. 

The ANC is dead and slowly it is poisoning democracy and prosperity to the point of creating a criminal state which will take decades to recover from. As the official opposition, we have the credibility to meet the moment, choosing country over party. I say this knowing full well that such new consensus could take many different forms which puts my very own position in parliament at risk. So be it.  We must be prepared to do what is necessary to protect and advance the interests of all South Africans. That means that between both John and Mbali, whoever is elected to lead our party, will be in the prime position to drive that change. They should be brave enough and smart enough to do so! 

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