Just give the ANC the boot

Joel Pollak says the DA is missing a chance of a lifetime to defenestrate South Africa's ruling party

Blue State Blues: South Africa’s Opposition Needs a Trump

South Africa’s opposition has the chance of a lifetime to take power after holding the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to a paltry 40% of the vote.

Yet the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), appears to have given up, and is seeking little more than to be the junior partner in a coalition government with the ANC, which has brought a once-promising nation to the brink of failure.

There is a lesson here for American voters ahead of the 2024 election.

First, some background. The ANC led the struggle against apartheid, which is why it has been in power for 30 years, since the first multi-racial democratic elections in 1994. It has failed in government, however, because it clung to left-wing economic and racial policies that served only to enrich the ruling party, not the poor black masses for whom the policies were supposedly enacted. Corruption and mismanagement have gutted essential utilities and public services.

The DA has its roots in a small, white, anti-apartheid party that grew rapidly after 1994 because it had the moral self-confidence to oppose the ANC on principled grounds. The DA backed market-friendly policies and opposed racial retribution.

Voters in Cape Town and the Western Cape province — which are more white and mixed-race than the rest of the country — have trusted the DA for two decades. These are the only well-run parts of South Africa today.

Cast by the ANC as a “racist” party, just as Democrats treat Republicans in the United States, the DA has struggled to build support within the majority black electorate.

But black voters have increasingly been looking for alternatives to the ANC. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), for example, want to seize land from white owners. The Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party of former President Jacob Zuma has EFF-like policies but is basically an ethnic Zulu movement.

In the months leading up to the May 29 election, opinion polls suggested that the ANC could drop below 50%, and that it would need to form a coalition to govern. Many South Africans feared an ANC-EFF coalition.

But shockingly, the combined ANC and EFF vote was only 49%. In the 400-member National Assembly, they only have 198 seats.

That means the DA could put together a coalition of all the other parties, including MK, to oust the ANC entirely.

The DA has done it before.

In the crucial Cape Town election of 2006, when the DA ousted an ANC government for the first time, the DA won only a plurality of the vote. But it put together a broad coalition of small parties to remove the ANC. Since then, the DA has grown in the city and the province, while the ANC has collapsed. (When the ANC can no longer loot public resources to provide patronage to its voters, it loses support; it has nothing else to offer.)

Yet the DA is not, apparently, trying to take power nationally.

A post-election speech by DA leader John Steenhuisen essentially conceded defeat, because a coalition of moderate parties that the DA promised to work with after the vote did not win more than 50%.

The DA also seems to have ruled out working with Zuma and the MK, ostensibly because of their radical policies. Unlike the EFF, however, the MK are not ideologues. (And Zuma, clearly, can be bought.)

Prominent voices in the business community are pushing for an ANC-DA coalition, hoping that it would be a source of stability. There is a quiet elitism in this approach, a hope that the senior leaders of the parties that represent the new and old economic establishment of the country would set aside past differences to stop the rise of populism.

In practice, the coalition would likely fall apart, and the DA could lose prominence to a competitor like the EFF or MK.

Perhaps the DA is dazzled by the ANC’s past, which is why President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has lost the confidence of his party and his country, is still talking about leading the next government, as if he had some kind of mandate. It is an impressive pantomime of power, totally unjustified by the actual election results.

Perhaps the DA simply fears what the ANC might do in opposition. The ANC could, for example, organize riots and boycotts, making the country ungovernable. That is the one thing at which the ruling party excels.

Regardless, there may never be a better moment for the DA to take power — and, in so doing, to save the country. It would have to offer Cabinet posts to some unsavory people and parties, but it can keep the key posts — those most important to South Africa’s economic recovery — for itself.

The status quo is simply unsustainable. The South African economy contracted 0.1% in the first quarter of 2024. The situation demands disruptive leadership and a fresh start, however risky.

A deal is possible. The numbers are there. 202 seats are more than 198.

The DA is trying to play nice. But as Napoleon is said to have declared: “If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna.”

In moments like these, one sees the value of a Trump — not just a dealmaker, but a leader who will take risks to win.
There are many things that can be said about the events of January 6, 2021, but above all they happened because Trump believed there was still a path to victory. He believed it because Democrats had tried the same thing before. While the day became a disaster, Trump is back again, leading in the polls.

In a rudderless country, led by a corrupt elite, Trump offers leadership and the prospect of renewal. That is why, despite all of his flaws, his approach to politics remains indispensable.

South Africa’s opposition needs to discover its inner Trump — before it is too late.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, “The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency,” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article first appeared on Breitbart.