DA campaign manager Jonathan Moakes calls it quits

24 May 2019 - 18:43
DA campaign manager Jonathan Moakes has called it quits.
Image: Gallo Images DA campaign manager Jonathan Moakes has called it quits.

DA national campaign manager Jonathan Moakes has emerged as the first casualty of the party's fallout over its poor results in the May 8 elections.

Moakes resigned from his position as the DA head of campaigns on Friday as the blame game for the party's poor showing in this year's elections refused to die down.

His decision to quit his job in favour of a high-level position at an international research and advisory services firm in London was communicated to DA staff on Friday by party bosses.

This year the DA, for the first time since its formation in 2000,  registered its worst electoral performance, with support declining from 22.23% in 2014 to 20.77% on May 8.

This resulted in the DA's caucus in parliament shrinking, from 89 to 84 MPs, and knives have since been out for Moakes and party leader Mmusi Maimane, among top figures.

Maimane's and Moakes' detractors in the party accuse them of having run a weak campaign characterised by incoherent messaging on key issues such as land reform and economic policies like black economic empowerment and affirmative action.

But Moakes has rejected this, arguing he ran a good campaign  and that the DA needed to decide "who it is and who it's fighting for" in its review of the May 8 results.

He said in the three months leading up to the elections, it has always been known in the party that he intended leaving shortly after the elections.

Sources also said there was a strong push within the party's federal council, its highest decision-making body between national congresses, for party CEO Paul Boughey and federal executive chairperson James Selfe to also step down.

Their opponents argue Boughey was also responsible for the weak campaign.

Selfe, they say, should now make way for new blood, after occupying the position for almost 20 years.

Boughey had previously been blamed for failing to come up with a strategy to counter the "Ramaphoria effect",  a reference to President Cryril Ramaphosa's ability to attract support from outside the ANC traditional support base of black voters.

The DA's federal council is due to meet in a fortnight, where this issue, among others, is expected to generate a heated debate.

Moakes on Friday insisted that his resignation from the DA had nothing to do with the  disastrous 2019 electoral performance.

Moakes said him and Boughey agreed three months ago that he would be free to leave after the elections, when he told him about his London job offer.

Moakes is joining global polling and political strategy firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research as vice president based in London.

The firm has previously been at the centre of historic electoral victories for former presidents such as Bill Clinton of the US in 1992 and Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Moakes rejected accusations that he ran a weak campaign and that he did not go into election mode with the right energy, given the job offer he had accepted three months before the polls.

"I'm very proud of the efforts and the campaign we ran, I certainly put everything in to it....to use a cliché, I don't think I left nothing on the field before May 8. I don't think it would be fair for anyone to characterise that my heart was not in it," said Moakes.

Moakes  said those pointing fingers at him and others needed to help to resolve the DA's identity crisis.

"It needs to make a decision about who it is, who it's fighting for and what its vision is. And I think the fact that there's no unity of purpose in respect of the answer to those three questions...is a factor as to why we achieved the results that we did."

Boughey said Moakes' acceptance of a job offer at the height of their campaign had no bearing on their electoral outcome.

"Absolutely not, Jonathan has given 15 years of the most loyal, professional and exceptional service to this party. It would have been impossible for one individual to have given any more to the campaign," said Boughey.

Asked about moves to oust him, Boughey said: "I serve at the pleasure of the leadership of the party, but remain deeply committed to our values and our mission of building one SA for all."

Selfe declined to comment.