The Ramaphosa factor saved the ANC's bacon, but the setback to the DA is temporary
If this election has shown us one thing, it is the degree to which out nation has become polarised. This is what happens when countries experience the stress of economic hardship. People become scared. They fear for the future of their children. They fear for their own safety. They fear the constant threat of violence from extreme fascist-like groups.
When this happens, we see people retreat further into their racial and cultural corners. We see the rise of racial nationalism. We see a spike in violent language. And we see parties on either end of the spectrum actively exploiting this fear.
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When this happens, the centre becomes compromised. Those trying to build and unite are drowned out by those trying to blame, destroy and divide. That is the context in which this election was fought.The kind of polarisation we're seeing in SA is a setback to our project of building one nonracial, inclusive country for all. But while this project might have been premature in this election, it remains an absolute necessity. The DA will continue to fight for it.Fear, mistrust and division cannot be our future. We are in this together, and our best hope of success is when we work together and build together.What we also saw in this election were people desperate for hope. Many of them looked to Cyril Ramaphosa and his party. And in their desperation they were prepared to overlook all the flaws, all the corruption and all the broken promises of the past quarter of a century.
This was no doubt aided by a sweeping endorsement of a popular ANC candidate by the media, business and civil society. With this endorsement they helped to add a veneer of credibility to a thoroughly compromised party. The ANC knows very well that, had it not been for Ramaphosa, it would be sitting closer to 40% right now.
The result of this is that the ANC has not been held accountable for its failures. It has not been held accountable for the greed and corruption that marked its 25 years in government. It has not been held accountable for destroying our institutions of democracy and wrecking our state-owned enterprises. But more importantly, it has not been held accountable for delivering an economy that has failed the people of SA and left them poorer in real terms, year after year.
If we want our democracy to serve us, then we must use it to demand accountability. We must use it to punish greed and corruption. And we must use it to reject the racial nationalists on the extremes who divide us.
The DA must and will own the centre, and from this centre we will build a united and prosperous country with a robust, growing economy. We will do so without pandering to the left or the right. We will never succumb to the marxist or statist concepts that our opponents still cling to. Instead, we will embrace a market-based economy and a fiscal programme that ensures the inclusion of all.
We will also continue to govern well, because that is what sits at the core of the DA's story.
Objectively, the DA has outperformed the ANC in every aspect of governance over the past decade. In DA-run towns, cities and provinces, people are better off. I'm not saying this is good enough yet - we know we still have a long way to go. But the facts don't lie: where the DA governs, citizens have better access to services, children have a better chance at finishing school with a decent result, people live longer and stay healthier, and they have a far better chance at finding work.
That this good story of ours did not reflect in the election outcome only means we did not tell it well enough. This is something we will have to work at. If we're going to fight for it, we're going to have to fight for it harder. We must increase our level of activism in communities, and we must invite everybody towards our vision.
I am grateful that the huge effort of our campaign team in the Western Cape secured another five years of DA government in the province. This gives us the opportunity to put even more clear blue water between us and the ANC when it comes to honest and efficient governance. This, together with our governments in the metros, is how we will demonstrate the DA difference.
Yes, the DA did not get the result we had hoped for in this election. We're disappointed, but we're also optimistic about the future. We know that we are a party for the future, and we're on a long-term mission. Just as our country's struggle for freedom was forged over generations, we know that our project won't happen overnight.
This election result was a temporary setback. We will strengthen the centre once more, and we will play our part in building one prosperous and inclusive SA for all.
• Maimane is the leader of the DA