By Naseerah Nanabhai
To ensure that our listeners make informed decisions in the upcoming elections, we have conducted discussions on various party’s manifestos and performances. The Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute’s (Asri) Imraan Baccus analysed the DA’s manifesto and its performance to see what the DA has in store for South Africa if they are successful at the upcoming 2019 elections.
Imraan was asked to highlight the top five points in the manifesto of the DA. To which he responded, “it is important to note that very few people read manifestos and we often tend to overlook the impact of manifestos. The DA’s manifesto is less ambitious than the EFF.” He went on to explain that, the DAs focus is on education and they speak of training 15 000 teachers per year, having school environments that are conducive to learning, about increasing the NASFAS budget and creating 1 million internship opportunities. While this is all very noble, the manifesto lacks the details.
The manifesto also speaks about corruption. It is well established that corruption is the number 1 threat to our democracy and security. It needs to be talked about and the DA is capitalising on this. They speak about saving R30 billion a year by cutting out corruption. They speak about speeding up the delivery of housing and importantly, about jobs and business.
Fifty per cent of South Africans are under the age of 30 and the vast majority are unemployed and poverty-stricken making this a is a huge challenge for the country. In light of this, the DA speaks about creating 7 million jobs for the country, with the idea of an expanded public works programme. In this context, this would mean jobs for younger people, the added challenge is that this would be an unskilled worker base. We welcome these ideas relating to job creation, but the reality is that they will be very temporary jobs and will not be sustainable.
The DA also talks about breaking up state monopoly and small businesses, but it is not very clear on informal trade. They suggest creating a generation of entrepreneurs, which is welcomed, however, the details are unclear. The DA also speaks about crime and the provision of 250 000 fully trained police officers. In terms of the economy, the DA mentions investing 10% of GDP in infrastructure, road, railways, etc. Hinting that the ANC is not doing a good job of maintaining the infrastructure.
The DA’s manifesto speaks about keeping co-operate taxes low which will be welcomed by the business sector. But it might a controversial aspect in a country trying to decrease the wealth gap. Thus, the idea of keeping the tax on the wealth low should be revisited. They also mention simplifying import and export rules, making it easier to do business.
“The DA is a party whose policies often favour the free market, foreign investment and rolling back worker protection”, Imraan stated firmly. Thus it is not surprising that the DA manifesto is sort of coached at the language that it is or that it wishes a pro-free market party although acknowledging in recent times the need for state intervention. Hence its manifesto’s points come at no real surprise.
Imraan was asked whether he thought the DA will be able to fulfil the promises made in the manifesto. To which he answered, I think all party knows that it won't be able to deliver everything in their manifesto. If we look at the EFF, they speak about having orthodontists at schools, but this seems far from achievable. However, the DA’s manifesto appears more reasonable. But clearly, it will not be able to achieve all of its aims. Manifestoes are generally about attracting huge crowds and the media to talk about it. People don’t really read manifestos, in some ways it is a wish list and parties are often unable to achieve what they put into manifestoes. Unless we see a clear plan of how it will be done, it makes the points less believable.
The DA’s stance on BEE seems to be problematic, even within the party itself, Imraan was asked on his thoughts with regard to this. He explained that it must be understood that the DA has two distinct camps within it - an All-God, mainly white camp that wants to speak to that constituency, which is some ways opposed to BEE. Then you have the second camp, which is an emerging black component of the DA. This camp is more alive to the realities of race, identity, and issues of redistribution. In this context, the DA’s ambivalent approach to Black Economic Empowerment is also understandable. Whether to keep BEE in some form or reject it completely has always been problematic for the DA. Because this is traditionally a liberal party, which often deemphasises race. Essentially the DA is unsure on this, as they have two different camps within them, which can be seen as contradicting each other on this topic. They want to appease their historical constituency of white and also want to appeal to the black community. Thus, taking an ambivalent position on this topic.
Speaking on the land issue, the DA states that land expropriation without compensation cannot be done. Imraan was asked on whether this has this cost them in terms of votes. His response was that this was going to be ambivalent position because to attract the black vote, you need to be in some way supportive of the idea. But the DA has gone in the opposite direction. It is hard to tell but most probably it will not cost them that many votes. The DA wants to appeal to the emerging black constituency but at the same time, it wants to keep its historical constituency intact. This is a source of contention within the DA, it is something that the party appears to be confused about. But it appeals to the middle-class constituency, as it takes a position that is different from the ANC and the EFF on this matter.
Looking at the performance of the DA in the provinces governed compared to the rest of the country that is under ANC rule, how has their performance been. Imraan explained that, looking at the graph from 1994, you see them going from 9% to 16% to 22% in the last election. Initially, indications were that they will reach 25% or more in the next election but there a number of internal contradictions and fights. We know they have handled a number of situations really badly. Some polls are suggesting that there will be a drop in the support for the DA. But we can't really rely on polls, because of their questionable methodology. We will see an increase in DA support, but it will most probably not be substantial, he concluded.