South Africa

DA shoots itself in the foot with voter registration call

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I admire people who breed chickens, for their art and patience.

The incredibly rewarding but time-consuming process – which has its challenges – requires skill on proper selection and storage of your hatching eggs.

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Incubating the eggs for 21 days and waiting for the chicks to hatch is crucial. The saying, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”, has become crucial in life.

In the run-up to what promises to be watershed polls in South Africa, the maxim is a lesson the Democratic Alliance (DA) should draw from, when in doubt.

Under the questionable stewardship of John “Shooting From The Hip” Steenhuisen, the DA has scored many own goals.

In sport, Steenhuisen would be facing the firing line. The DA’s yearning to see Steenhuisen occupying the Union Buildings after the 2024 elections, has lately seen no bounds.

The blue brigade this week earned the wrath of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) when – out of desperation to project itself as having “outperformed the ANC in new voter registration” – it made another boo-boo.

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“The most recent registration data highlights the DA’s success in securing the largest share of new and re-registrations,” it claimed.

What utter nonsense. When has voter registration determined the voter’s choice of a party?

Correctly, the IEC said voter registration did not record political party preference – cautioning political party leaders to be careful with public statements they make.

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo further cautioned that unsubstantiated and confusing statements – similar to those made by the DA – could end up being investigated by the commission for offences.

The DA announcement has come as no surprise to those of us who have become familiar with Steenhuisen’s antics – demonstrating his cowboy style of political leadership.

Fresh from the uproar, sparked by controversial remarks he made in Soshanguve about amaPanyaza crime wardens being “drunkards” and wearing uniform bought from PEP Stores, I wonder whether the party is out of its depth when it comes to strategy and political messaging.

Referring to Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi during campaigning, Steenhuisen made stunning remarks. “He [Lesufi] took your tax money to buy ill-fitting PEP Stores uniforms for untrained cadres and pretended that they were crime wardens.

“What kind of person pulls a drunkard out of a shebeen, gives him a uniform and a weapon, and then unleashes them onto a community?”

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Taking the electorate for granted – people who consume any propaganda without digesting it – comes across as patronising and can prove costly to a party campaigning to win the black vote.

No-one has put it better than communications guru Sarah Britten. “It has backfired – coming across as spiteful.

The DA already has a likeability problem and this just exacerbates that perception.

It is no surprise that the comments were interpreted as racist, because PEP Stores is associated with black, low-income shoppers.”

The peace wardens, some of whom have benefitted from Lesufi’s employment creation scheme, have wasted no time in hitting back at Steenhuisen.

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Among them, Ekurhuleni’s Gift Mabuza was quick to point out that he has never touched alcohol.

With a background in policing, he said: “When I heard of the project, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

“Growing up in the townships, crime has always been part and parcel of our lives. I wanted to be part of the solution in the fight against crime in the township. That’s when I applied for this job.”

While the governing ANC has had its glaring weaknesses, shooting from the hip is unlikely to dislodge it from power.