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Has the DA hit a wall in support?

According to EWN the DA’s support in this last election shrank to just over 20%, from the 22.23% it achieved in 2014.

The DA’s elections campaign manager Jonathan Moakes says that this is down to the DA’s failures on service delivery, and that some former DA voters might have crossed the floor to more populist parties – he wasn’t saying the EFF though.

Other DA members pointed to the party’s treatment of Patricia de Lille.

I have previously reported that while the DA does have the best managed municipalities it also has the country’s worst.

The de Lille saga meanwhile – well the DA claimed it was because of her maladministration in Cape Town according to News24.

The DA has accused her of interfering in tenders and shielding officials from accountability.

The trouble with this is that Cape Town is noted for being the best run metro in the country. The DA itself has bragged about the achievements of Cape Town, including being the “top opportunity” city.

The evidence for de Lille engaging in maladministration is somewhat lacking, and her overall performance looks very, very good, which lends weight to her claim that the party just wanted rid of her.

The DA’s lead in the Western Cape dropped to about 56% according to ENCA. In 2014 they had nearly 60% in that province.

Another possible cause that has been raised has been voters moving to the FF+ – which made a good showing in 8 provinces according to The Citizen.

“The DA used white voters but made a big mistake with affirmative action and silly statements by its leader, Mmusi Maimane, who said that there was no such thing as white poverty.

“Of course there is a lot of poverty among white people, what does he mean?” said FF+ Gauteng member of parliament and spokesperson Philip van Staden.

My Take

There are other causes here – for example, Mmusi Maimane’s robo-calls. He sounded less like he was selling a new vision for government, and more like he wanted us to buy a funeral policy. They’re just off-putting.

I also think the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. “Stop the ANC” didn’t stop the ANC, “Stop Zuma” didn’t stop Zuma, and “Stop the ANC and the EFF” hasn’t stopped the ANC and the EFF.

Stop the whatever hasn’t proven a great rallying cry, and yet it still appears on DA posters.

I don’t think losing votes to the FF+ is all that serious for them, because they also picked up votes from the ANC so that is a bit of a wash.

One think I don’t think has ever really been the DA’s problem is racial politics. I think we tend to racialise issues as a sort of shorthand for things that have nothing really to do with race.

Which means we end up not dealing with actual issues, we just deal with symbols.

And I think this is the case with the DA, I think the real thing stunting the DA is their core offer to workers. They want to give companies a way out of paying minimum wage, and make it easier to fire people.

This is supposed to encourage employers to hire people because it isn’t the same risk of getting lumbered with someone who is useless.

The thing is this flies in the face of the very basic mantra of trade – buy low, sell high.

If you’re an employer you don’t want to hire more people than you need because people who aren’t busy get to talking, and when they get to talking they get to striking.

Higher productivity really only helps if there is the demand to support it, otherwise assets become expenses.

So more staff, even if they’re cheaper and easier to get rid of if they don’t work, doesn’t really do anything good from the employer’s point of view. It is always better to simply hire as many people as you need for as little as you feel you can get away with for the quality you want to produce.

Employees also aren’t our major bottleneck right now, that would be Eskom. The machines in our factories require power, and irregular supply is a lot more of a constraint than the cost of labour.

If labour is expensive you can mechanise, but if the machines don’t run, well, that’s a problem.

Lower wages and lower job security across the economy also depresses spending. Economics is basically supply versus demand.

What is happening on the demand side in South Africa?

This is a chart of South African personal debt levels over the last decade.


source: tradingeconomics.com

And here is the unemployment rate over that same period.


source: tradingeconomics.com

What you would expect in a bad economy, which the last decade has been, is higher levels of personal debt.

What we see is the opposite.

People do not feel secure in their incomes so they’re cutting spending. Now if you’re producing things, and nobody wants to buy them, what is that?

Warehouse rentals, and disposal costs if its perishable.  Those assets you want to sell become expenses.

So you start seeing retrenchments becoming more and more common, which makes people feel less secure in a high unemployment environment, which further reduces their spending.

The core policy the DA has doesn’t make sense for our economy, and on some level most people get that. The DA has always been a compromise, okay their policy doesn’t look great, but they do have administrative chops.

And failing to deliver on the promise of good administration undermines that trade-off a lot.

What I think the DA needs to do in order to achieve real growth is sweeten the deal. It needs to either fulfill its promises on the side of good administration, or change this core element to its economic policy to something that doesn’t amount to workers having to vote against themselves.

  • Picture courtesy of the DA via Flickr.
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