Burned Billboards: The Democratic Alliance In 2019

First, it was the #ANCIsKillingUs billboard. Now the billboard says the African National Congress (ANC) is killing the lights in South Africa. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been doing the most in the runup to the May 2019 National Elections. Yet, FATIMA MOOSA wonders what exactly the party is hoping to achieve.

On February 17th, the DA launched a new billboard decrying the failures of the ruling ANC party to keep on the lights in South African homes. The billboard said: “The ANC has killed the lights affecting 57 million South Africans! Time for us to take their power.” This follows the return of load shedding from February 10 with many people left without lights for several hours at a time. Eskom is reportedly insolvent with government scrambling for plans to put in place.

Load shedding billboard

John Steenhuisen, the DA’s chief whip unveiled the billboard. The billboard replaced the #ANCIsKillingUs billboard. It raises the question of whether that means the lives showed on the billboard no longer matter.

During the unveiling, Steenhuisen said the billboard seeks to highlight how the ANC mismanaged Eskom through corruption, mismanagement, and debt. Most people in South Africa are aware of this. Whether you read the news, speak to co-workers or know a little something about current news, there is an awareness of the failures of the government. The assumption that people need to look at a billboard during their daily commute to know this shows a startling lack of faith in people’s agency.

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Steenhuisen went on to say the DA is the only party to solve the Eskom crisis. Their plan for Eskom: breaking it into two separate entities – generation and transmission – and privatising the generation entity. “South Africans have the opportunity to force the ANC into experiencing their own Level 4 load-shedding on 8th May 2019. We cannot allow the ANC another term in government – we need to vote for a party that is ready and able to build One South Africa for All while keeping all the lights on,” he ended.

Just a day after the billboard was put up, it was destroyed again. Parts of it was ripped up. The DA insisted the police should launch an investigation into who is responsible for the vandalism. The party called the act criminal and wanted the police to prosecute whoever was responsible.

Maimane plan for Eskom

DA leader Mmusi Maimane on February 14 in Cape Town launched their solution to the Eskom Crisis. The plan calls for a rejection of pressure from trade unions to oppose the Independent Power Producers (IPPs). For a party whose entire campaign’s centered around job creation, they sure don’t have much concern for keeping existing jobs.

In 2018 trade union National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) opposed the signing of the IPPs deal. They were not against the IPPs as many environmental organisations said. The union was only concerned with the loss of jobs if there was a phasing out stations. The DA has yet to provide solutions to prevent the loss of existing jobs.

The party’s main plan “cheaper electricity bill” is to privatise the generation entities of Eskom. This will supposedly break Eskom’s monopoly on energy production and allow IPPs to compete in the sector. Looking at the issue ideologically, many will have different views on whether privatisation is a good idea or a bad one.

The privatisation of Eskom means the running of the entity would be like a company. Corporates are not held accountable by people like governments are able to. With the current failures at Eskom, South Africans can raise their concerns with the government. A private company does not have the same mechanisms. They are also profit-based instead of service-centered. The DA needs to present a more in-depth Eskom privatisation model otherwise it doesn’t seem like a good idea.

ANC Is Killing Us

In January 2019, the party unveiled their ANC Is Killing Us billboard. It featured the names of people the DA says the ANC killed. This included the Life Esidimeni victims, the miners of Marikana and the children who died in pit toilets.

“Democrats, the ANC is harming and killing South Africa. When I say this, I don’t just mean they’re harming our economy and killing our dreams. I mean they are literally harming our bodies and killing us,” Maimane said.

The party tried to portray the entire move as honouring those who had lost their lives – and not a politicking move. Yet Maimane’s speech was a constant reference to the DA being the party to save South Africa. “So, register to vote DA, for an honest, caring government that builds one South Africa for all,” he said.

As with the Eskom billboard, the first billboard was vandalised. It was done by some family members of the Life Esidimeni victims. Many South Africans expressed outrage at the insensitive use of the victims’ death and their families’ pain to win votes. Some of the families of the victims even took legal action against the party.

During a memorial for the families of the Life Esidimeni victims, Maimane apologised to those families for bringing up their pain. He maintained that the party was correct in exposing the actions of the ANC even at the expense of the victims’ families.

Manifesto launch

The party will be launching their campaign February 23 at the Rand Stadium. Two of the Big Three have already launched their manifestos.

The ANC’s manifesto was heavy on jobs including promising the creation of 275,000 new jobs per annum. They expanded many of the existing policies which they introduced in parliament and tried to improve on their own failures. The ANC are likely to still be the ruling party come May 2019. They knew they didn’t have to bring much else to the table.

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The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)’s manifesto was a reiteration of the party’s guiding principles. Whether you want to call it populist or not, the party knows what their support wants and they delivered. From land expropriation without compensation to free healthcare and education, the EFF spoke about it all in their manifesto.

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For a party that is the official opposition and will hope to grow in this election, they have a lot to prove at Rand Stadium. Their head of policy Gwen Ngwenya resigned in January citing a disagreement with the policies of the party. Ngwenya and others in the party were reportedly against the affirmative action policies punted by Maimane. These basic fractures in the party over the policy don’t bode well for a coherent plan.

Most people are aware of the failures of the ruling party in the past couple of years. There isn’t a question about that. The DA’s record just does not inspire much confidence that they are the alternative. The question remains whether they have developed a clear and inspiring enough policy for South Africa.

Featured image via Twitter