DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

The polarised extremes appear to have made strides at the expense of the ANC and DA in this election. This reflects the reality evident across much of the world, where the extreme right and extreme left have eaten into the middle ground of conservatives, liberals, and social democrats.

It’s a sad but predictable state of affairs. Huge inequalities, high unemployment, poorly performing economies and decreased levels of safety and security all contribute to the rise of extremism and populism.

There are nuanced particularities — corruption, expediency, a lack of imagination and a poverty of policy — add that to the mix, rendering it tenuous and potentially toxic.

But there’s an opportunity here for parties in the beleaguered middle to reinvent themselves, although the ANC will find it almost impossible, given its systemic and structurally embedded corruption. The DA is better placed to reinvent itself in line with relevant and firmed-up policies that speak to core principles and values.

The DA slogan One South Africa for All, is a powerful slogan that appeals to the better emotions of those who have migrated to the fringes, and the classical liberals, conservatives and social democratic liberals that populate the middle ground.

It potentially opens up the debate with South Africans across the political spectrum, not on the basis of vilification but on the tenets of a Mandela-like appeal that aims to build a better life for all. It has the makings of a movement.

It matters not whether the hand is extended to the proponents of an Orania-like state, or to those who view the world through emotionally rosy and red tinted glasses. What matters is that they are not alienated by characterisation as a basket of deplorables, to coin a phrase. They need to be drawn into the debate based on shared values and verifiable data.

Ghaleb Cachalia
Parktown North