Notwithstanding the low turnout and geographical locations of last week’s by-elections and their possible irrelevance in terms of 2021’s local government elections outcome, the performance of the DA will have left its loyal supporters dejected, disappointed and depressed.

Even though they may recognise that it would be unwise to overinterpret the results, the message they are getting is that the DA was the biggest loser, and no amount of spin and tweets from the federal chair or other party spokespeople can change that perception. Sadly, the fact is that it was all too predictable.

Senior public representatives of the DA, including their undoubtedly capable and erudite leader, John Steenhuisen, have recently been publicly promoting the, evidently new, inclusion of “non-racialism” in the DA’s values and principles proposition. This is confusing because the DA and its predecessors have always rejected racism and racialism as part of their fundamental philosophy. What really is new from the DA is that it has turned its back on and refuses to recognise “multiracialism” and that has projected it, rightly or wrongly, as colour blind and as a race denialist political establishment.

It does not necessarily follow that the loss of black and coloured votes is a result of the DA’s stance and the perception it has created that racial groups do not exist or do not matter in our country, but it seems highly probable.

With a governing party that is battered and tattered with corruption, factionalism and incompetence, it should not be that difficult for the DA to take its rightful place as the appropriate party to replace it, but it will not do that if there is a fatal flaw in the way its message of rejection of multiracialism is being perceived by the electorate.

As the saying goes, “it is not always what you say that counts but how it lands”. To be seen to reject multiracialism in one of the world’s most multiracial countries could possibly be a crash landing for the party. Our country cannot afford this and the DA should consider a U-turn on the matter.

David Gant

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