Clad in black, members of the Democratic Alliance including party leader Helen Zille (second from right) and parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane (far right) arrive for the state of the nation address. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Clad in black, members of the Democratic Alliance including party leader Helen Zille (second from right) and parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane (far right) arrive for the state of the nation address. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE televised debate between Democratic Alliance (DA) leader hopefuls Mmusi Maimane and Wilmot James will boost the party’s appeal only to undecided voters ahead of next year’s local government elections and in the run-up to 2019’s national poll.

This is according to political analyst Susan Booysen.

The two DA hopefuls will face off for the top position at this weekend’s federal congress. This comes after Western Cape Premier Helen Zille announced in April that she would not stand for re-election.

During a debate broadcast on kykNET’s current affairs show, Insig, on Monday evening, Mr Maimane and Mr James discussed the state of SA, as well as the party’s prospects if one of them came out victorious.

During the debate a visibly confident Mr Maimane said under his leadership the DA would communicate "a vision for an inclusive economy and a nonracial SA". The DA would attract activists who "stand for real issues that South Africans are concerned about", he added.

A calm Mr James said he would take the party in a new strategic direction, which would allow it to communicate with a diverse audience on issues that mattered.

Mr James is an intellectual with experience in developing and debating government policy.

Mr Maimane’s charisma, however, has helped the DA appeal to younger voters.

When Insig host Waldimar Pelser asked if the DA had drifted away from its principles to appeal to voters in recent years, Mr James said a "strategic drift" took place which resulted in South African voters being uncertain of what the party stood for.

Mr Maimane disagreed, saying that the party had built on its principles in recent years. He said the party was merely getting better at communicating its principles and cited 2014’s March for Real Jobs to Luthuli House as an example.

Ms Booysen said it would benefit the party to have its leadership battles showcased on public platforms. Public debates allowed DA supporters and members to feel "part of the process of internal democracy", she explained.

"In many ways, one would be tempted to wish the two candidates could be merged into one. As much as I respect Mr James, Mr Maimane is the party politics animal. He seems to thrive (on) these kinds of events. His racial attributes of being (a) black African are a huge plus for the DA on the superficial racial level," Ms Booysen said.

Mr James and Mr Maimane agreed that economic transformation policies played a role in advancing equity. They both agreed that transforming education was instrumental in fighting inequality and turning the economic tide.

Please login or register to comment.