Democratic Alliance leaders Mmusi Maimane, Helen Zille and Athol Trollip. Picture: THE HERALD
Democratic Alliance leaders Mmusi Maimane, Helen Zille and Athol Trollip. Picture: THE HERALD

The DA has failed to capitalise on Jacob Zuma’s scandal-plagued tenure, with recent internal polling showing a decline in the party’s growth rather than an increase, about 18 months ahead of the 2019 general election.

The party is polling at a pre-2016 electoral support level of 24.5%, following expectations that it would grow to 30% in 2019 and wrestle Gauteng from the ANC.

Business Day understands that there is concern in the party as this indicates that it has taken a step backward from the growth it registered in 2016 when it took over the running of three major metros.

Many factors are understood to be at the heart of this, including the emergence of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC in December 2017.

Further factors affecting its support include its handling of the drought in the Western Cape and infighting over Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.

There is also disagreement on strategy in the party, anchored in its failure to adequately plan for a possible Ramaphosa win at the ANC’s elective conference.

Sources on the party’s federal executive indicate that there is a strong push for party chief whip John Steenhuisen to take on long-standing federal executive chairman James Selfe for the post at its coming congress.

Steenhuisen, when contacted for comment on Wednesday, said he would not stand against Selfe for the position.

He said he had not seen any polling that showed a low-growth scenario for the DA.

Steenhuisen said the party was putting the final touches on its election plan, recognising that the game had changed "significantly" since 2017.

However, he said there remained ample opportunity for the DA to grow, thanks to the ANC’s policy positions on land and the lingering division in the governing party.

"We have to be honest that the game has changed … Zuma made all parties lazy … he was the best fundraiser and recruiter for all parties," Steenhuisen said.

Zuma’s departure had forced a shift in focus to issue-based politics.

The DA’s congress, scheduled for April, will move to adopt key constitutional amendments — one of which is to ease its ability to recall its deployees from office.

According to the party’s constitutional amendments, which Business Day has seen, approved by its constitutional-review committee, the party can revoke membership of deployees should they refuse to resign if asked to do so by the DA.

The amendment will have to be approved by the congress and could have implications for the fight with De Lille.

The amendment reads: "If the president, a premier, a mayor or any other member appointed to any position in government fails to implement or contradicts party policy, or conducts him or herself in a way which brings the party into disrepute or harms the interests of the party, or demonstrates his or her lack of competence or incapacity to perform his or her functions, or has lost the confidence of his or her caucus, or any combination of these factors, the federal council may, after giving him or her the opportunity to make representations to it, resolve to require him or her to resign from his or her office."