Mashaba and Maimane may be making a fatal mistake

S'thembiso Msomi Without the Gang
Mmusi Maimane Herman Mashaba have a greater chance to succeed if they merged their projects into one, the writer says.
Mmusi Maimane Herman Mashaba have a greater chance to succeed if they merged their projects into one, the writer says.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Is there space for another political party or movement?

Probably yes. History teaches us that democracy works best when there is a plurality of voices in the political marketplace.

For Herman Mashaba and Mmusi Maimane, the two ex-DA leaders who are now searching for alternatives to what already exists in the market, a number of factors seem to favour them.

For starters, there is clear evidence that the credibility of the main political parties is on the decline and that there is a substantial number of South Africans who opted to stay away from the last election, rather than choose between the ANC, the DA, the EFF and other parties.

More importantly, many of these "disgruntled" voters are in the black middle class and sections of the working class. These are strata of the voting population that Mashaba and Maimane, depending on their messages, can easily appeal to.

For Mashaba, there is also an added advantage that even though he spent the last few years in the ranks of the DA, he is seen as a political outsider with ideas that are not often associated with our political elite.

As mayor of Johannesburg, he also gained a reputation among some voters as a practical leader who is not inhibited by ideology when it comes to getting things done. He will surely be capitalising on this when he launches his new political party soon.

Based on his public pronouncements, it seems like the new party's immediate intention would be to compete in next year's local government election, with the main objective of Mashaba returning to the mayoral post he lost when he resigned from the DA.

Maimane, on the other hand, would like us to believe that he is focused on something much bigger than a political party - he calls his initiative a Movement for One South Africa.

Details are sketchy, but sometimes the former DA leader sounds like he is looking to form something akin to the United Democratic Front of the 1980s, which acted as an umbrella body for various political formations, civic organisations and youth movements.

The two initiatives do not sound like they are mutually exclusive, so why are the two former DA leaders not working together?

Surely they would have a greater chance to succeed if they merged their projects into one.

Does it boil down to the question of egos and personality clashes, which were the end of similar opposition initiatives for COPE's Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa and, more recently, Irvin Jim and Zwelinzima Vavi?

In their joint statement yesterday morning, Maimane and Mashaba insisted that their initiatives were not in competition with each other and that the two of them have shared objectives.

They left the door open for future collaboration.

"We would like to emphasise that we have the deepest respect for one another and continue to support each other's respective, independent efforts to deliver real, transformational change in South Africa," they said.

But one suspects that their failure to come up with a unified initiative will split those who sympathised with them when they jumped the DA ship, into two camps.

Both camps will appear weak, and we know from our recent history that South African voters do not back political parties that appear too weak to threaten the status quo.

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