Wednesday, April 15, 2009



The Times Newspaper
By S’Thembiso Msomi
Apr 14, 2009

Stop Zuma’ poster won’t do opposition any favours
THE “Fight Back” campaign has made a comeback!

A decade after the Democratic Alliance’s predecessor — the Democratic Party — used the controversial slogan to propel itself to becoming the country’s official opposition, party leader Helen Zille on Monday unveiled her own version of the campaign.

With barely a week to go before the general elections, the DA is flooding the country’s streets with a “Stop Zuma” poster campaign.

The campaign is part of a broader Zille strategy to galvanise those who have been left dejected by the real possibility of ANC leader Jacob Zuma becoming the country’s president, into voting for her party next Wednesday.

In her recent campaign speeches, Zille has resorted to the old opposition scare tactic of telling the electorate that the ANC plans to change the country’s Constitution if it wins a two-thirds majority.

The fact that the ruling party currently enjoys a two-thirds majority in Parliament and that it has not abused this power seems to have escaped her.

In a speech kicking off her national tour at the Cape Town International Airport yesterday, Zille said a two-thirds majority will allow Zuma “to unilaterally change” the Constitution “to abuse power, advance his cronies, and protect” his associates from being prosecuted for corruption.

“The DA will not stand back and let this happen. Yesterday, we launched our ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign to underscore the importance of preventing a Zuma two- thirds majority,” she said.

But will this updated version of the “Fight Back” campaign help the DA win substantially more votes than it did, say, in the 2004 polls?

The DP’s “Fight Back” campaign stirred controversy for its then leader, Tony Leon, and it provided the ANC with a perfect canvas on which to paint the party as a “racist” organisation hellbent on “fighting blacks”.

The upside for Leon, however, was that the slogan helped elevate the DP from being a small party to replacing the New National Party as the country’s official opposition.

But it was never going to help the party make serious in-roads into the ANC’s predominantly black constituencies.

Zille’s ascendency to the party leadership in May 2007 was seen in some quarters as an opportunity for the DA to win over some of the ANC’s traditional supporters.

And she seemed determined to make use of the opportunity — even delivering some of her speeches in Xhosa.

In the run-up to this year’s election, her party’s campaign posters featured more black faces than was the case during Leon’s tenure.

But for the DA to become the real political alternative to the ANC, it needs to exponentially grow its support base among black voters. Otherwise slogans such as “Vote to Win” will forever sound hollow.

It is highly unlikely, however, that her goal will be achieved with campaign messages such as “Stop Zuma” and “Fight Back”.

The rabid anti-Zuma rhetoric is a sure winner with the DA’s traditional constituencies. It also has some appeal to sections of the black middle-class and intelligentsia.

But it won’t win the DA votes in Soweto, Zwide or Maokeng.

Even those sections of the black petty bourgeoisie that are unhappy with Zuma look set to vote for anyone — from the Congress of the People to the United Democratic Movement — but the DA.

The reference to Soweto and other townships is not to say that Zuma is the darling of everyone in working class and poor black communities. Far from it. The point is that the Zuma factor alone is not enough to turn these communities away from the ruling party.

Zille would have done well in the last few weeks of her campaigning around the country to reach out to these constituencies in a bid to get to grips with the urgent social problems they face.

For a university graduate who has been jobless for the last five years, despite government’s constant complaints about an acute skills shortage in the country, the primary concern is not Zuma.

That graduate needs to be told how voting for the DA will help secure employment.

If Zille is content with merely maintaining the constituencies first conquered by Leon in 1999, the “Stop Zuma” campaign is the way to go.

But if her intention is to erode the power base of ANC strongholds, she is completely wide of the mark with this campaign poster.