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The Democratic Alliance (DA) is a South African political party, the governing party in the Western Cape province, and the official opposition to the ruling African National Congress. The party was formed when the Democratic Party entered into a short-lived alliance with the New National Party (NNP) and a smaller party in 2000. The party is broadly centrist, though it has been attributed both centre-left and centre-right policies. It has its roots in the liberal anti-Apartheid movement of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, during which time a series of its predecessor parties were led by anti-Apartheid activists like Helen Suzman, Colin Eglin, Harry Schwarz and Frederik van Zyl Slabbert.

The present leader of the Democratic Alliance is former Cape Town mayor and Premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille, who took over from Tony Leon in May 2006. Zille, the World Mayor of the Year in 2008, opted against moving to the National Assembly, where the party is instead led by Athol Trollip.

Trollip leads a parliamentary caucus of 77 members—67 in the National Assembly, 10 in the National Council of Provinces -- who also make up the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet. The Democratic Alliance's federal chairperson is Joe Seremane, and the chairperson of the party's federal executive is James Selfe. Jonathan Moakes is the party's CEO, replacing Ryan Coetzee who was the party's chief electoral strategist and now occupies a position as Political Advisor to Western Cape Premier and party leader, Helen Zille. The party's chief whip and deputy chief whip are Ian Davidson and Mike Ellis respectively, and Lindiwe Mazibuko is the DA's national spokesperson.

Ideology and principles

The Democratic Alliance sums up its political philosophy as the belief in an "Open Opportunity Society for All". Party leader Helen Zille has argued that this stands in direct contrast to the ruling ANC's approach to governance, which she maintains has led to a "closed, crony society for some". This formed the basis of the philosophy underlying the party's 2009 Election Manifesto, which seeks to build a society by linking outcomes to "opportunity, effort and ability":

The Democratic Alliance's historical roots are broadly liberal-democratic. Between 1961 and 1974, the party's predecessor, the Progressive Party, was represented in parliament by a single MP, Helen Suzman, whose vocal opposition to racial discrimination and the apartheid regime led to the party being accused frequently of supporting a leftist agenda.

During the 1990s, the party remained associated with liberal values, though party leader Tony Leon's support for the reintroduction of the death penalty, the party's controversial 1999 campaign slogan "Fight Back", and the short-lived alliance with the right-wing New National Party fuelled criticisms of the party from the left. After Helen Zille's victory in the party's 2006 leadership race, and the ANC's nomination of populist candidate Jacob Zuma for the presidency, the DA has attempted to reposition itself as a mainstream alternative to a leftward shifting ANC. The party's economic policy is also broadly centrist, and supports a mix of high spending on crucial social services such as education and health care, a basic income grant, and a strong regulatory framework, with more moderate policies such as a lower budget deficit and a deregulated labour market. At her 2009 State of the Province speech, party leader Zille described her party's economic policy as pragmatic:

Current policies


The Democratic Alliance has aggressively targeted the ruling ANC's performance on tackling crime and corruption. In the party's crime plan, " Conquering Fear, Commanding Hope", the DA committed themselves to increasing the number of police officers to 250,000. This is 60,000 more than the government's own target. The party also announced plans to employ 30,000 additional detectives and forensics experts and 500 more prosecutors, in order to reduce court backlogs, and establish a Directorate for Victims of Crime, which would provide funding and support for crime victims.

In addition, the party announced its support for a prison labour programme, which would put prisoners to work in various community upliftment programmes. The proposal was criticised by labour unions, who believed it was unethical and would result in labour job losses.

In late 2008 and early 2009, the DA took a strong stand against the South African Police Service's VIP Protection Unit, after several officers in the unit were charged with serious criminal offences. The party later released documentation of the unit's poor disciplinary record, and claimed its divisional commander had himself dodged serious criminal charges.

The DA also strongly opposed the disbandment of the Scorpions crime investigation unit, and similar efforts to centralise the police service such as the nationwide disbandment of specialised Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units.

Social development

Central to the Democratic Alliance's social development policy, " Breaking the Cycle of Poverty", is a Basic Income Grant, which would provide a monthly transfer of R110 to all adults earning less than R46,000 per year. The party also supports legislation that would require the legal guardians of children living in poverty to ensure that their child attends 85 percent of school classes, and undergoes routine health checkups.

In addition, to aid with youth development skills, the party proposed a R6000 opportunity voucher or twelve month community service programme to all high school matriculants. The party also supports a universal old age pension, and the abolishment of pension means tests.


The DA's education programme, " Preparing for Success", focuses on providing adequate physical and human resources to underperforming schools. Included in this proposal would be guaranteed access to a core minimum of resources for each school, proper state school nutrition schemes for grade 1-12 learners, and the introduction of measures to train 30,000 additional teachers per year. The DA continues to support the introduction of new performance targets for teachers and schools, and also advocates a per-child wage subsidy, and a national network of community-based early childhood education centres.


The DA's " Quality Care for All" programme is focused on tackling the country's high HIV/AIDS infection rate. Included in these plans is an increase in the number of clinics offering HIV testing and measures to provide all HIV-positive women with Nevirapine. The party's health policy also plans to devote more resources to vaccinations against common childhood illnesses.

The party also advocates creating a transparent and competitive health sector, to boost service delivery and encourage health care practitioners to remain in the country.


The party's current policy programme, "It's All About Jobs", targets the attainment of a 6 percent growth rate, by focusing on on-the-job skills training and cutting the cost of doing business.


The DA's " Land of Opportunity" programme supports the 'willing buyer, willing seller' principle, though it also allows for expropriation for reform purposes in certain limited circumstances. The party has been critical of the resources that government has allocated to land reform, claiming that government has not been sufficiently active in buying up land that comes onto the market. Though the DA believes this could speed up the pace of land reform, their policies have been vocally criticised by members of the Tripartheid Alliance. Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza accused the DA of attempting to "stifle" land reform, while the South African Communist Party contended that the DA's policies overly favoured big business.

Environment and energy

In the build up to the 2009 elections, the DA announced it would create a new Ministry of Energy and Climate Change, to ensure improved integrated energy planning in order to deal with South Africa's growing carbon dioxide emissions. The DA's 2009 environment and energy plan, " In Trust for the Nation" also proposes new measures to increase energy efficiency, and the introduction of sectoral carbon emission targets.

The DA also proposes reforms to the energy sector that would see Eskom's designation as the single buyer of electricity revoked, thereby attracting greater investment and a more efficient energy market.

Electoral reform

The DA broadly supports reforms recommended by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert's electoral reform task-team, that would see the current party list voting system replaced by a 75% constituency-based/25% proportional representation-based electoral system that would apply at national and provincial level. The DA's governance policy Promoting Open Opportunity Governance also makes allowance for the direct election of the president, which would give voters a more direct link to the executive branch.

The party is also currently lobbying for voting rights for South African citizens living abroad. Party leader Zille raised the issue with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairman, Brigalia Bam. Zille has proposed that franchise be extended to overseas-based South Africans beyond Section 33(1)(e) of the Electoral Act, which currently limits overseas voting to South African citizens abroad temporarily, for purposes of a holiday, a business trip, attending a tertiary institution, or participating in an international sports event. The DA believe voting rights should be extended to include all South African citizens who are living and working abroad, many of whom intend returning.

In January 2008 the IEC indicated that they would not take measures to allow citizens living abroad to vote in the 2009 national and provincial elections. On 23 January 2009, the DA lodged an application at the Cape High Court to have section 33(1)(e) of the Electoral Act, which differentiates between the special voting rights of citizens abroad, declared unconstitutional.

2009 General Elections


Democratic Alliance launched its 2009 General Election campaign on 31 January 2009, in Soweto, unveiling a campaign slogan, "Vote to Win" at the launch. It released its manifesto on 14 February. It was at that stage still finalising its candidates for public office and the positions of premiers, mayors and president.

The party was expected to perform strongly in the Western Cape province, with analysts suggesting it would regain control of the province from the ruling ANC. The ANC's support in the province was on the wane, while the Democratic Alliance had performed well in by-elections in the province leading up to the poll.

The Sunday Times published a poll on 28 September 2008, detailing the strong urban support that the party now holds. The survey of 1,500 city dwellers found that 27 per cent would vote for the ruling ANC, while 26 per cent would vote for the DA and 27 per cent were undecided. The newly-formed Cope gained less than 1 per cent.

The party projected that it would govern in the Western Cape province—a task made easier by the ANC-COPE split—though it expected to need to form a governing coalition in order to do so. and by late 2008 there was speculation that Zille would run as the DA's candidate for provincial premier. The party anticipates that it will take control of several other major cities and towns in the 2011 local elections, and, with what it terms a "realignment of SA politics", predicts it will take its "winning streak" into the 2014 elections, when it plans to challenge for the mantle of ruling party. It did not, however, rule out its tiny chance of usurping the ANC as ruling party in the 2009 elections. "This year, the DA can win!" Zille told supporters at its campaign launch at the end of January.

Democratic Alliance's relationship with newly-formed ANC breakaway party Cope has been relatively strong. Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota showed a willingness to co-operate with Zille in future, and reports suggested that the two parties might work in tandem to win several provinces in 2009. More recently, however, Zille criticised COPE's internal structures and suggested many of the party's new members were merely Mbeki loyalists hoping to resurrect defunct political careers.

In the closing stages of the DA's campaign, it launched its "Stop Zuma" drive, which came under considerable criticism in the press—political analysts dubbing the tactic an example of "negative" politics. Zille later retorted, however, that what was really negative was the idea of handing over the right to change the Constitution unilaterally to Jacob Zuma and his "closed, crony network", as they would abuse that right both to enrich themselves and to protect themselves from prosecution. "They have already shown how they will abuse their power," she wrote, "by scrapping the Scorpions, firing Vusi Pikoli and securing the withdrawal of charges of 783 counts of corruption against Jacob Zuma."


The DA produced its best results ever at the polls, scoring almost a million new voters to take its nationwide tally from 1,931,201 to just under 3,000,000, a growth of 50 per cent. This made it the only party in South Africa to have grown in all three of the most recent elections. Thanking supporters the following week, Zille related proudly that the party had achieved all three of its primary objectives: it had kept the ANC below a two-thirds majority (albeit only just), won an outright majority in the Western Cape (the first time any party had done so in post-apartheid South Africa) and significantly improved its standing in parliamentmarker, taking twenty more seats in the National Assembly; it thus has now 67 MPs and is to be allocated another ten seats on the National Council of Provinces. It was, indeed, the only party in the entire country to increase rather than lose overall support since the 2004 elections.

Zille noted that the DA's increased representation in Parliament came largely at the ANC's expense, and that "with 65.9% of the vote and 264 seats in the National Assembly (down from 74.3% and 297 seats), the ANC no longer has the two-thirds majority it needs to change the Constitution unilaterally." She claimed that the decline in the ANC's support base and the concomitant increase in that of her own party was:

The DA also increased its support in eight of the nine provinces in South Africa, taking its total number of seats in provincial legislatures from 51 in 2004 to 65 in 2009. Zille saw the results as a vindication of the party's statement at the beginning of its campaign that the only two genuine political forces in South Africa were the DA and the ANC, with the latter losing support while the former consistently gained it, and voters refusing to waste their ballots on small, insignificant parties.

Post-election vision

Although ardently opposed to the notion that the DA represents only the white contingent of the South African electorate, Zille conceded that

The Western Cape victory, she wrote, gave the party:

She described the party's plans for South Africa's "political realignment" (which began in 2006, when it took Cape Town and other local authorities in the Western Cape, and which it aimed to culminate in 2014 with an outright national majority) as going ahead smoothly. For the time being, a note of congratulation was granted Zuma and the ANC, with an acknowledgement that the people had given it a strong mandate to rule. "We trust that the ANC will not abuse this confidence, and will govern well and in the interests of all South Africans."


Although the Democratic Alliance in its present form is fairly new, its roots can be traced far back in South African political history, through a complex sequence of splits and mergers—starting with the creation of a South African Party in 1910. The modern day Democratic Alliance is in large part a product of the progressive anti-Apartheid movement of the 1970s and 1980s, during which time it was known variously as the Progressive Party, the Progressive Reform Party, and the Progressive Federal Party. During that time, the party was led by some of the most celebrated anti-apartheid activists, including Helen Suzman, Harry Schwarz, Colin Eglin, Frederik van Zyl Slabbert and Zach de Beer. For most of the 1990s, the party was known as the Democratic Party (DP), during which time it ascended to the status of official opposition under the leadership of Tony Leon.

In 2000, the DP became the Democratic Alliance (DA) after merging with the New National Party. Though the alliance was short-lived—the NNP formed a new alliance with the African National Congress the following year—the DA secured 22% of the vote in the 2000 local government elections and an outright majority in the Cape Town unicity. Peter Marais became mayor of Cape Town, and the DA also took control of 20 local municipalities in the Western Cape. Following the NNP's defections, the party subsequently lost control of both Cape Town and the Western Cape province to the ANC. However, they regained control of Cape Town in the 2006 Local Government Elections—the only Metropolitan Council in South Africa not controlled by the ANC. Helen Zille was elected executive mayor on March 15, 2006 and formed a coalition with six smaller parties as the DA failed to win an outright majority in the council. Zille then succeeded Leon as leader of the party in May, after a landslide leadership victory. Zille's subsequent successes as mayor led to her being awarded the 2008 World Mayor Prize.

A new-look logo and party vision were adopted at the DA relaunch in late 2008.
Zille opted to remain as mayor of Cape Town as well as adopt the position of leader of the DA, it was decided that another DA member would be required to represent Zille and the party in the National Assembly. Following a vote which was mainly contested between former NNP MP, Tertius Delport and Sandra Botha, Botha triumphed. Botha served as parliamentary leader until announcing her retirement from party politics in January 2009. Following the 2009 general elections, the vacant parliamentary leadership post was won by Eastern Cape provincial leader Athol Trollip, who narrowly defeated party CEO Ryan Coetzee in the vote.


On 15 November 2008, the DA convened a meeting on Constitution Hillmarker to re-launch the party as one which no longer acts as an opposition but offers voters another choice for government. Along with this, the party also introduced a new logo, featuring a rising sun over the colours of the South African flag, and a new slogan, "One Nation, One Future." This is in line with the new strategy the party is implementing with regard to a non-racial South Africa where everyone has equal opportunities. Party leader, Helen Zille said the new DA would be “more reflective of our rich racial, linguistic and cultural heritage”. Zille has emphasised that she wants the party to be a "party for all the people" and not decline into a "shrinking, irrelevant minority".

Democratic Alliance Youth

The Democratic Alliance Youth, which came officially into being late in 2008, is led by Khume Ramulifho, who is also a Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. Ramulifho has been an outspoken critic of his controverisal ANC counterpart, Julius Malema.



In December 2007, a local DA councillor, Frank Martin, allegedly encouraged local families to occupy newly built N2 Gateway houses in Delft in the Western Cape. After over 1,000 backyarders from the area occupied the houses, a high profile political fight between ANC and DA leaders ensued, each accusing the other of racism, playing party politics, and using the poor for their own gain. Judge Van Zyl of the Cape Town High Court ruled to evict residents and also faulted Frank Martin for instigating the occupation. Criminal charges against Martin were later dropped. On February 18, 2009, a City of Cape Town disciplinary committee found Martin guilty of encouraging people to invade homes at Delft and was suspended for one month. A further political spat ensued after February 2008 between the DA and the Delft-Symphony Anti-Eviction Campaign, which accused the DA of favouring its party supporters. In response, Zille denied this, and pointed out that the City of Cape Town had responded to the crisis by providing comprehensive services to the Delft evictees.

Xenophobic attacks

The DA and mayor Helen Zille drew criticism for their response to the 2008 xenophobic attacks in Cape Town. In particular, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel accused Zille of "fanning the flames", by speaking out against foreign drug dealers while on a visit to Mitchell's Plain. Zille responded that she had been completely misquoted, and challenged Manuel to read newspaper transcripts of her speech. Zille has also accused the ANC government of creating a dependancy culture lacking of economic development that has fuelled xenophobia.

Electoral performance

This chart shows electoral performance for the Democratic Alliance, and its predecessor the Democratic Party, since the advent of democracy in 1994:

Election Total votes Share of votes Seats Party Leader Notes
1994 338,426 1.73% 7 ANC victory
1999 1,527,337 9.56% 38 ANC victory; DP becomes official opposition
2004 1,931,201 12.37% 50 ANC victory; DA retains official opposition status
2009 2,945,829 16.66% 67 ANC victory; DA retains official opposition status and wins Western Cape province

See also



External links


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