The following article originally appeared in the Liberal Democrat Voice and can be found here
The Liberal Democrats have had a strong and flourishing relationship with the South African Democratic Alliance (DA) for many years, and we continue to work together through the Africa Liberal Network (ALN) and the Young Leaders Programme. In this series of profiles of our liberal sister-parties overseas, Luke Akal, ALN Coordinator, gives an account of the DA:
On 27-30 January this year, the 13th annual Africa Liberal Network (ALN) General Assembly is being held in Johannesburg, hosted by South African member party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA is a shining light of liberalism on the African continent and, as the main opposition party in South Africa, is an inspiring model for liberal parties around the world.
Since its establishment, the DA has increased its vote share in every election, going from 12% in 2004 to 22% in 2014, gaining 89 MPs and becoming the main opposition party. In 2009, the DA gained power in the Western Cape province, giving the party an opportunity to deliver on its promises. Over the past 6 years, the Western Cape has seen an impressive decrease in crime, as well as improvement in infrastructure, and demonstrating that the DA is a safe pair of hands in government.
Last year the DA launched ‘Vision 2029’, an ambitious plan to become the ruling government party by the end of the next decade. With the ruling African National Congress (ANC)’s failure to tackle staggering levels of inequality, crime, unemployment and the legacy of apartheid, and the recent crisis in which President Jacob Zuma was forced to appoint his third finance minister within a week, the need for a change of government in South Africa is clearer than ever.
The DA has achieved its impressive growth by running on an unapologetically liberal platform, in stark contrast to the uninspiring and corrupt leadership of Zuma’s ANC. They advocate an ‘Open Opportunity Society for All‘ in which all people, regardless of gender, race or sexuality, are empowered to live their lives, pursue their dreams and develop their full potential. They stand for a free market economy, in which the role of the government is to provide every citizen with a minimum basic standard of quality services and resources, and have ambitions to significantly extend access to education and health care, tackle the HIV-AIDS crisis and address South Africa’s dangerous carbon footprint through green energy and environmental policies.
At the core of its success is the DA’s unique investment in its youth. Through its Young Leaders Programme, supported by the Liberal Democrat International Office, the DA organises a series of retreats for a group of young members within the party every year, and provides them with mentorship and training in leadership skills, with the long-term goal of empowering the next generation of leaders both within the party and in the country. Alumni from the programme have gone on to become activists, councillors and MPs, and are undoubtedly the future leadership of the party.
The DA faces challenges ahead, with the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a political party exploiting the prevalence of poverty and unemployment and advocating a politics based on division, blame and hatred. But with continued commitment to the principles of liberalism, the DA is well placed to become the future government of South Africa.
The DA is the most diverse party in South Africa, now well-recognised and progressed under the leadership of MP Mmusi Maimane. Maimane, as a previous mayoral and premier candidate for the DA, will address the ALN’s General Assembly on Friday 29 January 2016 on the topic of Principles for Liberal leadership: Shaping the Africa of our dreams. He will address the audience along with the ALN’s President, Olivier Kamitatu.
This year, the ALN General Assembly focuses on the theme “Winning Elections: Strategies, Policies and Solutions for Success”. The ALN’s 44 member parties, from across the African continent, will gather in Johannesburg to share experiences and strategies on how to win elections and achieve liberal governments in their home countries. With the DA gaining ground in South African politics every year, we cannot think of a more appropriate host for this event!
Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the DA, said:
It is our goal to build a South African society based on the core values of Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity for all, where no child is left behind because of the circumstances of their birth. The DA is committed to building a political home for all our people, uniting South Africans around shared values, and ensuring that every single South African has a voice and a say in the future of our nation.
It is an honour for the DA to be hosting this year’s Africa Liberal Network General Assembly. Internationalism and liberalism go hand-in-hand and we cherish the opportunity to meet and work with our fellow African liberals to help usher Africa into a brighter, more liberal future.