DA provincial leaders are said to be indignant that the party had approved new posters, which they say promote the ANC rather than conveying the DA’s campaign message.
The party this week started putting up posters that read: “DA or ANC: Your choice.”
The DA was embroiled in a scandal involving posters it put up in Phoenix, Durban. Critics said the posters caused racial divisions in the area. These posters were removed.
The Sunday Times has learnt that several DA provincial leaders were opposed to the new posters because they carried the name of another political party and amounted to free advertising for the ANC.
“Why would you promote the ANC using your own resources,” said one leader, who asked not to be named.
Some DA leaders expressed concern with what they called an “obsession with the ANC”.
“When Mmusi [Maimane, a previous DA leader] was being criticised for poor electoral performance, it was said that he focuses too much on ANC criticism and not highlighting the party enough. We were all then surprised when posters with the name of another party appeared in our public posters,” said another leader.Insiders say the DA’s campaign manager convinced national leaders that having ‘ANC’ in its election material will not hurt the party at the polls.
“I saw that poster today. Fedex [the party’s federal executive] has not been sitting. We sat for the first time in two months when we were dealing with the posters saga. So I did see those posters. What’s interesting is that we had agreed in the review report after the 2019 elections that we are no longer going to frame the narrative by using the ANC; we are going to talk about what we do and it will end there.
“I am also surprised that we are going back now and speaking about the ANC. I know that there are meetings that sit with provincial leaders, and maybe that’s why we are not meeting as often,” said a DA insider who sits on the federal executive.
He said the executive had approved only three posters. “These posters now, I guess they were only discussed with the provincial leaders,” he said.
The DA’s acting national director of communications, Richard Newton, said the new posters had been accepted without opposition.
“The posters were unanimously accepted at a fedex oversight meeting in April and also accepted at the April federal council meeting, after a few issues raised for discussion on the posters had been dealt with,” said Newton.
Insiders told the Sunday Times that they lost the battle for scrapping the posters to Greg Krumbock, the DA’s federal campaign manager.
“It’s a national strategy and it’s based on research. Provincial leaders were against it but the national leadership concurred with the campaign manager. He managed to convince national leaders that research suggested that the message would resonate with voters ahead of the local government elections,” an insider said.
The new posters, according to DA insiders, will go up only in urban areas.
“The thought behind that is it may be offensive to rural folks but urban people will understand it. That makes no sense at all, but it’s from the strategists,” said another insider.
Asked why the posters would go up only in urban areas, Newton said they were designed to appeal not only to DA voters but to other smaller parties that were not represented in any numbers in rural areas.
“Our message is the rural areas are designed more around the DA message of its proven service-delivery record and promise of good, clean governance and getting things done,” Newton said.
The DA also drew criticism this week for a radio advert attacking ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba.
In the advert, a woman’s voice says: “With all the new political parties, I was thinking of supporting Herman Mashaba. But so many illegal land invasions happened under his watch and he’s too close to the EFF. Independent polling shows that Mashaba’s small party has 1% support. If we split the vote by supporting small parties, the ANC will win and the EFF could become the official opposition. Only the Democratic Alliance is big enough to take on the ANC and stop the EFF. Let’s unite to win, vote DA.”
Mashaba said the advert portrayed the DA’s decline.
But DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the advert was part of the party’s normal campaigning.
“As is customary in any election, the DA will use election material like adverts to make a compelling case to the electorate to lend us their vote come election day. This is no different.
“Part of an election campaign also requires shining a spotlight on our opponent’s weaknesses as a way of once again making a case for why the DA is the only party that can get things done. This is all part and parcel of the contestation of ideas and a feature of any political campaign,” said Gwarube.