Discontent brews in DA-led Multi-Party Charter ahead of elections

The internal conflicts within the MPC and the DA’s controversial actions suggest that the party has yet to learn from its past mistakes, writes Bayethe Msimang.

The internal conflicts within the MPC and the DA’s controversial actions suggest that the party has yet to learn from its past mistakes, writes Bayethe Msimang.

Published May 17, 2024


By Bayethe Msimang

The Democratic Alliance (DA)-led Multi Party Charter (MPC) faces rising internal conflict in the weeks leading up to the upcoming elections. Discontent has escalated significantly due to provocative actions and statements from DA, leading to a growing rift among coalition members and their supporters.

Historical Context of Coalition Failures in South Africa

South Africa has a complex history with political coalitions, particularly involving the DA. Ideological differences, power struggles, and accusations of exploitation have often marred coalition politics. The DA’s history of coalition failures offers crucial context for understanding the current discontent within the MPC.

Previous DA Coalition Failures

Patricia de Lille and the City of the Cape Town

One notable instance is the fallout between the DA and Patricia de Lille, former Mayor of Cape Town. De Lille, a prominent figure, faced accusations of corruption and maladministration from the DA, leading to her resignation in 2018. The conflict damaged the DA’s reputation and exposed the fragility of its internal alliances and governance capabilities.

Mamphela Ramphele and the 2014 Merger

Another significant failure was the short-lived merger between DA and Mamphela Ramphele, a respected anti-apartheid activist and partner of the late Steve Biko. in 2014, Ramphele was announced as the DA’s presidential candidate, move intended to bolster the party’s appeal among black South Africans.

However, the alliance collapsed within days, revealing deep-seated mistrust and strategic misalignment. In the Washington Post in January 2014, Gwede Mantashe reacted to this merger as “rent-a-leader and rent-a-black face,” highlighting perceptions of the DA’s opportunistic tactics.

Current Discontent within the MPC

The simmering disagreements within the DA-led MPC have recently become more public and contentious. A scandal erupted when DA released an advertisement featuring a burning South African flag, which many perceived as high proactive. This move triggered a significant backlash from supporters of other MPC parties, who viewed the DA as their main political ally.

Public Criticism by ActionSA

ActionSA leaders Herman Mashaba and Michael Beaumont publicly criticised the DA for its controversial stance on forming a coalition with the African National Congress (ANC). Beaumont emphasised that any party wishing to work with the ANC should leave the MPC, underlining ActionSA’s opposition to such an alliance. This criticism underscored the deep political divides within the coalition.

These are the same ActionSA leaders who in 2021 made internal calls for restraint, urging members not to criticise the DA in public ahead of negotiations: “Don’t criticise DA in public,” ActionSA told members, reflecting an effort to manage internal disputes discreetly.

Despite these calls for unity, the deepening mistrust has become increasingly evident. Today, it’s the ActionSA leaders who are now facing the DA’s criticism. In 2022, the DA promised to pursue legal action against ActionSA and interim national chairperson Michael Beaumont after he made severe claims against party leaders that they has “bribed” and offered “inducement” to an ActionSA councillor to join the DA.

Grassroots Function

The tensions culminated in the video released by ActionSA supporters expressing frustration with their party’s participation in the MPC and its response to the DA’s contentious actions. This video reflected a broader sense of betrayal and dissatisfaction among coalition supporters, marking a critical point in the coalition’s internal dynamics.

DA’s Dismissive Attitude

The situation worsened when DA leader John Steenhuisen dismissed the concerns of other coalition’s parties regarding the controversial advertisement. His statement, indicating indifference to the opinions of his coalition partners, further inflamed the already tense relations within the MPC. This dismissive DA leader’s attitude alienated coalition members and fuelled growing resentment among their supporters.

The Future of the MPC

The accumulated negativity and unresolved conflicts have significantly strained the MPC. Once seen as a united front against the ANC, the coalition struggles to maintain cohesion and credibility. The video by ActionSA supporters criticising their party’s involvement in the MPC and DA’s controversial moves encapsulates the deep divisions and disillusionment within the coalition. As the elections approach, the prospects for the coalition’s stability and future hanging in the balance.


The DA’s historical pattern of a “rent-a-leader and rent-a-black face” strategies, highlighted by the past failures with leaders like Patricia de Lille and Mamphela Ramphele, continues haunting its current coalition efforts.

The internal conflicts within the MPC and the DA’s controversial actions suggest that the party has yet to learn from its past mistakes. As the coalition faces mounting internal and external pressures, its ability to present a credible and united front in the upcoming elections remains in serious doubt.

* Bayethe Msimang is an independent writer and analyst.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media