Stop Zuma?

Impossible, my dear.

Yet that’s seemingly been the sole aim of Helen Zille and the Democratic Alliance over the past, final week of campaigning before the election. And it’s a tactic which has drawn criticism from many quarters for it’s negativity and single-minded determination to go after JZ, while there are plenty of other major issues and challenges which need addressing in this election.


Zille and her grand plan.

Sadly, it’s also a campaign which, as the international community sits up and takes notice in the run up to the election, has been reported around the world, with Zille’s scaremongering tactics dragging the country’s name further through the mud. See the New York Times’ report and the BBC’s South Africa ‘doomed under Zuma’. The latter is worth a look if only for the picture of Zille’s cabaret act – the article itself makes depressing reading.

This evening on the way home from a hard day’s science, I listened into John Maytham’s show on 567 Cape Talk. Maytham described himself as “revolted” by the Stop Zuma campaign and stated that he had been put off voting for the DA.
Then, in a shock move for me, I found myself agreeing with Maytham’s guest Jonathan Shapiro – the cartoonist otherwise known as Zapiro. But what surprised me more was that Shapiro, who was apparently previously an ANC voter but who will not be voting for them this time because of Zuma’s reputation, was also disgusted by the DA’s recent campaign, describing it as a “terrible mistake”. Strong words indeed from a man who has himself been accused of harbouring a vendetta against Msholozi. While he said he was still undecided about who he was going to vote for, the DA had joined the ANC on his list of ‘definitely nots’.

I don’t understand why the DA has suddenly taken this route. They are absolutely capable of winning the Western Cape in this next election, which was their stated aim. But whatever strategist persuaded them that moving away from campaigning on any other issue and concentrating on the futile task of “stopping” Jacob Zuma – whatever that means, anyway – has done them a great disservice. As far as I can see, having spoken to people, read newspapers and checked in on the local media, this negative campaigning has turned the voters away from the DA, Maytham and Shapiro being the latest examples of this phenomenon. If they had nothing to fight for, that wouldn’t be a big issue, but with the Western Cape as tight as it is, I can’t help but wonder – have Zille and the DA shot themselves in their collective feet by solely (no pun intended) going after Zuma?

41 thoughts on “Stop Zuma?

  1. You have described my situation exactly. Completely put off by DA’s negativity.
    I won’t be voting DA because of the stop zuma campaign.

  2. I am not going to vote for the DA because of their Zuma campaign. So many better things to concentrate on.

  3. I also heard the Zapiro interview and was amazed. He hates Zuma, but disagrees with zille going after him.

    So negative and I know of other people who were going to vote DA but aren’t now. And I don’t blame them.

  4. This is the final straw for me. You have convinced me not to vote DA. Very disappointed in Zille for going (his route.

    JOIN ME AND OTHERS – DON’T VOTE FOR NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING.

  5. I’m a member of the DA and I’ve written to Helen asking her to explain why we have taken this route. It’s futile, it’s negative, it’s illogical and – as you point out – very damaging to our hopes of a clear victory in the Western Cape.

    I have been approached by many (perhaps 30 or 40) people over this issue. It is a surefire vote loser, as it only appeals to a tiny group of voters who were almost certain to vote DA anyway.

    I am dismayed that Helen has chosen this as our final campaign message. I feel it is a grave mistake.

  6. A bit rich coming from Shapiro, he helped create the monster that Helen now feels the need to stop. Anyhow hopefully the DA have done their homework, and this will attract more voters than it repels.

  7. I agree fully with the comments on negative campaigning, but isn’t the DA just verbalising what many Saffers want? To stop Jacob Zuma becoming President? Maybe they haven’t gone about it in the best way, but this is only one small campaign forming part of a much bigger picture. It’s not put me off; I would still prefer the DA to the ANC.

  8. I will still vote DA, but I do see your point and those of other commenters. Lowering themselves (the DA) to the level of the other parties (OK, the ANC) is a terrible way to advertise oneselves as a viable voting alternative or “official opposition”.

  9. Yikes! Few comments to catch up on here. Thanks to you all for taking the time.

    Jacques > Do you? I’m honoured – especially knowing your political affiliations.

    Anon Voter/Fred > I don’t think you’re alone in that (see other comments below yours).

    Gmol > I was pretty shocked as well. That he still doesn;t know who to vote for, but used this campaign to rule out the DA.
    I know of others who will not vote for the ANC because of Zuma, but are also put off by Zille’s choice of last week subject.

    Scott > Probably my biggest worry too. I don’t really mind if the DA wins/doesn’t win the WC – I’m undecided if that is a good thing for the Province, City and… well… me. But the negativity expressed aboard is painful to read. And – as far as I can see – unsubstantiated.

    CTV > I presume you mean “This route?”. But – your choice.

    Dismayed > Thanks for commenting so honestly. Quite chuffed that I seem to have hit the nail on the head with this one. Just saying what I think.
    If HZ does get back to you (I know she’s busy right now), please could you let me know what she says, if appropriate?

    Stan > Perhaps. But that’s his job (although I don’t agree with the way he does it). I guess he (and I) were expecting better of the DA. Does this campaign form part of their remit to the voting population.
    Looking at the comments above (and below), I’n not sure that this tactic has worked at all.

    Robyn > I do see what you’re saying, but it’s a completely futile exercise – JZ is going to be the next President. And I don’t think that people will be swayed from voting DA to voting ANC because of this. But they are being swayed from the DA to voting ID or IFP or [other]. And that could, conceivably, cost the DA control of the Western Cape.

    Fandango > Great name. And good for you for your loyalty. But yes – lowering oneself to the level of someone so “low” is never a good idea. I see it everytime Sheffield United play [rubbish team] in the FA Cup and the results are never pretty.

    6000´s last blog post was: Stop Zuma? (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  10. The DA probably has the best pollsters and analysts of all the SA parties, but they got this one wrong. I’m convinced that it will be a vote-loser. As Dismayed comments above, it will only appeal to a small set of current DA voters, and perhaps turn a few current DA voters off too.

    HZ has done a great job of undermining the negative perceptions of the DA under Leon, particularly the perception that they were all about being “anti”, rather than building their own profile as a party fit to govern. The campaign (until “stop JZ”) was great, as it did exactly that – far less carping about what others were doing wrong, and far more trumping of the DA’s virtues as a party ready to lead.

    “Stop JZ” is uncomfortably reminiscent of the “Fight back” campaign, easily caricatured as “Fight Black”. The undecideds who were thinking that maybe the DA is no longer a “white” party, and that perhaps it’s time to give them a chance, have now been given a firm shove away from voting DA. It’s f’ing annoying.

    Jacques´s last blog post was: Blasphemy debate (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  11. Jacques > I whole-heartedly agree with you that the DA had one of the most refreshing, positive campaigns for this election. For a while, I was really convinced that they could make a difference. The Western Cape (as I think you pointed out somewhere) was a real possibility and it did seem that a viable opposition was being built.
    Sadly, while much of that may still be true and possible, this leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. While I understand the reasoning behind the SZC (despite not necessarily agreeing with it), it has completely dominated the Western Cape electioneering for the past 10 days and left a lot of voters confused or forgetful about what the DA actually does stand for, aside from (shock) trying to prevent JZ from getting his 2/3 majority.
    Will it work? I don’t know. I think too many people think it’s simply to prevent Stop Zuma, as in stop him from being President – which isn’t going to happen, rather than the slightly less catchy “prevent the ANC from getting a two-thirds majority”. The confusion is probably down to the posters etc which simply proclaim “Stop Zuma”.

  12. I suspect that the reason a lot of people were going to vote for the DA was a “lesser of several evils” attitude.

    Quite a few of those people will have been put off quite heavily by this. Stupid campaign. Especially now.

  13. Great post!

    I must be honest I am also not sure who I will be voting for this time around, okay chances are it will be the DA, but its the first time I have questioned that.
    I was quiet shocked at seeing those posters, but I must admit, I did think the ‘lady has balls’…even though there is no way of stopping him.

    Oh well we will see how it turns out.

    Hayley´s last blog post was: that is it. (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  14. I agree, 6000. I think that the DA has returned to its old game of playing to white fear (‘Stop the ANC from getting a two-thirds majority so that they can’t change the Constitution’ … when they have already had this power for 4 years and haven’t used it) as a cynical attempt to get votes. Fear-based politics is passe and soooooo last year 😉 – and the DA haven’t woken up to this yet.

    I thought they had, when they re-launched last year and trumpeted that they would be shifting away from being an opposition party to a party of government. Which, to me, meant more telling what they will do if elected and less obsession with the big bad ol’ ANC. I was very interested in them then… but they’ve shown themselves to be like the proverbial leopard and his hard-to-change spots, and gone back to the DA/DP/whatever of old. Pity. They’ve certainly lost my vote as a result of their negative campaigning.

    Have a look at this, 6000: http://elections.mg.co.za/pollpredictor – it enabled me to look at ‘other’ parties with fresh eyes…

  15. I agree with you on this 100%. With all this negative publicity around, how do you think expats would have voted 😉

    But seriously, if they are loosing votes over this, my concern is for where these votes will be going to. Quite honestly, I don’t see any other party but the DA capable of running the WC. If the huge support showed to Zille by the Newlands’ crowd over the weekend is something to judge by (whilst our President and the Premier of the WC shared the stage), perhaps they might still win here. My vote is certainly not going to the ANC.

    Emil´s last blog post was: 42 (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  16. Hayley > I don’t blame her for standing up for what she believes in, of course not.
    Just that she should have (imo) done that alongside telling us what the DA can do for us, not instead of it.

    Hank > Fear based politics is what a lot of the election has been run on, just not by the mainstream parties (until now). Take the Trevor Mallach fake letter – full of comparisons of JZ with Hitler, SA with Zim etc etc. It’s misinformation and I have said ALL ALONG that a misinformed vote is the worst possible kind.
    Incidentally, even though I can’t vote, I did the M&G predictor thing. The results were “surprising” and informative.
    Oh – and private! 😉

    Emil > Does a Newlands cricket crowd (@ R200 a ticket) really make up a genuine cross-section of the Western Cape? I don’t know about that.
    The “lost” DA votes are not going to the ANC – I accept that. But with the Western Cape vote so close, fragmenting the opposition could lead to a coalition running the Province. Theat’s something that HZ said might happen in the Northern Cape and admitted was less than ideal. If it happens in the Western Cape as a result of the SZC, it would be a disaster for the DA.

  17. Emil – I’m going DA provincial, because I think they’re doing a decent enough job in CT… and ID national, because I agree with most of their policies. Although they *almost* lost me with that “Can’t Cope? Vote ID” banner. Cringe. 😉

  18. 6000 > I’m intrigued! If you could vote, how would you? And what did the M&G predictor thingy come up with?

  19. Hank > What worries me about the DA winning the Province is wondering if we’ll see the same fighting between National ANC and Provincial DA as we have seen previously between the Provincial ANC and Cape Town DA. I can’t see that being good for the WC public. It certainly hasn’t been good for the City.
    If the DA do win the Province, then I look forward with some trepidation to being part of Helen’s big political Province + City experiment. Unless it all goes horribly wrong, of course. As a scientist, I have experiments that do that all the time.

  20. Hank > In one way, I am glad that I am not voting. There is no one “perfect” party for me. In the UK, one party did at least come close to fulfilling that position.
    The M&G predictor said that I was strongly in favour of one party. But looking in detail at their policies, there are large chunks I don’t agree with.

    So – do you choose to vote for the best of a bad job, or is that merely making things worse?

  21. Maybe it’s just the way SA works but all opposition parties seem to attack rather than offer a proper alternative to the ANC. I think all the new parties that have emerged have gone through this phase – vote for us because we are NOT the ANC rather than saying vote for us because we offer x, y, z. It’s a lesson that needs to be learnt and something that requires a lot of research if SA is to have a worthwhile opposition.

    Shahil´s last blog post was: Coke Zero Fest 2009: I am the Walrus (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  22. Shahil > I don’t know about that. But this time around, the campaign has been dominated by the JZ/anti-JZ issue. I just think HZ and the DA took things too far in the last two weeks of the campaigning. Before that, I was enjoying what they (and others) were offering.
    The Republicans also tried negative campaigning in the USA election, and got stung. Although, perhaps one could argue that that was due to the huge popularity of Obama. But then, maybe there are parallels there with the huge popularity of Zuma.

  23. Hi 6000. Let me start by saying there are always some people who don’t like it when a campaign goes negative at the end; they are usually also the most vocal. But the positive effect on voter support always outweighs the negative. If it didn’t, parties (including the DA) wouldn’t keep doing it.

    A little insight into the phases of an election campaign: It starts with the offer – introducing voters to who the DA is and what it has to offer. The focus is very much on the positive – the vision, the manifesto, the policies, etc. This is the longest phase of an election campaign – and the positive campaign you recall until last week.

    The next phase is the squeeze. This is the message along the lines of “Only the DA is big enough to win the Western Cape/stop Jacob Zuma getting 2/3rds [depending on whether you’re in the Western Cape or not]… don’t waste your vote on a smaller party…”

    The final phase, and the one you don’t like in this case, is the Get-Out-the-Vote, or GOTV, phase, which is all about maximising turnout on election day of our supporters. Based on continuous polling, we identify the strongest motivation among DA supporters to go out and vote, and that motivation is “Stop Zuma”.

    That is why, for example, the DA facebook group passed the 20000 member mark last week, while the anti-Zuma group passed 100000 a couple of weeks ago.

    In the Western Cape, there are only a handful of ‘Stop Zuma’ posters; you might have seen another poster with the same red banner which says “Your Vote can win it!”

    Anthony´s last blog post was: Frans updated the "Volunteer ID" information on their profile (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  24. Anthony > Thanks for the comment. (For those of you who haven’t already gathered, Anthony is from the DA).

    I do recall the positive campaign, as you have noted. And it was fantastic. Enlightening, informative, positive, hopeful. Great stuff.
    The squeeze – yes – I remember this bit too. And those messages you sent out are almost certainly absolutely correct.

    But now – the crux of the matter. (And I do accept that the disenfranchised voters are the more vocal).
    This is a risky strategy – this is proven by the number of voters who are being turned away by it. And I’m not just talking about those voters who are “floaters” – I’m talking about (and getting comments from) DA members and lifelong DA supporters who are dismayed by the SZC and are considering taking their votes elsewhere. And they are hearing from other DA members who are doing the same.
    I have yet to hear of one person who has been attracted to vote for the DA because of this part of the campaign.

    This election has been widely publicised as the most important and significant since 1994. The electorate has unprecedented access to information in comparison to 94 and many of them are using it to educate themselves on what the individual (read: smaller) parties stand for. They are not stupid and they know that this has become an election almost solely based on one contest: ANC vs non-ANC. The DA is never going to bleed voters to the ANC, however, it seems to me that there is an open wound and voters are definitely being lost to the IFP, Cope and (to a lesser extent) the ID.
    With the Western Cape contest so close, can the DA really afford this?

    Two more points:
    1. You suggest that there are only “a handful” of Stop Zuma posters in the Western Cape. (Incidentally, I have seen the ‘Your vote can win it’ ones too and I can tell the difference!)
    Maybe so, but we are hearing nothing but Stop Zuma from the much publicised election rallies of Helen Zille – wherever she may be in the country. You can’t expect a positive GOTV campaign message to compete on posters against what is plastered across the internet, news sites, newspapers, radio etc etc.

    2. Your strategists then, asume that this negative SZC is doing the DA more good than harm when it comes to voting numbers. But what of the country’s (and the party’s)reputation abroad? Headlines like SA ‘doomed under Zuma”, SA to become a ‘failed state’ etc etc in the international media are solely the result of DA electioneering. Don’t tell me that that sort of thing doesn’t damage the country, that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That is harmful and even if the DA garner a few extra votes from it, is the by-product of soiling the name of the country really worth it?

  25. I have to agree with 6000 Anthony and say that I too am having my doubts about the DA. In the Eastern Cape there are stacks of Stop Zuma posters and I also do not like them!

  26. Richard > Always good to have another opinion voiced. Thanks – and good luck! (I mean with the Stopping Zuma thing, not with the voting – that’s apparently really easy)…

    Robyn > Thanks. Just speaking my mind. Mind you, last time I did that, you described it as codswallop. Memory like an elephant , I have, and the similarities don’t stop there. (baggy knees)

  27. One thing you should bear in mind is that you move in a circle that is probably not representative of the general target market for the DA’s campaign.

    The final result of the election comes down to the extent to which parties can turn out their support base. We might lose a few voters who find the negative campaign distasteful, but we also increase the percentage turnout of DA supporters to a much greater extent. In addition, as much as a third of ANC supporters are uncomfortable with Jacob Zuma’s candidacy. Only half of its supporters think he is innocent. Going negative on Jacob Zuma can depress the ANC’s turnout among those most uncomfortable with Zuma, which in a proportional representation system means we do relatively better.

    And the DA isn’t solely responsible for the negative publicity abroad; the ANC is. They elected Jacob Zuma as their leader; they shut down the Scorpions; they fired Vusi Pikoli because he refused to withdraw charges against Jacob Zuma; they have a draft constitutional amendment to reduce local governments to administrative arms of the national government, and thus remove the rights of opposition run councils to legitimately deviate from ANC policy. It’s a complete fallacy that the messenger is responsible.

    Helen Zille wants to make sure that every voter in South Africa is aware of the risks of an ANC two-thirds majority so they can’t say five or ten years down the wrong road, I should have done something to prevent this.

    Anthony´s last blog post was: Christian Helberg and Akanbi samuel are now friends (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  28. Anthony > Regarding my circle, I don’t know. I have seen DA voters put off and I have seen floating voters put off.
    I accept that you have people who have done the maths and the work to ensure that the DA campaign “works” in whatever way you think is best. But I still think it paints a very negative picture of the party. At the end of the day, I blog what I see and this is something which I have seen and heard a lot about on various media and by word of mouth. For your sakes, I hope your guys have got their sums right.

    I recognise that (in your opinion) the ANC has made a lot of unpopular and/or incorrect decsions. But to voice your opinions and to suggest to an international audience that those decisions are going to destroy this country is a foolish and dangerous move. What good can that bring?
    We know that JZ is going to be the President after these elections and now the rest of the world has put Zille’s two and two together and regards SA as the next Zimbabwe.
    Would you rather that the country fails and proves you right than succeeds under Zuma?

    Once again, I do not think that these scare-tactics are warranted or ethical and I’m disappointed that the DA has chosen to employ them.
    I do not have an axe to grind here. I can’t vote and so I am looking on almost impartially. But I still wonder whether the DA is damaging its chances of winning the Western Cape (you say not) and the reputation of the country (you blame the ANC).

    I think we’re all in for an interesting ride.

  29. Speaking as a lifelong DA supporter – a PFP supporter and youth activist back in the day – I’ve no doubts that Anthony is right on the math. I’ve met the key strategists, and they are smart. My concern is similar to that expressed by 6K, and revolves around the ethics (and also strategy, as I’ll explain). On ethics: these things play on people’s irrational fears, even though this particular fear isn’t necessarily irrational. I’m reluctant to endorse a political move that exploits paranoia, in case it fosters further paranoia.

    Broadly, on strategy, the GOTV phase may work on the day, but this isn’t a one-shot game. The image of the DA is shaped by these individual iterations of a repeating game, and I don’t think their interests are served in the long run by reinforcing the perception of the party as anti-something. For the first time in a long time, the party was looking positive, and seemed to be moving away from the short-term, opportunistic, and perhaps cynical days of blunders like welcoming the NNP into the fold. I had hoped for those moves to be a sign of a permanent change of strategy, and this somewhat dashes those hopes.

    Jacques´s last blog post was: SA Elections: The DA’s “Stop Zuma” campaign (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  30. Politics is, at the best of times, a dirty business. This country has so many different cultures and so many different political parties that one must think very hard and very unemotional when you go to vote.

    I have personally spoke to a lot of people these last few weeks, people that you would imagine will be voting for the ANC. The collective words out of most of these people’s mouths were: “We want to stop Zuma. He is a bad example for our children, for our people.”

    Is Helen Zille not only promising to give them what they ask for? It is not that we want to see the country fail to be able to say we were right about Zuma – that would be utterly foolish. But you know the saying: “Prevention is better than cure”. That is SO damn right.

    sonkind´s last blog post was: Tandem – hoofstuk 3 (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  31. “The much maligned “Stop Zuma” campaign tactic of the DA might have prevented wavering ruling party supporters from switching their allegiance to Helen Zille, but it appears to have drawn supporters away from smaller opposition parties.
    In the Western Cape, the most dramatic change of political fortunes appeared to be taking place as the DA gained a more than 50 percent share of the provincial vote.”

    http://blogs.thetimes.co.za/hartley

  32. CuppaCoffee > Indeed, but if you look at his post earlier in the day, people in the Western Cape wanted the DA as their Provincial leaders, but actually voted proportionately LESS for the DA in the National elections – which was where they could have chosen to… er… Stop Zuma.

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