It’s a dry white season for the race for mayor of Cape Town …
The right party candidate for mayor of Cape Town, Brett Herron. (Photo: Leïla Dougan) | The DA mayoral candidate for the city of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis. (Photo: supplied)
In a province where the majority of voters are neither white nor male, the DA and the Good Party are putting forward white candidates for their campaigns for mayor of Cape Town. It is a gamble that will not escape the attention of the ANC and other parties.
The DA and the Good Party both described the internal processes that led to the selection of their mayoral candidates as exceptionally rigorous. While that may be true, neither of the two selections came as a surprise. Brett Herron’s choice of the Right Party was a foregone conclusion for a party with exactly two visible representatives (Patricia de Lille and Herron); when it was known months ago that Geordin Hill-Lewis was the preferred candidate of Helen Zille and other members of the DA’s high-ranking officials.
Yet if you had been asked a few years ago, few could have predicted that in 2021, two parties would have opted for white and male candidates in a province where the majority of voters are neither white nor male.
Zille, as one of the DA’s main opinion leaders, has clearly expressed his horror of identity politics. The selection of Hill-Lewis confirms the supremacy of this worldview within the party. The bet they are taking is that voters in the Western Cape feel the same way.
Historically, however, the DA has not undertaken a campaign without doing extensive research in the form of focus groups and so on. If its past confidence in evidence-based campaigns continues, the party may have good reason to believe that Hill-Lewis will be an acceptable candidate for the majority of Cape Town voters.
It is true that what these patterns are is quite difficult to perceive from the outside. There is no doubt that Hill-Lewis, 34, is smart, sympathetic, and a very astute political tactician. But he has no experience of governance, and his face may be familiar only to those who frequently watch Parliament, where he played a living and important role in the DA caucus.
Where the mind starts to bewilder in particular is the idea of the Hill-Lewis activists trying to win hearts and minds on the Cape Flats or in the Cape Townships. Accepting the party’s nomination on Monday, Hill-Lewis said, “I look forward to meeting you in your community and neighborhood in the months to come.”
In perhaps an unspoken acknowledgment that his face might not be the most recognizable face, he added: “We will get to know each other well as we build our city, our Cape Town home, together.”
Hill-Lewis has said he intends to immediately start campaigning on the ground, so it will be interesting to see how he’s received – especially in places like Ocean View, where the current mayor Dan Plato was filmed in an embarrassing verbal quarrel with a resident.
It is not known if Hill-Lewis speaks isiXhosa, but which is it is clear that he speaks Afrikaans at about the level of most English-speaking white Capetonians – that is, not brilliantly. It is at a time when the DA’s losses in by-elections among Afrikaans-speaking and colored communities were the most pronounced.
One point for further consideration is that Hill-Lewis as mayor would mean that the DA has two white men running the town and the province, since Alan Winde is the premier of the Western Cape. Meanwhile, of course, the leader of the National Party – John Steenhuisen – is yet another white man. The message that sends out about representation – again, in 2021 – is frankly bizarre, even if South Africa turns out to be a place where many people of color are indeed willing to vote for white male leaders in this regard. moment.
From the DA’s perspective, there may be a feeling that the bet is not too big since the party traditionally performs better in local elections than in national elections. In the first polls, there is a feeling that service delivery – where the DA presents itself as surpassing the ANC – is the critical issue more than in the second, where issues of identity and legacy may be more. important.
When it comes to selecting Herron by the right party to pit against Hill-Lewis, it may seem rude to say that the decision has to come at least in part from a lack of options. (To be clear: Happy Birthday Is have more leaders than Herron and De Lille, but I challenge you to find plenty of people who can nominate them.)
Yet the Western Cape is clearly the power base of the Bon, with De Lille’s appeal of reputation its main asset, and Herron is by far the oldest and most visible figure to the public after De Lille, he So would have been astonishing that Herron hadn’t received the nod.
In political terms, Herron’s biggest motto is his earlier proximity to power as a DA advisor in the Cape Town metro. That means he’s been a thorn in DA’s side since Good’s launch, constantly pointing out unfinished DA projects or broken promises. Through Herron, the DA faced substantial criticism on a scale and frequency to which the party was completely unaccustomed from the relatively weak opposition of the ANC and EFF in Province.
It does mean, however, that Herron’s political reputation is now primarily questioned as being anti-DA. Negative campaigns can be very effective in politics, but will voters see Herron and his tiny party as plausibly capable of wresting power from the DA? It is then that Herron will face the same limitations as Hill-Lewis in his personal capacity as a white male, even though he has the advantage of not being a member of a party seen as just as racially problematic as the DA. .
Another major political player in the province, the Freedom Front Plus, has yet to announce its mayoral candidate. Ahead of the 2019 election, the FF Plus released a controversial political veteran Peter Marais as the party’s first candidate. If FF Plus decides that the Marais should run its mayoral campaign, Cape Town would find itself in the somewhat bizarre position of having FF Plus as the only party to date to present a candidate for mayor of color.
But all parties should also keep an eye on the ANC, which has completely overhauled its candidate selection process ahead of these elections. For the very first time, the ruling party has selected mayoral candidates following a nomination and selection process that would apparently give weight to postgraduate qualifications.
Although DA’s Steenhuisen challenged the ANC to reveal its mayoral candidates ahead of time – something he has never done before – ANC deputy general secretary Jessie Duarte said on Monday evening at a press conference that although the party selection process is over, he would not announce any candidates at this point. DM