11 Oct 2012 | Original Publication: BDlive
Opinion By Bekezela Phakathi
But Tony Leon also warns that a grand alliance has its drawbacksFORMER Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon on Wednesday backed calls by the party’s incumbent head, Helen Zille, for opposition parties to unite. However, he warned that a grand alliance had its drawbacks.
Mr Leon said joining forces with other parties could alienate some of the DA’s core supporters.
Ms Zille last month called for the "realignment" of South African politics in a bid to create one large political movement to challenge the ruling African National Congress (ANC). The DA hopes to unseat the ruling party by 2019 — not necessarily on its own, but most likely as part of a coalition.
The party has already joined forces with Patricia de Lille’s Independent Democrats.
Mr Leon said there was a need for political leaders to have a conversation with the electorate and present them with choices. "If you want to create a bigger party by merging everyone together, that has its own consequences.
"If you create a party that is very strong on values then you might (lose) some of the allies you want to go on with. Nick Clegg got to be deputy prime minister in the (UK) but as far as his voters are concerned he sold them out.
"There are a lot of people who vote for the DA for reasons of belief, ideology and identity — you cannot take them for granted. Equally, the voters and supporters of other parties (do the same).
"The DA has got to do the whole thing (work with other opposition parties); we did it once before (otherwise) the DA would not have governed the Western Cape."
Mr Leon said the real reason the DA governed the Western Cape was because of the coloured vote. Most coloured voters found a political home with the New National Party, which was in coalition with the DA.
"I have got the scars on my back; between 2000 and 2006, we took enormous amount of punishment to create an effective governing party that could govern Cape Town in 2006 and the Western Cape in 2009," Mr Leon said.
The New National Party was in a short-lived alliance with the DA that ended in 2001.
Mr Leon further said that the DA continued to grow and its "diverse leadership" was only good for the party.
The DA has been on a drive to attract more black vote s and some analysts believe that the election last year of Lindiwe Mazibuko as parliamentary leader could give the party "black appeal".
In addition, the appointment of Mmusi Maimane also last year as party spokesman was seen as an attempt to promote more black leaders in the party.
On Wednesday, the party’s youth leader, Makashule Gana, said he would accept the nomination for the position of federal council deputy chairman. "If I am elected, I would like to use this position to strengthen our presence on the ground. I believe I will do well ," he said.
The DA is due to have its national conference next month.
Mr Leon recently returned to the country from Argentina where he had been the South African ambassador since 2009.