Book review: ‘Could I vote DA?

Book review: ‘Could I vote DA?’ by Eusebius McKaiser

Radio host Eusebius McKaiser delves into the question of whether the Democratic Alliance are a genuine voting alternative to the ANC.

Book review: ‘Could I vote DA?


Self-confessed egalitarian liberal Eusebius McKaiser has a political problem: his natural home should be the Democratic Alliance, but his reservations about the party are deep. He is not alone in his doubts, with some black voters regarding the party as the home of privileged whites. It’s these issues that McKaiser, a recent Question Time South Africa panelist, seeks to qualify and explore in his new book Could I vote DA? The book’s release coincides with the DA’s bid to increase its 12% share of the vote in the upcoming General Election.

As host of popular radio phone in show “Power Talk” McKaiser is ideally placed to gauge public opinion on why the DA is so unattractive to so many voters. His writing style is very balanced and nuanced, with sound reasoning allowing him to dispense with arguments that he does not agree with. Conversely, the same writing style allows him to make powerful arguments when he believes the DA has been treated harshly by public opinion. He is particularly strong when he dives into the theory behind the DA’s politics, and whether this is compatible with “African” thinking. McKaiser neatly argues that they will never have a genuine electoral chance with their current “liberal elite”, and need to branch out to embrace concepts such as Ubuntu to connect with black voters. The logic is impressive, and McKaiser cleverly weaves Ubuntu and liberalism together to show that they can be compatible without compromising core DA values.

The book is set out in well-defined chapters, making dipping in and out possible. My favourite chapter was straight to the point: starkly titled “The DA lies about BEE” McKaiser here proceeds to take apart, bit by bit, the DA’s approach to Black Economic Empowerment. McKaiser’s argues that the DA’s belief in non-racialism is fundamentally incompatible with BEE, a policy specifically drawn up on the grounds of race. Again, he uses his own personal experiences to accuse the DA of having a mixed narrative on BEE, and confusing the poor application of the programme with the necessary need for it. He concludes that the DA needs to tweak BEE rather than banish it to win over the black population.

The text is very accessible and is easy to read, making this an enjoyable book for those with even a passing interest in South African politics. The book doesn’t dally in the world of academic language, and relates everyday concerns of South Africans back to DA politics with impressive ease. It feels like a book not just written by McKaiser, but by the thousands of South Africans who ideologically could vote for the DA but probably never will. It should serve as a wake-up call to the party if they ever want to be known as more than South Africa’s official opposition.