The Democratic Alliance is the result of many parties and movements coming together over the years and uniting around the vision of one nation with one future built on freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity for all South Africans.
1959: Progressive Party (PP) is formed to confront apartheid head-on
During the darkest chapter of our country’s history, the National Party’s (NP) policy of apartheid is systematically denying the black majority their rights on a scale never seen before. The United Party (UP) is in opposition at the time but they are unwilling to confront apartheid head-on. And so, thirteen MPs break away from the UP to form the Progressive Party (PP), a party dedicated to opposing apartheid and the origin of the Democratic Alliance (DA).
1961: PP’s Helen Suzman single-handedly opposes apartheid in Parliament
In 1961 the PP wins its first seat in Parliament with Helen Suzman. At a time when speaking out against apartheid came with harsh penalties, Suzman wages a single-handed campaign against every piece of apartheid legislation put before Parliament.
She fights against detention without trial, pass laws, influx control, job reservation on the grounds of colour, racially separated amenities, Group Areas, and forced removals. She demands trade union rights for all and fights for better wages and working conditions. She visits prisons and obtains better conditions for prisoners.
1977: Progressive Federal Party (PFP) becomes official opposition to apartheid government
Suzman’s party goes on to win six more seats in Parliament and merges with another UP breakaway called the Reform Party to form the Progressive Reform Party (PRP). The PRP then goes on to merge with another UP breakaway called the Committee for a United Opposition to form the Progressive Federal Party (PFP).
Under the leadership of Colin Elgin, the PFP is elected official opposition after the 1977 election.
1989: PFP keeps fighting against apartheid and becomes the Democratic Party (DP)
Under the cloud of the State of Emergency an NP breakaway called the Conservative Party takes over as official opposition.
But the PFP continues to oppose the apartheid constitution, which excludes black people and gives the newly created office of the state president too much power. And after negotiations, the PFP merges with the Independent Party and the National Democratic Movement to form the Democratic Party (DP), led by Zach de Beer.
1989: DP plays a vital role in negotiating an interim constitution
With the unbanning of the ANC, PAC and other liberation organisations, and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, the process of negotiations for political change in South Africa begins. The DP plays a vital role in negotiating a constitution that includes most of the principles and ideals the Progressive Party first stood for in 1959.
1999: DP becomes the official opposition, guarding SA’s first democratic constitution
After South Africa’s first democratic election, DP Leader Tony Leon begins the fight for the legitimacy of opposition in a democratic SA.
The DP grows in the 1995 municipal elections and overtakes apartheid’s NP to become the largest opposition party in the country in the 1999 general elections.
2000: Democratic Alliance (DA) is formed to ensure freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity for ALL
The DP decides that the best way to protect and strengthen democracy in SA is to build a strong opposition able to restrict the one-party dominance of the ANC. In 2000 the DP reaches a merger agreement with the Federal Alliance and the New National Party (NNP), and the DA is formed. A year later the DA’s relationship with the NNP and former DP members breaks down and the NNP forms an alliance with the ANC.
2004: DA grows and becomes the most popular opposition party
In the 2004 general election, the DA gains 12.3% of the vote and wins 50 seats in the National Assembly. The Party grows by 400 000 votes, increasing in support in eight out of nine provinces. The DA is the fastest growing party overall, and becomes the only viable alternative to the ANC.
2006: DA’s Helen Zille elected Mayor of Cape Town and DA Leader
In the 2006 local government elections, the DA increases its national share of the vote to 16,3%. The Party gains more representatives in the six major cities, and becomes the largest party in the City of Cape Town with 41,9% of the vote! Helen Zille is elected mayor in a nail-biting contest, and when Tony Leon announces that he will not run for re-election as the Party’s leader, Zille is elected Leader of the DA.
2008: DA wins Western Cape with outright majority
World Mayor of the Year and DA Leader, Helen Zille, sees the DA re-launch as a party of government that delivers for all. In the 2009 general elections, the Party wins 16,7% of the national vote and 67 seats in the National Assembly. The Party also wins the Western Cape with an outright majority with 51.5% of the provincial vote.
2015: Mmusi Maimane elected leader of the DA
The party makes further gains in the 2014 elections, with the DA winning 22.23% of the national vote and 89 seats in the National Assembly, and attaining another outright majority in the Western Cape with 59.38% – a testament to the party’s record of delivery in that province. And in 2015, Helen Zille announces that she will not accept nomination for leadership and at an historic Congress Mmusi Maimane is elected the new leader of the DA.
2016: DA wins Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay
Under the leadership of DA Leader Mmusi Maimane, the DA makes historic gains in the 2016 local government elections. In addition to governing the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape, the DA unseats the ANC to form governments in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay for the first time! Over 30 municipalities are now DA-led and 16 million South Africans currently experience some form of DA governance.