Editorial: Black DA leaders swim against tide in the party

Johannesburg – The statement by DA leader Tony Leon, that his party’s first black leader Mmusi Maimane was an experiment gone wrong, has set the cat among the pigeons.

Maimane has himself been among the first to come out guns blazing, describing Leon’s characterisation of his DA’s leadership not only as offensive but dehumanising too.

A lot of black DA leaders have also come out to demand that Leon explain himself and say exactly what he meant when he said Maimane was an experiment gone horribly wrong, if we may add.

It is instructive to note at this moment that the DA has been silent on this sticky matter. The party has thus far neither mustered any courage to call out Leon nor bothered to offer any explanation of the shameful statement made by one of its senior leaders.

The DA’s silence does not surprise us in any way. It is pretty obvious why the party has chosen to remain mum in the face of widespread denunciation of Leon’s statement.

It is abundantly clear that the DA’s top echelons agree with Leon. To them, Leon is correct that Maimane was a mere experiment.

He was offered to DA membership with the sole intention of attracting black voters, an experiment that was destined to fail because of suspicions within the black communities that the DA is a party for white interests only.

It may sound harsh, but there is an unshakeable feeling that Maimane and other black party leaders within the DA are considered useful political idiots, convenient to the party masters as voting cattle.

There has for a long time been squabbles between black and white leaders within the DA over progressive government policies such as affirmative action and the black economic empowerment, which white factions of the DA consider racist without thinking for a moment that their attitude to these policies could also be considered racist by blacks.

It was none other than Leon himself who, during 1996, led the DA campaign into what he called “Fight Back” – a campaign that caused restlessness because of its underlying racist undertone.

It is an open secret that it was none other than Leon who wrote a document that agitated for Maimane’s removal as DA leader in the wake of the party’s disastrous performance in the previous general elections. One of the party’s former rising stars, Lindiwe Mazibuko, left the party a forlorn figure when she was secretly weighed down after suspicions grew that she wanted to challenge former DA leader Helen Zille for the party’s top post.

The election of a majority white leadership in the recent KwaZulu-Natal DA provincial elective conference is yet another case of how the DA has rapidly shifted to the right and moved back to the laager, as the party’s right-wing elements seize control of the party machinery.

DA black leaders are not fit for purpose if Leon’s statement has to be understood within the proper context and meaning, as one of its offended black leaders reacted this week.

Leon has remained defiant in the face of criticism, obviously content with his party’s unwillingness to distance itself from his utterances.

If this week’s events are anything to go by, it is clear that black DA leaders are on their own.

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