Friends & Foes: Black and broken, make a move!

Johannesburg – The resignation this week of Phumzile van Damme from her seat as DA MP has been a long time coming.

The signs were already clear as recent as two weeks ago. Many people could have missed Van Damme’s political meltdown because all the attention was focused on the political trickery of a certain cantankerous secretary-general of the ANC.

Van Damme’s breakdown could probably not have been noticed because many people were still bewildered by Ace Magashule’s audacious attempt to suspend his party president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Van Damme did not make headlines because talk was focused not only on the ANC political chicaneries, but also on the Zondo Commission, at which characters such as Mosebenzi Zwane were regaling us with their testimony about their peculiar association and friendship with the infamous Guptas. Once a rising star in the DA, Van Damme’s political anguish was laid bare in a series of tweets she posted in the weeks leading to her resignation.

Her tweets were extraordinarily remarkable as she particularly let rip about the political “abuse” and personal “trauma” she said she was suffering in the DA. She confessed that she had for a long time been suffering in silence. She had even tried to protect what she described as her DA “tormentors”. Poor Van Damme. She had been warned , but still “tried to see the good in the DA despite repeated red flags”.

She was hurt that she was not believed when she complained about the alleged racist incident at Waterfront in Cape Town.

She instead invited the wrath of the party’s political goddess, Helen Zille, the woman she once tried to mould her political career around.

The writing was already on the wall when party leader John Steenhuisen sought to compel her to take a threemonth sabbatical due to ill-health.

Van Damme’s resignation shows how the DA has brazenly been reconstructed to keep the old white guard insulated from the party’s young black members until they become battle weary and lose the stomach for a fight.

The renewed offensive by the party’s dominant white faction, which is coupled with the strong re-emergence of the old guard, seems meticulously crafted to curb black control and influence.

The perception that the DA is a white party finally rings true to many people, which could be the reason for a series of defeats the DA is experiencing in by-elections.

The party’s black leadership is only expected to fetch black votes, which must in turn provide political succour and parliamentary sanctuary to an exclusive coterie of the party’s white cabal.

Van Damme has been one of a few young DA MPs who exude youthful political exuberance. This young talent has, however, been constantly tossed out of the window as black political ambition becomes more and more discouraged in the DA.

What a pity that Van Damme leaves tormented and broken.

In the wake of her departure, the question is: Where to from now for other black DA leaders?

Wally Mbhele

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