27 October 2019
It’s in the interest of those who love a credible ANC to have a strong opposition
The DA has always thrived on projecting itself as the antithesis and, if you will, the antidote too, of the post-Nelson Mandela ANC characterised by degeneration.
The DA’s communication machinery, which, on a normal day, is much more effective than the ANC and government communication put together, ensured that openness was its leitmotif. The risks for a party whose main task is to critique a ruling party were minimal. So this strategy yielded results for years.
The DA candidates thrived on asking tough questions and challenging the ANC to open debates. Mayoral candidates, shadow ministers and their presidential candidates presented themselves as the epitome of servant leadership, engaged in no corruption and willing to be scrutinised at all times.
When the wheels started coming off following the DA’s poor electoral showing in May, the change in tune became much clearer, the hypocrisy much more glaring. As Mmusi Maimane resigned as leader of the party, followed by party chairperson Athol Trollip, the DA was writhing like a snake under siege. “No questions will be allowed,” the party’s spokesperson announced.
It was plain – the DA was uncomfortable with public scrutiny – a charge they often direct to the ANC. This came on the back of a decision by the DA to cancel a public debate between Trollip and Helen Zille for the position of federal chairperson two weeks earlier. The cancellation was an obvious attempt to protect the party from pending self-flagellation and public embarrassment.
Given that many in the DA already knew that Zille would get the job, they were uncertain what she might say that could cause further embarrassment to the party should she be put on the spot by Trollip. Her past comments about colonialism, apartheid and Verwoerd had already denuded the party of anti-racist pretenses – causing many to gnash their teeth. To protect the DA from gnawing at itself, further eroding its ability to hold others to account, the DA’s response was typical. The truth, though, is that when it is under pressure, the DA is a baleful reminder that politicians are all the same – aren’t they? The DA accuses EFF leader Julius Malema of not being open, yet it’s no different to him. The DA accuses the ANC of a lack of transparency, yet it is anything but.
The charge against Maimane – “a failure of leadership” – is so plain an attempt to eviscerate him. It is the sort of charge that can be levelled against any leader of any political party today. Take Cyril Ramaphosa sleeping at the Africa-Russia Summit in Sochi, Russia. How do you lead effectively while you sleep during meetings in foreign climes? Who takes care of our national interest when our highest authority is a sleeping Tom?
Yes, the Union Buildings can take its toll on anyone, but falling asleep in front of cameras makes a mockery of the very notion of “effective leadership”. The irony is that I can’t say Ramaphosa may just as well have slept in Tshwane and sent his deputy David Mabuza who, thanks to Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, we now know can’t name the first three revolutions before the 4IR. This is a revolutionary of the ANC, the second in line after the commander-in-chief, yet that “Cat” is clueless about revolutions.
What is tragic is not that Mabuza didn’t know the answer to the question, which is a terrible thing given how Ramaphosa often speaks about the 4IR. The issue is not only that Ndlozi and many of us know how ignorant Mabuza comes across but that the helpless deputy continues to confirm his ignorance. That is the definition of sadness. This Ndlozi-instigated caricature of Mabuza must give us no joy. Instead, it must help us understand why we need a strong opposition that will force the ANC to think before fielding revolutionaries who don’t understand revolutions as leaders.
The point is the DA’s troubles are everybody’s troubles. So the triumvirate of white men that became Maimane’s prosecutors and judge did not have to pretend to be doing a review of the DA’s performance to get rid of him. They have taken the DA many years back. The recovery will be an uphill battle.
For the two-faced monstrosity it is, the biggest loser is not just the DA. ANC members watching the DA come undone are best advised not to celebrate. The ANC becomes a good organisation not because it is so inclined. Ramaphosa’s presidency came into effect, to a degree, because the DA was becoming strong and the ANC weak. The strength of the DA that left the ANC with a bloody nose in Tshwane and Joburg was sufficient to scare some ANC members to propel a Ramaphosa leadership to power.
As a consequence, it is in the interest of those who love a credible ANC to have a strong opposition. If the DA becomes weak and limited because it is led by racists blind to our history of legislated racism, as it was under Zille, its appeal and performance will be limited. The impact of this limit on our body politic is increased arrogance in the ANC, a bullish entitlement to power and a lack of urgency in service delivery.
The DA too must realise it will not win the elections on account of how bad the ANC is. It too must ensure it has appeal and resonance with the majority of South Africans. Being led by a white male, any white male, is a sure way of ensuring that our democracy is as degenerate as the DA itself.