Black face, white lies

2014-02-09 14:00

The failure of DA-Agang represents a tragedy of selling out, a farce of realignment and a fallacy of reasoning, writes Jessie Duarte

This may very well be due to the fact that they had and still hold a very limited understanding of the pathology of apartheid

Our post-1994 political discourse experienced yet another dramatic twist following the failed merger of Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang?SA and Helen Zille’s DA.

There are more dramatic dimensions to this fracas than the fact that the merger was short-lived, or the emerging reports indicating it was in fact engineered by foreign donors whose interests are unknown to us.

The most strategic question worth reflecting on before dealing with the details of these foreign “donors” is what Ramphele and Zille mooted as the political basis for their attempted alliance.

In a statement announcing Ramphele as the DA’s presidential candidate, Zille mooted the political reasoning underlining this move as such: “I said then [upon being elected as DA leader] that political change will come about as the old political formations become obsolete. We can see this happening now.”

Ramphele was more forthcoming, stating they had taken this decision as a strategic attempt at “realigning South African politics” away from what she calls a “race-based political space that solely benefits the ANC”. As though envious of this so-called benefit

to the ANC, she proceeded to state this merger would see the DA retaining its traditional white vote while also gaining the rural black vote, which she would allegedly bring on board. There are two contradictions evident from this argument that point to hypocrisy.

Firstly, the DA was poised to become the organisational axis upon which this realignment was to be carried out, meaning the realignment would be dictated to by the traditional white vote and membership of the DA.

This is corroborated by the fact that the so-called integration between these two formations only spoke of volunteers and structures, and nothing about policy realignment, although it is common knowledge Agang hardly has an identity, policywise.

It naturally arises that the policy platform on which these elections would have been fought belongs to the DA, with Ramphele bringing only her black face to the ballot sheet, along with the “rural black vote” she supposedly has.

Secondly, it comes to the fore that the understanding of South African sociopolitical dynamics by both the DA and Ramphele is greatly flawed.

They understand South Africa’s differential race relations to be abstractly concentrated on the electoral podium, with no gravity in the systemic dynamics of our political economy.

It is outside their reasoning to recognise the racially embedded mechanisms of asset accumulation, access to social capital and other services that govern our everyday social intercourse.

This may very well be due to the fact that they had and still hold a very limited understanding of the pathology of apartheid. Throughout our engagement in the struggle against apartheid, we in the ANC and the Congress movement have always understood apartheid as a political and legal instrument for reinforcing primarily an economic and social regime of minority privilege, access to social capital and asset accumulation.

In the context of this understanding, not only were we determined to overthrow the legal and political status of apartheid, but we understood the need to strategically deploy the democratic state to unbundle the racially concentrated assets of the South African economy and its related social institutions.

Thus, the real arena of realignment Ramphele and Zille were targeting is limited to the electoral platform of faces leading the campaign and using the electoral outcomes to retain and advance the DA’s policies of sustaining white privilege.

The classic fallacy perpetuated by Agang and the DA is the suggestion that the South African political space can be deracialised without attending to the social construct engineered over 350 years of colonialism and apartheid.

No political party or “intellectual” worth their salt should fail to recognise that the character of any “political space” is founded and premised on the systemic dynamics that determine people’s access to basic services and, most importantly, the dynamics of their access to wealth.

The failure of the DA and Agang to recognise this important fact serves only to expose their dereliction of necessary intellectual duty. In fact, this has been the most enduring weakness of South African political liberalism throughout the decades.

But this is more tragic for Ramphele because of her much trumped-up credentials of belonging to the intellectual tradition of the black consciousness movement.

Ramphele and Zille’s flawed conception of the South African reality has also made them vulnerable to all sorts of foreign political and economic interests, and manipulation.

This matter of foreign donors determining the shape and character of South African political parties deserves far more political and ideological attention than it has been given so far. It speaks directly to the question of sovereignty. In essence, if they could, Ramphele and Zille would trade our country off on the stock markets of New York and London at the slightest financial tantalisation.

The ANC is clear about the fact that our country has come a long way in 20 years and there is much work to be done. If all South Africans work together, we can take this country forward.

Duarte is the ANC deputy secretary-general

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