Stick to the rivers and the lakes

2008-07-14 00:00

DA leader Helen Zille’s challenge for a heavyweight bout with African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma is like a squirrel picking a fight with an elephant. I was on a current affairs show, View Point, on Gagasi FM recently and a caller suggested that all opposition parties should join the ANC, a suggestion that I rejected because I believe in the importance of an opposition party (as opposed to a one-party state).

On the contrary, I think the best option this country has for a strong opposition party, something that currently does not exist, would be for all opposition parties (DA, ID, IFP, ACDP) to come together to form a single party to take on the ANC.

But then again, I do not see IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi taking orders from anyone, least of all Zille. What I see is Zille and Patricia de Lille being involved in a cat fight that would take more than a prayer from ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe to stop.

I have been shocked at the public attack by Zille on Zuma, attacks that are bound to put her [and the DA] out of favour with the black electorate. Perhaps with white voters she may have won some supporters.

Her attacks, together with those by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former ANC MP Kader Asmal, are unprecedented.

What is interesting is that the trio, together with other Zuma detractors, have been deafeningly silent during President Thabo Mbeki’s messy second term.

On the few occasions that they have spoken out against Mbeki, their approach has been courteous, dignified and in a low tone of voice. Where Zuma has been concerned, their approach, certainly Zille’s, smacks of a basic issuing of instructions to a garden boy.

As for the public debate Zille is proposing with Zuma on key issues the latter needs to pronounce himself on, I suggest she sticks to the rivers and the lakes she’s used to. This would be by first holding a public debate among all opposition parties and whichever party emerges unscathed should then look at going head-to-head with the ANC and Zuma specifically.

South Africans do not know why they should vote for the DA and not the ID and vice versa, or for the IFP not the ACDP and vice versa, and this is the challenge that lies ahead for opposition parties before they point a finger at the ANC.

Opposition parties first need to make themselves attractive, marketable and appealing before riding on the flaws of the ruling party. Voters need a reason to vote for a particular party and then they should give reasons why we should not vote for others.

It’s time for Zille and her fellow detractors of Zuma to play in their own little league and stick to the rivers and the lakes they are used to.

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