Zille sets the tone for opposition party

2009-05-30 00:00

THE swords are out and the battle lines have been drawn by Democratic Alliance leader and Western Cape premier Helen “Helezile” Zille against African National Congress and South African president Jacob Zuma.

The relationship between the DA, which has largely been the official opposition since 1994, and the ruling ANC, has not exactly been cosy in the past.

Many will recall that former president Thabo Mbeki referred to then DA leader Tony Leon as a “chihuahua”.

He made himself unavailable to meet with Leon, despite his countless requests, and only did so just before Leon stepped down from his position in the DA.

When Zuma was inaugurated, he committed himself to working with the opposition and to affording them opportunities to engage his government on various issues.

However, Zille soon came out with her guns blazing and showed that she did not need Zuma to be cordial with the opposition as she shot from the hip.

When challenged about her all-male and mostly white cabinet, she called Zuma a “womaniser”, among other insults.

She later committed herself to respecting Zuma as “Mr President” but emphasised that she would not shy away from challenging him and his cabinet.

She also organised her state of the province address ahead of Zuma’s State of the Nation address. Protocol and common courtesy require that the president’s State of the Nation address precedes the state of the province addresses by the provincial premiers as the form sets the tone.

Again Zille took the fight to Zuma by showing little or no respect for “Mr President” as she put her personal touch to how things should be done by opposition parties.

What has been interesting, though, is how Zille has gone almost unchallenged from within her party, both in the Eastern Cape Province as well as nationally. I doubt that all within the party agree with her approach and it is shocking that the “Iron Lady” is not just the leader of the DA but is the DA. She is the party.

She has called for the distinction between the ruling party and the state to be made more visible but she has blurred the line between the party and the individual where she is concerned.

Zille has brought a fresh approach to what it means to be an opposition party but the question is, at what cost has she done so?

What price will the DA pay, at various levels of government, at a later stage because of her actions?

One would think Zille would know better about the importance of not burning bridges she will need to cross at a later stage. It’s even worse when the river flowing below the bridge is infested with crocodiles.

They say one makes one’s bed and has to lie in it and Zille’s bed may just be too uncomfortable and will result in sleepless nights for her and the DA, whatever the difference is between the two, if there is a difference.

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