I don't engage much with politics other than watching the news, reading about parties here and there and having water cooler debates with work colleagues. At the risk of being labelled as pushing someone’s or some party’s agenda I need to say that I do not belong to any political party.
However as a citizen interested in discourse about party politics I think I have a right and must comment on things that I see happening in the South African political arena.
With that out of the way I would like to offer an analysis of the leader of the official opposition party, the DA, Helen Zille. I have been impressed at how she has able to turn the party around and made it what I call a party for South Africans instead of being a party for white South Africans.
She came in and became the super soldier serum the DA needed to turn things around.
When Tony Leon was still the leader of the party and appeared on TV I must say I never bothered to spare a second to listen to what he had to say. For me his DA was more for white South Africans, addressing white fears. For me Tony led a party that promoted the needs and whims of the few, a true liberal party to the core with a ‘separate but equal’ mentality.
In fact every time I had to explain to those in my circle why I now bother to pay attention to the DA my response was always “the DA led by Helen Zille is different from the DA led by Tony Leon”, that was my ‘ayisafani’ response long before Mmusi Maimane was denied airplay by the SABC. I always said that the DA of Tony Leon fought hard to see the vision gated communities realised.
During the Tony Leon DA, I contended, we saw the rise of boom gates mushrooming just about everywhere there was largely a white community.
In came Helen Zille after Tony Leon and bam there was the post-apartheid Helen Suzman. We must give her credit, she worked tirelessly to rebuild the image of the party that was left by her predecessor. Her background might have helped a bit to see her turning the party from being a party of the few to a party for all South Africans.
Yes like her predecessor whinging was part of the ‘to do’ list but to an extent she offered a party for all South Africans. She heralded the rise of a party where South Africans of all races began to see a political home and new faces started immerging unlike the party of her predecessor which had Joe Seremane as a token chairman. Penetration to all communities in South Africa took centre stage and numbers grew. She was the super soldier serum, just what the party needed.
Now the problem with people whose star is rising or who are said to walk on water is that they tend to underestimate the possibility of such water pulling them down under or their star falling, such is Helen Zille. Her rise on the social media platform gave people the ability to engage with a politician but her emotions to the interaction, the debate, questions, sarcasm and the snide comments on social media platforms proved her to be the kryptonite, the Achilles heel of the party.
Now and then there would be a tiff on social media with Helen at the helm. In other instances, if not often, she would be found wanting when something she had denied on social media is proven to be true. Her kryptonite moments are innumerable and to an extent led for naysayers to declare “the DA has not changed at all”, “the DA are liars ready to use people of colour to achieve their objective of white privileged”.
The recent public spat with outgoing parliamentary caucus leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and allegations of being uzwilakhe (one whose word you cannot challenge) within her party are very good examples of how Zille can at times be the DA’s kryptonite. Mazibuko was a rising star of the party, a young lady who could take the president of the republic to task.
Her leaving the DA should have never gotten to where it is now. There was nothing wrong with a young woman wanting further her studies, especially in a country that wants to portray itself a pro-women empowerment. In fact the DA could have easily given her its blessings and ask her to come back and help the party with all the knowledge she would have amassed but no Helen had to be quoted, be it truth or fiction, saying all sorts about Mazibuko and be seen to be advocating for Maimane to replace Mazibuko.
One wonders if her PR people did not remind her about the ‘tea girl’, ‘garden boy’ comments and how her rants are likely to get people to say “ahh but we did say that the DA hasn’t changed at all, it is manipulating the influence of the majority to serve the interests of the few”. Being the media darling Zille has gone to be quoted and mentioned in several pieces in reference to Mazibuko’s leaving.
In all of this Mazibuko has refused to be drawn into a media spat “for the good of the party”, bam! The party and all it has achieved and could further achieve comes first. Yes Zille could claim accountability and say as a leader of the party she needed to set the record straight amidst “media speculations” and “leaks from within the party” but to an outsider especially the one who has formed a negative opinion of her party this is nothing but her shifting the blame and slinging mud.
More important this comes just after the DAgang failed PR exercise where Ramphele was the baddie in Zille’s comments.
Helen Zille loves the media and contrary to what her PR team tells her, the media does not love her but likes the drama that comes with her. Most often her comments in the media will make people to point out how the DA is bad and all other evils of the party.
We’ve got to give to her I still say, she has worked hard and re-built the party from the ruins left by her predecessor. The numbers speak for her and attest the strategies she has deployed. The problem though is that with her shenanigans in mainstream and social media are actually slowly undoing the great work she has done.
In essence, with all her charm (or what’s perceived as such) like Captain America's super soldier serum Zille is what the DA needs but, sadly, like Superman's kryptonite she is what the party does not need going forward. The sooner she realises that by thinking hers is the only point that is correct and wanting to play the media game she is playing with matches in room filled with gunpowder.