"Helen Zille, the Premier of the Western Cape and the leader of the Democratic Alliance is coming to Knysna." It seemed too good to be true... but she did arrive... but she wasn't true.
2 days before Helen Zille's less than impressive arrival in Knysna, the Knysna-Plett Herald, that tabloid that refuses to address serious issues lest the DA-led Municipality and DA-influenced Knysna Tourism pull their advertising, announced, on their website, that Helen Zille, the 'Madam' of South Africa, would be stopping at the Junction in Knysna Central before heading to The Lofts at the Knysna Yacht Club.
My first impression became my last - i had stated on Facebook that i hoped she wasn't coming for a 'B.E.E.' photo shoot and a speech without answers to the many questions Knysna is asking.
My cynicism was the result of 32 months of unanswered questions by everyone from Mayor Georlene Wolmarans and Speaker Michelle Wasserman to Minister Alan Winde and Helen Zille herself. Furthermore, last time, back in 2011, at a political rally before the DA won the town (and i was more DA inside than any other party), Helen Zille played the race card with Wolmarans and Winde in attendance. It was a cheap blow against unity of all races when she stood in the heart of the Coloured Community of Hornlee and begged for cheers with a line close to, "Look around you... and they call us a white party?" Besides the DA politicians and fundraisers (which included Shaun van Eck, the ex-CEO of Knysna Tourism), there were only 2 white people i recall in attendance, myself and a tourist who'd come with me. That was when they promised transparency and open doors. That was when their lies, and my disillusionment, began.
It's election time again so forsaken towns such as ours are suddenly back on the political map -
- and in the Knysna taxi rank area where Helen arrives very late.
Besides the political faithful (out-of-place white faces from the local DA constituency and Council, and Johan van Schalkwyk from Knysna Tourism), i counted 40 people (black and coloured faces atop brand new, blue t-shirts proclaiming 'D' and 'A'). Under a scorching sun, they were expectant like swimmers in melting tar. Then they started singing, on queue when told Helen was near. But someone had gotten the timing wrong so they faltered half-way through, waiting for the next signal lest they waste their only song.
And then, squeezing past a truck in the alley that Nelson Street becomes, was Helen and her motorcade. The song restarted and some forced leg movements through their sweat, hoping that this wouldn't be another day of the false promises they'd received from politicians each time elections had neared.
Helen got out of the car, did a mini dance, and paraded through celebrity hugs and photographs. Curious as to the commotion, the 'crowd' swelled by another dozen to a dozen and a half. With nothing of interest happening, i began my hot walk to the Knysna Yacht Club where Helen was to share words with us, the public -
- but for the sake of topic continuity, i'll tell you about that and Helen Zille's other lie in the next blog.
Relevant to this, is that on my return, i stopped for a chat with a shop owner, sitting with her at a table beside the sidewalk of Grey Street. Some of those same DA shirts i'd seen earlier waved to me as they passed by on their way back to the taxi rank. Curious as to their friendliness after what had just happened at the Yacht Club, i caught up to 3 of the ladies and, within minutes, they had me hooked in conversation and so i offered them a cold drink in an air-conditioned pub nearby.
The ladies were Anna (71), Linda (55) and Elizabeth (56) and they live in Keurhoek (what some would still call a township) in Rheenendal which is found in the countryside of Knysna. They were upset because they'd been under the impression that they'd get a chance to ask Helen Zille questions about their community (i'll tell you about those in the next blog). Instead they'd been bussed in by the DA and given a free t-shirt so the cameras could click blue. They were hot from a long wait in a scorcher of a morning. They were dehydrated.
"How many of you came", i asked. "39, they said, 2 taxis full". Considering my initial count was 40, that means that the DA failed to muster any support in town. It could be that they're poor organisers but it's more likely they wanted a situation they could control. Their gain would have been not a solitary ANC shirt in sight but the detriment is that they have proven themselves to be no different to the ANC i.e. having to bus in supporters to look good for the newspapers. And there was a serious lack of us Whities (fundraisers and politicians don't count). Is the multi-racialism that Zille so often speaks of?
Moments like this help explain why i went from wanting to be a DA fundraiser to a DA questioner. There's been 3 years of moments such as this.