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DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (AP)
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comments by former ANC MP Melanie Verwoerd in her latest column
("Fearmongering shows DA's growing desperation") are not only disconcerting
but also provocative in the extreme, writes Yazeed Fakier.
insightful commentator on political matters, and especially when providing a
window into the more confidential workings of the ANC's inner sanctum, this
time the tempered reasoning has given way to an unseemly outburst that makes no
constructive contribution to the national debate.
lambastes DA leader Mmusi Maimane for reportedly having suggested
"that there was little or no difference between the ANC and EFF",
that "he insinuated that voting for the ANC amounts to voting for the EFF".
The DA knew
it was in trouble, says Verwoerd; "… usually when politicians try to scare
people into voting for them they do so by telling half-truths or using crude
exaggerations" and the party "seems to be increasingly using this
exact tactic", which she describes as "coming shockingly close to the
apartheid government's old "swartgevaar" tactics.
many of the "traditional white voter base" were "considering
voting for Cyril Ramaphosa on a national level" because they understood
that the president's political survival was "crucial for racial harmony
and economic growth in South Africa"; they liked and trusted him "more
than any other potential president".
A few reflections:
the embattled DA leader of the beleaguered opposition is perfectly capable of
addressing these charges on his own behalf (should he see fit to do so), and
Verwoerd is justified in pummeling the party for its self-inflicted woes. With
only months to go before the elections in May next year, it has a small
mountain to climb to re-establish trust and popularity with its support-base.
correct, too, in pointing out the damage that the DA's former Cape Town mayor,
Patricia de Lille, has caused it in seizing the moment, hotly announcing the
imminent launch of her own political party. Appropriating for herself the "I
believe in good" slogan, the savvy veteran politician has, for the
time-being at least, pre-empted the DA in its election preparations, albeit
only in terms of reputation and voter sentiment for now.
notwithstanding all of the above, it's hardly a blanket licence for a
widely-read commentator like Verwoerd to present to the public a rose-tinted
view of the ruling party – one that has been collectively responsible for the
untold misery and heartache suffered, and will continue to be suffered, by the
poorest of the poor among its own supporters.
Zupta looting and state capture that was allowed to fester under its watch –
for eight long, uninterrupted years until the amaBhungane-curated
surfaced – requires an entirely new lexicon to describe the full extent of its
chicanery. Political analysts reckon it will take generations to rectify the
devastating impact caused by the shameless betrayal of national trust.
immediately, News24 reported
that the government's Thuma Mina campaign resulted in three stabbings in
Mpumalanga when local party members turned on each other. Naturally, having
learned from past experience, this raises concerns about the prospects for safe
and orderly electioneering, and the eventual casting of votes, so early in the
run-up to ballot day.
however, holds that a victory for the ruling party is the only viable option
that will have us all magically joining hands in a revival of a new and
improved Rainbow Nation, skipping happily into the sunset while merrily singing
say, this kind of myopia is naïve. South Africa is a violent place, wrought of
more than three and a half centuries of violent oppression and barbarism,
perfected by the architect of grand apartheid. It requires a healthy dose of
optimism to not succumb to despair when confronted, for example, by news
reports that our murder rate positions us among the top ten places
in the world where you are likely to die by violence; you'd be safer in
countries like drug-cartel-infested Colombia and Mexico.
and over-simplifying the issues in the process, as Verwoerd does, does not
help. Neither does being disingenuous. One hopes, therefore, that it is rather
by coincidence than intent that the very divisive "swartgevaar" term
has been reintroduced into the public domain via Verwoerd's column.
highly-charged political atmosphere in which election campaigns are hotting up,
it's alarming to see such a racially-loaded reference, with its crass ethnic
connotations, surfacing in the public space, where it's just a click away from
going viral on social media.
fully within her rights to challenge the leadership ability of Maimane or any
other public figure, but to wilfully conflate the demands of civic
responsibility (as is the duty of any elected official) with flagrant
race-baiting is utterly mischievous.
neglects, too, to make mention in her prominently published column that the
president has been caught in a resounding parliamentary clanger unbecoming of a
statesman, over the Bosasa/African Global Group affair. On this score, Verwoerd
tends the same campfire as other cultural self-flagellators and Ramaphosa
imbongis, in whose eyes the president can do no wrong; indeed, he is held aloft
as the last-remaining, only possible saviour of the nation, the Second Coming
in the flesh.
omission, Verwoerd imparts the belief that neither her former party – nor its
president – can possibly be accused of any wrongdoing, and challenges Maimane "to
show me a single ANC policy document that encourages racial division or that
says the state should own everything". Of course, what were we thinking? The
ANC has been a paragon of virtue these last years: it has sportingly stuck to
the letter of the law; dutifully abided by the rulings of the judiciary; and
played the long game fairly by obeying the stipulations of the Constitution, thereby
ensuring that the citizenry is snugly wrapped in its fuzzy policies, as guided
by the Freedom Charter. If only that were so.
aside, there is much work to be done in the way of reconciling the land, to be
sure, and it will take an almighty and humongous effort for some heavy lifting from
all concerned – and not captured. No doubt there will in the beginning be more
than one false New Dawn to contend with in the post-Zupta period. Coalitions
may yet be the answer. But publicly delivering dubious conclusions on the
political stance of leading politicians is not a good start.
In the end,
Verwoerd is, of course, entitled to express her opinion. It's a fundamental
right among the requisite basic human rights fought for by the combined
providing readers with weekly elevated argument in service to what we assumed
was a loftier, nobler cause, it's a pity that the credibility of valued independent
opinion has now, at this crucial juncture, apparently been surrendered to party
Fakier is a former deputy news editor of the Cape Times (but not in its more
recent incarnation) and also served as communications manager of the Centre for
Conflict Resolution, Cape Town.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24
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