DA after the De Lille saga

2018-05-13 05:56
Patricia de Lille. (Brenton Geach, Gallo Images, file)

Patricia de Lille. (Brenton Geach, Gallo Images, file)

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The DA is waging an inexplicable war on nationhood and the advancement of the aspirations of the black majority, including those who swell its ranks.

This is destined to not work out for the once-promising official opposition political party. Let me explain.

The most momentous gift any parent can give their offspring is their presence.

Natasha Mazzone, the dubiously elected second deputy chairperson of the DA’s federal council, received the abundant blessings of her Italian-born, Caucasian European immigrant father’s presence and support during her upbringing in apartheid South Africa.

Notwithstanding her father’s “dark” skin hue, all the customary apartheid-era white privileges flowed unrestricted through the Mazzone household. I am unaware of reports suggesting that the Mazzones rejected, never mind remonstrated against, those apartheid benefits.

Mazzone’s father, who apparently couldn’t even speak any English or Afrikaans, “built himself up from nothing to make a good life for his family”. This, of course, is the narrative Mazzone wants everyone to believe: that her father was a hard-working European male who didn’t benefit from apartheid-era entrenched white privileges and head start. Incredible! Give that man all the Bells!

Many black families were not that fortunate. Apartheid’s migrant labour system and influx control laws dislocated black parents, particularly men, from their homes, mainly in rural areas. Thus many black children lost the presence of their fathers who had practically been indentured to provide cheap labour to the Mazzones.

The apartheid system assured prosperity and a head start for Mazzone. And she took full advantage of it. No sooner had DA leader Mmusi Maimane correctly lamented poverty and inequality, during his recent speech at a rally in Soshanguve, than Mazzone and her coterie of white DA senior colleagues castigated their black leader for preaching the obvious. Shem, poor Maimane!

Maimane, who is clearly on a short leash, has to constantly traverse a seemingly unending series of political gaffes by his colleagues, cognisant of the fact that his public utterances could trigger the special red card reserved for “tjatjarig” black DA leaders.

DA Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille is the latest recipient of the order of the DA red card in gold, ostensibly for being “tjatjarig”. All that De Lille did was to proclaim publicly her intentions to vacate the mayoral bling after she had cleared her name following a protracted disciplinary process.

For a long time, De Lille had been accused of having an autocratic leadership style, of corruption, financial maladministration, nepotism, tender irregularities and anything in between. The DA, which is quick to lay criminal charges against its adversaries, has demonstrated uncharacteristic restraint from laying criminal charges against De Lille.

One thing the DA will never be able to accuse De Lille of is her unrelenting denial of the allegations, and her unyielding demand for a fair and open hearing so that she can clear her name.

It is apparent that De Lille had a massive fallout with powerful individuals within her caucus in the metro and the party’s white senior leadership, who seem to hold sway.

Most people find it peculiar that uthixo wase Western Cape Helen Zille, another “dark”-skinned Caucasian of European ancestry, always escapes censure for her perennial missteps, while the DA’s federal council acted with alacrity and unmistakable fervour on De Lille’s utterances.

The aborted “disciplinary” shenanigans at the DA should remind us of the proverbial legal adage that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich at the behest of a prosecutor. We have been reminded that the converse is true, and that is that a grand jury will refuse to indict if that’s what the prosecutor wants. That is the essence of what I believe happened, regrettably, in De Lille and Zille’s cases.

Double standards

It is telling, and apparent, that the DA adopts double standards, along racial lines, in how it deals with conduct deemed errant by its leaders.

I can’t help but sympathise with my erstwhile black consciousness comrade De Lille, who has sacrificed a lot while enhancing the DA’s political credibility among the black electorate.

It is fair to posit that De Lille was used by the DA. Clearly De Lille has exhausted her usefulness and must be let go, at all costs.

Although I eschew schadenfreude, I can’t help but wonder how it wasn’t apparent to De Lille, when she collapsed her Independent Democrats, that the DA wasn’t ready for assertive black leaders. It appears that the lure of the Cape Town mayoral bling was irresistible for De Lille.

While De Lille may have been motivated by altruism, it is evident that the DA placed a political honeypot to entrap her. Surely De Lille, a seasoned politician, ought not to have fallen for the enticement?

Even the relative newcomer that Maimane is can sense insincerity through the rainbow colours masking the DA emblem and its peroxided federal council.

If the Mazzones of the DA can find Maimane’s lame utterances about poverty and inequality sacrilegious, what if De Lille had been unrelenting in driving transformation in the City of Cape Town?

On the other hand, De Lille is not without fault. She has been content to front for the DA just as all the others who fervently fronted for the Guptas and are now clamouring for public sympathy.

It is precisely this kind of conduct and arrangements that doyen of black consciousness Steve Biko lamented. In his seminal musing I Write What I Like, he says: “In this sort of set-up one sees a perfect example of what oppression has done to the blacks. Does this mean that I am against integration? If by integration you understand a breakthrough into white society by blacks, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behaviour set up by and maintained by whites, then YES I am against it.

“I am against the superior-inferior white-black stratification that makes the white a perpetual teacher and the black a perpetual pupil (and a poor one at that). I am against the intellectual arrogance of white people that makes them believe that white leadership is a sine qua non in this country and that whites are the divinely appointed pace-setters in progress.”

It is precisely due to this belief by DA leaders that “white leadership is a sine qua non” that Mazzone was parachuted into the role of second deputy chairperson of the federal council, despite protestations by some black members of the DA, who still regard her elevation as an act of political subterfuge and white supremacy.

Maimane’s drive for the DA to reflect the demographics of the country, including tackling poverty and inequality, which affects blacks the most, cannot be realised with the Mazzones, the James Selfes and the Athol Trollips elbowing vocal and credible black leaders out.

The DA must realise that it cannot “cramp the style of those who feel differently” and that “on the whole, a country in Africa, in which the majority of the people are African must inevitably exhibit African values and be truly African in style”, wrote Biko.

Never mind her political miscalculations, De Lille must accept some culpability in creating and expanding mountains of obstacles in the emancipation of black people through her political missteps. Atoning for these is the logical next step.

Mazzone and her coterie of white leaders in the DA may have succeeded in peroxiding the spirit and political bearings of some black DA members and supporters, but the fact remains that her ill-timed pronouncements and assertions of blackness where none exists, evoke the pain and indignity of the poverty and inequality her immigrant pale white family was spared.

It is inescapable that De Lille is history within the DA.

Only time will tell how, if at all, her exit will affect the peroxide party’s electoral performance next year.

- Khaas is chairperson of Corporate SA and trustee of the Institute for the Advancement of Public Interest. Follow him on Twitter @tebogokhaas

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Read more on:    patricia de ­lille  |  cape town

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