Guest Column

The DA remains in denial about race

2018-11-18 10:00
Patricia de Lille at Cape Town city council meeting. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Patricia de Lille at Cape Town city council meeting. (Jan Gerber, News24)

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In refusing to even acknowledge, never mind address, serious examples of racism and double standards, the party actively chose to endorse racism and resist transformation, writes Shaun August.

The backlash from within the Democratic Alliance (DA) following my and other councillors' resignation from the council of the City of Cape Town is alarming to say the least.

This is a party that parades itself as the most diverse in South African politics. For Mmusi Maimane to try and implicate us in a report that does not mention us at all, to ignore the plethora of reasons for our resignations and then claim that we are race baiting shows that the party is in denial and refuses to evaluate its inherent conservative attitude.

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In a sheepishly dishonest retraction of his Bokamoso on October 29, where he still alleges that we are running away from accountability and have done something wrong, replacing one defamatory comment with another does not exonerate him or the DA. Maimane's inability to admit he was wrong is a text book example of weak and poor leadership. 

Earlier this year the DA wanted to crucify Maimane for speaking out on white privilege. Natasha Mazzone went as far as pointing out that her father was "dark" and he had not been privileged when he arrived in South Africa during the apartheid era. She clearly was unable to comprehend that her father and his children were advantaged during apartheid simply because they were white – even if he was a "dark" white.

Here is a senior DA leader unable to comprehend how the apartheid system structure was geared entirely to benefit whites; a white person who embarrassingly cannot acknowledge that this benefit came at the expense of black, coloured and Indian citizens who were disadvantaged by this cruel system. 

The DA cannot claim absolution from institutional racism. It is embedded in the culture of the party. Beneficiaries of structural injustices within the party work hard to ensure that the status quo remains the same, that power remains in their hands and that they continue to reap the benefits of this embedded privilege.

Let me remind everyone that the DA CEO, COO and most of their executive directors (including their head of elections and research) and directors are mostly white. Further, their federal executive chairperson and both his deputies are white – these are the most senior administrators and leaders in the DA. I encourage any journalist to investigate this claim.

Unfortunately, this is not something Maimane, myself or any other black person can help because the conservative old guard in the party internal systems is actively resisting change and real diversity at senior levels where the power lies and decisions are made. 

The DA's narrative that we are claiming racism because we do not want accountability in the City of Cape Town is lazy and populist. We definitely want accountability. This is why, while I was the chief whip in the council, I reported the numerous transgressions and incidents of double standards in the party to senior DA leaders.

Double standards

In Cape Town, councillor Taki Amira for example has been attending official meetings of the Salga Liquor License Tribunal and earning a stipend although he has submitted annual leave to the chief whip's office. This is what one would call undue benefit or corruption in other terms. After reporting this to the speaker's office, the speaker replied bluntly that he was not in breach of any council rules and that there will be no investigation.

Note, attending SALGA Liquor Licence Tribunal meetings allows a councillor to earn an additional income per meeting above their salary, so it is ironic that Amira would attend these meetings but not any statutory council meetings where no additional stipend is provided.

Further, during the investigation whereby I, together with my colleague Matthew Kempthorne (a white male), were both charged for contravening the DA procurement procedure to purchase DA T-shirts during the 2016 local government elections, we were both found to have transgressed the procurement process. Kempthorne appealed and I was also given the option but my instincts indicated I would not win this battle considering the party found me guilty before the investigation started. 

I subsequently was the only one to pay a fine of R50 000. This all because (and on record whilst doing this process with leadership witnesses) I rushed a process to meet an election date deadline.

Ironically, take into consideration a note by DA finance exco member Alf Lees on finance procedures during elections vindicating both me and Kempthorne. This letter was ignored during my representations to the DA.

Another example is that of councillor Joy McCarthy who allegedly provided false information to sub-council 3 last year with regard to the identity of an individual involved with a liquor licence application. She was aware that the information she supplied would have the effect of the sub-council deciding to not support the application. The report was subsequently withdrawn due to a "correction" which in essence was to reduce the fine imposed on McCarthy. The DA (not the council) once again, failed to act on this member of their party.

Today, Dianne Kohler Barnard still serves as a member of Parliament amidst her sharing a racist post (note her fine of R20 000 was a lot less than mine on the T-shirt saga although she caused the DA national embarrassment).

When I recall the time Lindiwe Mazibuko was actively vilified by the DA against Helen Zille for being an independent thinker, it showed the double standards for certain leaders against others. Lindiwe lost the assistance of the DA PR communication machinery while Zille was supported in order to continue the party's vision to win votes, particularly from the DA base – mostly white and with money.

These are just a few cases showing that some are more than equal in the DA. In refusing to even acknowledge, never mind address, these serious examples of racism and double standards, the party actively chose to endorse racism and resist transformation.

Real diversity can thus never be achieved and it is no wonder Maimane's attempts to introduce this to the party were blocked. Ryan Smith, the DA's Western Cape communications officer, recently thanked "the DA's commitment to developing black leaders". This condescending statement exposes the prevailing thoughts that Maimane and others are merely part of a "development plan" for the party.

In a real non-racial party and society, it would be actual leaders who should be thanked, not the token blacks.

- Shaun August is the former DA chief whip in the City of Cape Town.

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Read more on:    da  |  city of cape town  |  shaun august  |  cape town  |  politics  |  racism


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