Guest Column

Why I left the DA and have empathy with De Lille

2018-11-01 10:52
Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. (Brenton Geach, Gallo Images, file)

Former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. (Brenton Geach, Gallo Images, file)

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Luke Waltham

On Wednesday, October 31, residents of Cape Town bid farewell to Patricia De Lille as she resigned from her position as executive mayor. In addition to this, De Lille also resigned as a member of the Democratic Alliance (DA).

De Lille's resignation as DA member should come as no surprise. During 18 months of political infighting, she has been a victim of abuse and inconsistent accusations by various leaders in the party, ranging from the city council to national level. Time and time again, she won court cases that involved attempts to drag her name through the mud.

After watching the ongoing battle between the DA and De Lille, I admittedly feel complete empathy for her. I used to be an active member of the DA and led the DA Youth in the West Durban constituency in 2014/2015. Certain experiences in the party consequently convinced me to leave.

For one, the party's strict control over members' perspectives always rose its ugly head while I was a member. It tended to prescribe what members and leaders could post and share on social media, with members who signed up as "Brand Ambassadors" receiving emails detailing the exact content they should be promoting on their pages and profiles.

Moreover, the culture that tended to exist amongst DA members and groups, on social media in particular, was exceptionally problematic. While the DA refers to its members as "democrats" and openly encourages freedom in its mandate, "freedom of speech" and "freedom of thought" are often shut down on platforms.

When certain "democrats" expressed ideas and views on party policies that are considered more left-wing, certain leaders shut down these individuals and grouped them up into "factions" and referred to them as "black nationalists", especially during the time when the party was determining its stance on black economic empowerment (BEE).

Although the point of a political party is to be a collective of people who share common views and policies on how to govern the country, there should always be a space for the party members to debate, learn and improve in situations. Hence, the backlash that members receive for providing alternative policy ideas hinders the intellectual capacity of the DA as a whole.

Having views which are hateful, discriminatory and dehumanising cannot be accepted by any party. However, views that may uphold the Constitution and the human dignity of South Africans, should always be considered and discussed.

Some may argue that it is absolutely necessary for the DA to have requested De Lille to leave due to the controversial Bowmans report which has made scathing findings against her. While I do believe that this report needs to be taken into consideration, I find the way the party has used the report as a political weapon against De Lille remarkably strange and sketchy. Thus, I support the move for it to be taken into judicial review, and following that, have a critical analysis over its findings.

Furthermore, Maimane's recent remarks regarding City of Cape Town councillors who resigned from the DA were extremely problematic. He announced to the media and members that those councillors were, in fact, included in the Bowmans report despite that being far from the truth. Maimane has since retracted that statement. Nevertheless, it goes to show that any member in the party who is considered "rebellious" is deemed to be "corrupt" by the party.

In response to this, some "rebellious" ex-members claim that the DA is a racist party that continues to undermine people of colour within, and outside, the party. Although the party calls foul and states that individuals continue to use the "race card" against the party, surely there must be some truth in it if outgoing members, who have been mistreated by the party, are claiming that the DA is racist?

The reality is that we are dealing with a political party that is unapologetically volatile in the way it treats its leaders. Lindiwe Mazibuko and Patricia de Lille are two prominent leaders who ended up leaving the party because of its problematic antics.

If the DA does not reflect on its positions and procedures, it's going to find itself losing more leaders who truly drive its campaigning successes.

- Luke Waltham is a law student, writer, blogger and human rights activist. He is currently the chairperson of the United Nations Association South Africa at Stellenbosch University. 

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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