Let us speak truth to power: the Democratic Alliance (DA) is not a left-leaning establishment any longer.
It has veered dangerously to the far right of centre politics and been irreparably wounded by the very public and bigoted booboos of senior officials.
These nefarious political actions and inexcusable ramblings have left the DA wallowing in a cesspit of political shame and disbelief and beset by an identity crisis amid the undesirable probability of a long-running and tremendously embarrassing damage limitation exercise at a time when the world is fixated on the racial and extremist politics of President Donald Trump of America. He has been battling to ban refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the USA through two contentious executive orders that all in likelihood are meant to usher in a period of white exceptionalism in America. His Housing Secretary, Ben Carson – An African-American man – caused massive controversy in America on March 6 after he branded hundreds of thousands of slaves forcibly shipped from Africa in utterly mortifying circumstances between 1619 and 1865 as ‘immigrants’. His misleading and derogatory attempt to rewrite history and couch the slave trade in a shroud of legitimacy and nobility was strongly condemned by black community leaders and leading liberal organisations in America.
The dreadful upsurge in immoderate ideology, dubious statements, truculent tweets and problematic political positions has become the trademark of the Trump administration and right-wing parties and politicians. The Trump effect has generated a groundswell of optimism amongst the far-right movement in Europe and surprisingly unearthed some right-thinking office-bearers who owe their political careers to left-wing political organisations.
Like the DA Mayor of Johannesburg: Herman Mashaba. His primary policy thrust so far has been directed at the weakest members of his huge and diverse constituency: foreigners. The mayor has shrewdly ascribed every ill Johannesburg is confronted by to hapless foreigners and made it his job to vilify foreigners at every twist and turn. Mashaba went as far as to label all undocumented foreigners as criminals in December and declared that his mission was to free South Africa from the stranglehold of undocumented foreigners: “They are holding our country to ransom and I am going to be the last South African to allow it”. The mayor remained true to his word. After a planned and boisterous media campaign Mashaba made a very public visit to Rosettenville that did not end well at all for South Africa or the heavily-maligned foreigners there: a series of violent attacks against foreigners and foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg and Pretoria resulted in the headquarters of pan-African telecommunications giant MTN being attacked and damaged in Nigeria in retaliation for attacks on Nigerian citizens in South Africa. But how could the mayor tasked to run the richest and most ethnically diverse city in Africa by the DA enact such a ruthless and fascist streak of governance and xenophobia so carelessly and without an understanding of the harm his actions may cause to the diplomatic and economic ties South Africa has across the continent?
What does the DA stand for really? The African National Congress (ANC) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) appear to be very consistent on where they stand in politics. The ANC is a centre-left party, while the EFF is a centre right party. But the Democratic Alliance has lost its footing and slowly tiptoed to the fringes of radical thought and action without warning. The signs have been unequivocal though: the DA's KwaZulu-Natal deputy leader, Mergan Chetty, was named and shamed after he called foreigners “f****” makwerekweres”; Mashaba revealed his inner Trump to South Africa in December; and Hellen Zille has been offering free history lessons on the benefits of colonialism on Twitter of all places.
The DA has not censured Mashaba for his insensitive and inflammatory remarks about foreigners or his trigger-happy approach to dealing with thousands of would-be economic migrants and political refugees who have settled in Johannesburg. Yet the strong similarities between the deluge of xenophobic statements spewed by Mashaba and the likes of Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is crystal clear: these men are incessantly driven by a deep hate for humanity; but their misdemeanours remain entrenched in seemingly logical policy and decision-making processes. So the DA must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when the attacks against foreigners in Johannesburg subsided. But four tweets from Helen Zille sparked fresh controversy and served to remind us all that liberal establishments are now home to blinkered dogma and conservative devotees. We could pore over every DA policy on racial discrimination and immigration there is to read and we will probably find that the party has many progressive and well-meaning policies. We could ask Mmusi Maimane to positively comment on the failings of Zille and Mashaba and he would appear unflinching in his denunciation of racism or racist-like tendencies and aphorisms. We could also await the outcome of the disciplinary hearing Zille has been asked to partake in by her party before we rush to judge the DA or Zille. We could wait for that and more of course. But the real dilemma is not what the DA purports to stand for in its written declarations: it is what very senior DA leaders say and do in our public realm that hold them at odds with its stated liberal objectives.
Zille sought to redefine the immorality of colonisation with some misplaced caveats that showcased her narrow-mindedness and tactlessness. When Zille intimates that black people should acknowledge and appreciate the benefits of subjugation does she in turn expect educated and uneducated black voters to give her party an emphatic thumbs-up at the next election and the one after that as well – just like that? What is there to like about being suppressed and bound by rules and regulations based uniquely on the colour of your skin? Although the extravagant privilege of observing systematic hegemony in tandem with economic development may be something to behold from the vantage point of colonial rule – the benevolence of colonisation remains a wholly contrived and contemptible value in the black community.
How will the DA ever distance itself from Zille and her candid misunderstandings of black colonial experiences? Zille can go involuntarily or retire from politics if she wants to or offer black South Africans a feigned apology very soon. But expect her infamous tweets and the ideology behind them to be wheeled out for political gain by political foes of the DA in every election from here on. Without an ability to feel the pain and anguish that lingers in black hearts and minds the DA will never get a sizeable and controlling share of the black vote. And without that black vote: the DA is history.