McKaiser chaIlenges Sparks to public debate

Port Elizabeth - Political analyst and author Eusebius McKaiser has challenged Allister Sparks to a public debate, after the veteran journalist blamed him for causing the social media uproar that followed his comments on apartheid- era prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd.

During a farewell tribute to outgoing Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille at the party's federal congress in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, Sparks said he had known several intelligent politicians "including Hendrik Verwoerd" and many other "dull and stupid" ones.

Sparks said afterwards that he was simply recognising that Verwoerd was a smart politician.

"As a journalist who can approach things with an open mind, I can recognise smartness in politics whether I agree [with the person] or not," he said.

"I was speaking... in that context mainly about effective speakers who were able to carry their parties and do things like that, which I think Verwoerd did with great success... and he was a very effective speaker. I did not admire him - I spent the bulk of my life fighting against him.

"This is what I call a manufactured outrage that was created by Eusebius McKaiser."

He said McKaiser should have checked the facts of what he said with him first before criticising the comments on Twitter.

"He is supposedly an intellectual and academic," said Sparks.

"If I say that I thought someone was 'smart', that doesn't mean I agree with them. I think [former US secretary of state] Henry Kissinger was smart, but I don't agree with most of what he did."

When contacted by News24, McKaiser said: "I challenge him to a public debate where we can assess the moral weight of the comments he made today."

He said Sparks could choose the moderator and the platform.

'Morally indefensible'

"I think it's absurd that he can think that black people or progressive white people who were watching what he said, could not be outraged without my mediation," McKaiser said.

"We all saw the clip. Black people are insulted by his comment because he is ultimately saying that they are incapable of getting outraged without seeing my tweet.

"You do not go to a political party's congress where there is a predominantly black audience and tell them that Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, was intelligent.

"We are outraged and we are justified."

He asked why Sparks, who was a reporter for many years, did not mention examples of excellent black politicians like the late former president Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and ANC veteran Walter Sisulu among others during his speech.

"These remarks should have been condemned by senior members in the party. This silence is indicative of the party not being able to handle difficult conversations. To defend Allister is exactly the same thing as defending axed Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini who made comments about Hitler," he said.

"The remarks by both are equally morally indefensible."

Hitler comments

Dlamini has come under heavy criticism following a recent post on Facebook in which he said: "I love Adolf Hitler... There is an element of Hitler in every white person."

He subsequently defended his comments, and refused to apologise.

He admitted that it would be ignorant of him to ignore the fact that Hitler had committed atrocious crimes against the Jewish people. However, what he admired, he said, was the German's leader ability to organise a nation and get the people to rally behind him.

Sparks was asked later on Saturday about his thoughts on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

"I didn't know Hitler, I did know Verwoerd - but Hitler was a monster.

"I didn't say Verwoerd's policies did not lead to monstrous things, of course they did."

He said Verwoerd was an effective and powerful leader of his party.

"What I am supposed to do? Say that he was dumb? That he was stupid? He wasn't stupid."

He said he would also add Mandela and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to his list of "smart politicians", but not President Jacob Zuma.

"The fact that I think that Jacob Zuma is not very clever doesn't mean I dislike him. I actually quite like him. I find him a very warm and friendly man. "

He said he took "umbrage" at people jumping to conclusions based on his comments.

"I am not here to answer to other people jumping to conclusions. If they want to jump, let them jump in the lake."

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