The SA Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is at loggerheads with some black leaders within the DA over the institute’s attempt to have a say in the politics of the opposition party through its #SaveTheOpposition campaign.
DA Youth federal leader Luyolo Mphithi accused the IRR of only being content when leaders within the opposition party toe the liberal line and fight for the rights of white and Indian South Africans, only to turn around and defame them when the same leaders stand up against ills being perpetrated against black South Africans.
The IRR identified DA MPs Mphithi, Phumzile van Damme, John Steenhuisen and Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba as conducting themselves in a manner inimical to DA values.
The IRR said the party was eroding its liberal values by promoting Mphithi to Parliament although he had “sparked a racial furore in Schweizer-Reneke in January when he falsely accused the teachers at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke of racism” after an image was circulated on social media platforms showing the separation of learners according to race in their seating arrangement.
Mphithi responded: “We all remember the beginning of the year when kids were separated based on race and I visited that school. I went to find out what exactly happened. I have press statements that speak to that. And then (IRR campaigns coordinator Hermann) Pretorius alleged I said the teachers were racist.
“I have asked him on a number of occasions to please bring me the evidence to support his accusations and he has failed to do so. I have also informed him that, should he continue to make these accusations, I will approach the courts and have the allegations tested, as they amount to defamation,” he said.
Mphithi questioned why the IRR did not see him as being racist when he led young people to march in Sandton during the jobs summit when the Youth Employment Service programme excluded unemployed white youth.
“They couldn’t at that point say Luyolo is a racist, because I was fighting for unemployed young white people to be included in the YES programme. I wasn’t a racist when I took Black First Land First to the South African Human Rights Commission for saying it was good that white kids had died in the Vaal. Further, I wasn’t a racist when I reported the EFF for saying Indians in KwaZulu-Natal are all racist.
Pretorius said the institute had singled out the aforementioned DA leaders because of their public reaction to his opinion piece calling for Mmusi Maimane to be replaced by Alan Winde.
He said their responses “made it clear just how volatile the situation within the DA was and how necessary it was for the definitional debate about liberalism to be held in public with the input of ordinary South Africans.”
Van Damme questioned why “the opinionated black leaders within the DA should be expelled while the white members who have been racist” were not.
Pretorius justified what has been deemed by some DA leaders as the institution meddling in party politics by saying that official opposition parties have “specific constitutional functions” that other parties simply do not have, hence the need for a public and critical input. “Our #SaveTheOpposition campaign has thus far focused on the DA for two reasons. Firstly, because the DA is the official opposition and thereby has specific constitutional functions other parties simply do not have.
“Secondly, because the DA, a self-proclaimed liberal party, is quite clearly and publicly in a serious phase of introspection. What the party decides to do within the next few months will determine whether it can be a strong voice for liberal and nonracial politics in the future.
“There is a debate raging about the meaning of liberalism in South Africa. The IRR has been a classical liberal think-tank for 90 years. We will not let any opportunity slide to make the case for a nonracial, constitutional, liberal democracy – we never have, never will,” said Pretorius.
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