The DA Phoenix poster debacle has become an unwarranted distraction for the party’s election campaign as new developments regarding the resignation of a senior member from the election campaign keep the issue in the spotlight.
Long-time DA MP Mike Waters tendered his resignation to the party leadership over the weekend, accusing it of betrayal in its handling of the matter.
The posters in question – which read: “The ANC called you racist” and “The DA calls you heroes” – were displayed in the predominantly Indian area of Phoenix, KwaZulu-Natal, where black people were attacked and killed during the civil unrest that erupted in July.
The DA was forced to take down the posters on Thursday following relentless public pressure. After initially defending the message, DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Dean Macpherson later apologised for the posters and said that they were not intended to offend people.
Macpherson said the posters were not sanctioned by DA leader John Steenhuisen or any party structures:
“I am deeply sorry and apologise for this. Sometimes in politics our words may be poorly chosen, but I wish to assure the public, without contradiction, that my intentions are always sincere,” said Macpherson in his apology.
The decision to take down the posters and apologise, which followed a federal executive meeting on Thursday, upset Waters, who wrote a scathing letter to Steenhuisen and Helen Zille.
“As a founding member of the Democratic Party and the DA, I am shocked and horrified by the weakness displayed by my party this week over the Phoenix poster matter.
“I am unable to continue to defend and promote a party that is capable of such spineless treachery and therefore am resigning as regional campaign manager of the DA in Ekurhuleni.”
“I cannot, in good conscience, fight for votes for a party that crumbles in the face of manufactured hysteria about it stating the truth,” Waters wrote.
But he said he would remain a member of the party.
On Monday, when asked by reporters about the posters situation while in the Northern Cape, Steenhuisen said he was focused on the election campaign and did not want to be distracted from it.
He, however, defended the posters in an interview with City Press on Saturday.
This is because they are heroes for stepping in when the government retreated and allowed lawlessness and destruction to take hold. I will always regard people who uphold the law, and who are on the side of the law and the constitution, as heroes,” said Steenhuisen.