Why the DA should listen to the people and elect leaders on merit, not race

Hermann Pretorius
Hermann Pretorius

There is something rotten in the heart of South African politics and the media.

It manifests in a wilful ignoring of the basic rules of language. City Press editor in chief Mondli Makhanya’s article “Let’s make the DA white again”, demonstrates this vividly. 

Read: Mondli Makhanya: Let’s make the DA white again

In an opinion piece in the Daily Friend, I argued that Western Cape premier Alan Winde should replace Mmusi Maimane as leader of the DA.

I argue that Maimane should resign, as the buck of the DA’s political failures of the past two years stops with him.

I make the incontrovertibly obvious point that South Africans are not the race-baiting Twitter trolls our politicians and journalists seem to think we are.

South Africans, I seemingly controversially say, want political leaders to be elected on merit.

I argue that Winde deserves proper consideration and elevation to DA leader on merit.

As finance MEC in the Western Cape from 2009 to last year, Winde oversaw the province’s economy, with more than 500 000 jobs created.

I make another point obvious to anyone familiar with the actualities of the recent election campaign: everywhere except in the Western Cape, the DA underperformed to a damaging extent.

Electorally, the reality cannot be ignored – where Maimane was the banner carrier for the DA, the party’s results disappointed; where Winde was the banner carrier, the DA overperformed.

Last month, Winde released a three-minute video to set out how the Western Cape will be training more law enforcement personnel to win the fight against crime.

Let’s then put the case for Winde to be DA leader clearly: A job creator, a man with a plan to fight crime, and a politician who managed an electoral result to save his party from complete humiliation.

That Winde is not or was not being considered for the DA’s leadership is extraordinary.

Now comes the tricky bit.

Makhanya accuses me of blatant racism, saying I make the case for Winde’s election because he is a white man.

But he should have properly read what I wrote before launching into the tired and convenient invective of self-righteously screeching racism at anything mildly related to the issue.

To address any possible misunderstanding, here is the paragraph that contributed most to last week’s outrage: “A job creator. A crime fighter. These should be enough to get a politician to lead their party. However, Winde can be, for the DA, the game-changer they undoubtedly need. Why? Because he is a white man.”

In any form of reasoned discussion, the most important word is probably ‘because’.

It connects position with argument and reason. Am I making the point that Winde should be leader of the DA “because he is a white man”?

Only deliberate or accidental illiteracy can bring one to read the two-sentence paragraph quoted above to conclude that I am.

Makhanya seems unable to grasp the difference between electing a leader because he is white or electing the leader on merit who happens to be white.

Due to the reality of the political landscape, only a fool would not consider the collective gasp of outrage from the adherents of identity politics were the DA to elect a white man as leader.

Were the DA to discover some bottle and elect Winde as leader based on the strong meritorious case for doing so, it is either absurd, naive or disingenuous to think no mention will be made of the fact that he is a white man.

And in that lies the opportunity for a DA under Winde’s leadership to change the game of politics for good.

Makhanya seems not to have bothered to read what I wrote. Instead, he waxes diabolical about points never made by myself or the SA Institute of Race Relations.

Were the DA to elect a leader on merit who happens to be white, instead of continuing its pandering to those who adhere to the Verwoerdian notion that your race determines whether you can serve your country, the DA would be saying to all South Africans: “Over and over, you’ve told us that job creation and fighting crime should be our top priorities – and we have chosen a leader with exactly the experience needed to win those fights.”

In saying that to voters, the DA would show itself to be the only party willing to take the real issues of suffering voters seriously – so seriously, in fact, that they would do what the powerful disciples of identity politics consider heresy against the church of Verwoerdian racial nationalism: appoint the best person for the job.

The DA would then expose for all to see the cabal of South African politicians and journalists willing to say to a man like Winde: “We don’t care about your record on creating jobs or uplifting our people, and we don’t care that you have executable, practical plans to fight the scourge of crime – you cannot serve the people of South Africa because of the colour of your skin.”

I stand by my advice to the DA. Get rid of the failed leadership. Listen to the people.

You need to take unemployment and crime seriously enough to elect your leadership based on merit.

Elect a leader who has shown a remarkable ability to win against these inherited demons of almost a century of government failure.

Pretorius is campaigns coordinator at the Institute of Race Relations

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July 2020

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