ActionSA’s Herman Mashaba said the DA he joined in 2015 was a different political party to the DA of today. "So, to suggest something of the DA then, and to suggest the exact opposite now is not contradictory."
On Sunday I decided to tackle this idea that if Nelson Mandela were still alive, he would vote for the DA. I took to Twitter because I was angry at how incorrect that is.
In response, someone dug up a video of me in July 2016 expressing this very same idea in July 2016. It has been used to suggest that this represented contradiction. I do not agree, and here is why.
The DA I joined in 2015 was a different political party to the DA of today. So, to suggest something of the DA then, and to suggest the exact opposite now is not contradictory. It is, in fact, common sense.
The DA of 2016 wasn't perfect, but it was moving in the right direction. It was an organisation that was growing, it was challenging itself to be more diverse and to represent the political ambitions of more and more South Africans.
The party strived for a non-racial future but did not deny the existence of race in South Africa. If you do not believe, look at the 2014 leaflet issued by the DA, when Helen Zille was the party leader, committing the DA to race-based redress.
In its efforts to present an increasingly diverse leadership, the DA was starting to become more attractive to more South Africans. In doing so it was becoming a party that was starting to seriously rival the ANC, even unseating the ANC in three metros in 2016.
The DA has since changed
It was against this background that I made these remarks in 2016. It was true then and, in my opinion, it remains true about the 2016 DA now. But the truth is that the 2021 DA is not the same as the DA in 2016.
It has declared that race is irrelevant in modern-day South Africa.
Judging by the leadership teams that have emerged from recent DA elective conferences, this 180° about-turn was about paving the way to the election of a small clique of pale males who were tired of their personal agenda coming second to South Africa's need for a real alternative to the ANC.
In marketing terms, you would have to describe the DA's brand as toxic. After so many occasions where its leaders have chastised people, patronised journalists and replaced honey with vinegar, the DA of today can do no right even when they do good.
At every level the DA is a party in decline. There have simply been too many examples which have shown that the decline is long-term and that it is irreversible. As Richard Poplak put it: "I’m starting to think that if the ANC nuclear-bombed every major city in South Africa and drove through the ashes in Rolls Royce SUVs while sipping Moët, the DA would still [rude word] up the counter-messaging."
This is why the DA is so desperate to characterise my remarks as contradictory because if those remarks are left to hang in there for just one moment, they demonstrate the most damaging truth for the DA – that it has changed to become something that South Africans never wanted.
- Herman Mashaba is the founder of ActionSA, and former mayor of the City of Johannesburg.
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