Policing facial expressions a new low, says DA leader after Gareth Cliff panel debate

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Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen. (Picture: Ziyaad Douglas / Gallo Images)
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen. (Picture: Ziyaad Douglas / Gallo Images)
  • DA leader John Steenhuisen was accused of smirking during a panel debate where Gareth Cliff described One South Africa Movement member Mudzuli Rakhivhane's experiences of racism as "anecdotal" and "unimportant".
  • During an interview with 702, Steenhuisen said policing people's facial expressions was a new low.
  • Nando's, who sponsored Cliff's show, announced it was terminating its sponsorship with immediate effect.

DA leader John Steenhuisen says South Africa is starting to reach a new low by policing people's facial expressions.

This after he was accused of smirking during a panel debate where host Gareth Cliff dismissed racism struggles as unimportant.

During an Interview on 702 on Sunday, Steenhuisen was asked why he was seen smirking while Cliff essentially told One South Africa Movement member Mudzuli Rakhivhane her lived experiences on race were "completely anecdotal" and "unimportant".

"Are we policing people's facial expressions in South Africa, I find it very odd in this situation. It is like blaming a passenger in a taxi because the driver of the taxi jumped a stop street and had an accident with somebody.

Steenhuisen said:

I was a guest on the show. I was invited to talk about service delivery, and if you watch the full interview, that is exactly what I did. What Gareth did with another guest is his business.

"When you start policing people's facial expressions, I really think we are starting to hit a new low in South Africa." 

He added he was in a room full of people handing him documents and things to sign off on during the debate and his facial expressions could have been directed to anyone of them. 

READ | Nando's ends sponsorship of Gareth Cliff show after he dismissed racism struggles as 'unimportant'

When asked what he thought about Cliff's comment, Steenhuisen said: "I wasn't there to talk about what they were talking about, and I was there to talk about service delivery. I think we have reached a new low in South Africa where we are now blaming another panellist for an interaction that happened between two completely separate individuals."

He added he was alive to the lived experiences of all South Africans.

"I don't negate anybody's lived experiences. The lived experience of all South Africans has to be our concern."

Meanwhile, Nando's, who sponsored Cliffs show, released a statement saying it will be terminating its sponsorship of The Burning Platform, following public outrage over his comments.    

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