Mmusi Maimane Fails - Cum Laude

2017-03-28 13:28

The Zille tweets that last week created the furore around colonial history offered Mmusi Maimane a golden opportunity to take on the mantle of a statesman. He is an impressive and intelligent man to be sure, and one who holds much promise, so I had expected much from him.

But he blew it.

In the fetid public arena of the current colonialism “debate” – for colonialism is neither an opinion nor expression of value, but a hard and fast historical fact – there is a plethora of distortions and myths. Indeed, from a “debate”, it has morphed into a perverted faith for those delusional enough to jockey for attention in the public space occupied by faux religions and fad ideology. Thus “colonialism” has become the playground of charlatans exploiting the ignorance of those starved of education and ignorant of democracy and world history.

Denying colonialism - and worse still, seeking to punish those who recognise its reality, benefits and legacy – has become a game with political points on offer, a sad indictment of the calibre of our electorate, and with results not dissimilar to the Spanish Inquisition. Wherever the truth becomes punishable because it is uncomfortable we are dealing with heresy – which ill behoves a party that is a standard bearer for liberal values and aspires to government.Columnist William Saunderson-Meyer refers to it aptly as “making treason out of reason”.

Democracy in South Africa is under threat just as were peoples’ lives in 15th and 16th century Spain when they did not buy into the deception of fundamentalist Catholic liturgy. Victims of the Inquisition were burned at stake, whereas the religion of “denialism of cause” as practiced in South Africa undermines the legitimacy of the nation itself.

Maimane had an opportunity to swing the pendulum away from the ANC sponsored witches and sorcerers for whom denial of the benefits of modern society serves as liturgy but the Sunday press was replete with Maimane-Zille antagonism and barbed quotes. Some suggested "war" in the DA!

Maimane chose to publicly embrace the notion of undiluted colonialist culpability - presumably because he imagined that failure to do so would lose votes for the DA (he clearly holds his target audience in low esteem). Of course, in the short term he could be right - but over the long haul he has surely created a monster: straying from the truth is costly and lies and subterfuge have an uncanny way of coming back to bite.

What should Maimane have done?

Step One – he could have embraced the positives as articulated by Zille by linking the case study of Singapore released at about the same time, in her support. With skill, this could have served as a rallying cry for young people without work (we have in excess of 35% unemployment; youth unemployment more like 60%).

The contrast between the two economies is dramatic because after all, South Africa and Singapore are at opposite polls in terms of work ethic, the creation of opportunities and economic performance.

Communicated well, it had the potential to fuel an electoral coup.

Step Two – he could have focused on the advantages that the RSA assumed as a direct result of colonialism (the self same usual suspects of infrastructure, piped water, working rail system and airlines; water, electricity etc etc as alluded to by Zille) that the ANC has systematically devalued to everyone’s cost.

The ruling party has shown scant returns on its inherited human, fixed and intellectual capital and preferred to plunder and pillage to fund its own webs of patronage and secure continued tenure. It has levied a huge opportunity cost on all South Africans.

He could have opened an impressive argument against the ruling party by demonstrating how such advantage was wasted with bad socio-economic policies, pervasive corruption and a succession of appalling leaders: how the ANC has laid to waste much of the advantage that colonialism gave us from the get go.

It needed to be said. It was his to say, his moment - and it could have provided him with his most persuasive platform ever.

But he blew it!

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