The way forward for Maimane and the DA

2017-06-10 15:16

Helen Zille’s supporters are fuming – over DA’s federal executive decision to suspend Helen for her recent widely condemned words on the legacy of colonialism in Africa. My friends on the right, who are backing Zille, have become cry-babies – moaning and ranting on social networks about how the DA has betrayed its principles and values by suspending Zille.

Whatever your views, my views, on Zille’s suspension – at the end of the day – the DA is a private organization – entitled to its private decisions. And I’m sure that every decision taken within the party’s management structures – is, with its ramifications, deeply considered.

Now whether you believe Helen Zille should be disciplined for her comments – which she defended for weeks – is dependent on your own personal views about the legacy of colonialism in Africa, and the rest of the world.

If you believe that Africans should be thankful to colonialism for laptops, iPhones, cars, as one politically-vocal person Tweeted weeks ago, then you certainly do not believe Helen Zille should be undergoing a disciplinary process in the DA.

In the entire controversy, you see her a victim – whose disciplinary hearing is being established because of political duress.  And of course you believe this is done to her because she’s white.

I have my personal views about what Zille said on colonialism – I just don’t think they matter. What matters now, are the views of Mmusi Maimane and the DA’s leadership on how to move forward with a scandal that continues to harm the party – a party determined to defeat the corrupt ANC out of power in the national elections of 2019. In this instance, they disagree with Zille’s comments on colonialism – and see them as offensive and ill-thought. Hence their decision to suspend and discipline her.

I’m one of those who respect Maimane and the leadership of the DA. From my outside view, I do not believe they suspended Zille because of political duress; they suspended her because they do believe she’s way wrong and offensive to suggest African countries would have never modernized without colonialism.

What’s most crucial now, is that in their decision to discipline Zille, they must keep in mind that in every action, there are trade-offs. Zille’s comments have damaged the DA – without a doubt – as it has offended many across South Africa. And according to a recent piece published by Business Tech, the party’s support has plunged since Zille’s comments on colonialism.

Still though, the fact is Helen Zille remains one of the highly respected and courageous politicians in South Africa, with significant support in the party itself. So the challenge for Mmusi Maimane – in this situation – is to find an optimal point – where he disciplines Zille – without much great alienation of Zille’s supporters – as that would itself harm the party.

To Helen Zille’s supporters who say that she should consider starting her party, I say to them “What crap have you smoked?” Helen Zille starting a political party? For what purpose? Well, she could if she wants, it’s her choice; but fact be told, it would be a small bunch of disillusioned white people moaning about how unfair the political system is to them.

Anyway, I doubt Helen would give a slight consideration in starting a new party; she knows the great hard work she’s done in building the DA. She correctly recognized that for it to grow as a strong opposition party in South Africa’s race-obsessed politics – it needs black, young, educated talent.

Starting her political party, just because she’s being disciplined for ill-thought comments on colonialism, would be naïve, and would reverse all the great work she’s done over the past years in building an alternative to the African National Congress (ANC). She’s smart to do that.

This controversy has been a big test for Maimane. In a country obsessed with racial politics – an even bigger test.

The way forward for Mmusi and the rest of the leadership of the DA, is to stick to what they believe is right – but in the process, they must mind the reality – and that is, an overreach in disciplining Zille, could as much hurt the DA as doing nothing in holding her accountable for her comments.

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