Unable to understand why the DA (sometimes rudely referred to as the Desperate Alternative) didn’t jump at the chance to give itself a black face, I asked an old friend in that party to explain the decision of parliamentary opposition leader Athol Trollip not to stand down in favour of Lindiwe Mazibuko.
“She seems to be a wonderful asset, very intelligent, politically bright and a good communicator,” I argued. “Also, she’s a lot prettier than Trollip.”
“People are tired of black faces,” said George (let’s call him). “There are so many of them. White male faces are in the minority these days, they are a disappearing breed.”
“Not in the DA they aren’t,” I countered. “Almost the entire Western Cape government executive are white male faces, give or take a couple of brown ones, and of course Helen herself.”
“Look, we can’t put the entire party in the hands of women,” said George. “In spite of all the men, Helen’s running the show in the province, Patricia is in charge of the city council – to have yet another woman ruling the roost in parliament would lead to gender imbalance. It could lose us a lot of male support.”
“The ones who don’t like it could always go and join the Freedom Front Plus,” I suggested. “That’s the only other party that has a white male leader in parliament.”
“Female support, too,” said George. “Some of our women don’t want to kowtow to yet another woman, especially a black woman. A white woman is bad enough – but don’t quote me on that.”
I said I wouldn’t.
“Trollip is also fully trilingual. I doubt whether Mazibuko is fluent in Afrikaans, or whether she can speak it at all. This is a major consideration.”
“George, I’m sure the mass of South African voters won’t hold this inadequacy against her. She can always take lessons.”
“I don’t think so,” said George. “Many of the oldtimers who vote for us insist on total tweetaligheid, never mind the other languages.”
“Maybe the time of the oldtimers is past.”
“There’s also her age,” said George. “She’s only 31. People of 31 aren’t mature enough to take on the responsibility of parliamentary leadership.”
“William Pitt the Younger was. He was only 24 when he became prime minister. He was one of the most successful prime ministers Britain ever had, and remained in power for 17 years.”
“May I point out that he wasn’t a woman,” said George. “He was a white male.”
“Then there was Chris Watson, prime minister of Australia at 37, and Joe Clark, prime minister of Canada at 39.”
“All white males,” said George.
“Last year Roosevelt Skerrit was elected prime minister of Curacao at the age of 36 and he wasn’t white.”
“He wasn’t a woman either,” said George.
“Besides, Lindiwe is only making herself available as party leader in Parliament, not as president,” I pointed out.
“Heaven help us if she were,” shuddered George.
“Can’t be worse than the present incumbent,” I said. “I’m sure Malema’s so-called tea girl could show Zuma a thing or two, and even Malema himself, when he has fully recovered in hospital from a bad case of exposure to disciplinary hearing.”
“Once again, all black faces,” said George. “What we need is a nice white one for a change. That’s why Athol Trollip’s my man.”