and Cobus Coetzee
THE ANC was not the only “or even the most important” opposition force against apartheid, DA leader Helen Zille has said.
“The ANC from its present position of power seeks exclusive ownership of history’s moral high ground, in order to control the future. In fact, it is the only tactic the ANC has left,” wrote Zille in her SA Today newsletter yesterday.
Zille’s comments follow controversy that erupted over the party’s ‘Know Your DA’ campaign which included a photograph of Nelson Mandela and Helen Suzman embracing with the caption: “We played our part in opposing apartheid”. The campaign prompted an angry response from the ANC which described the use of the picture as disingenuous, accusing the DA of “stealing” Mandela.
In her newsletter titled “The DA’s untold story: Part 2”, Zille said: “South Africans needed to be informed that “the ANC did not always provide the only, or even the most important, opposition to segregation and apartheid”.
“It (the ANC) was eclipsed by the Industrial and Commercial Union in the 1920s, the All African Convention in the mid-1930s; the Pan Africanist Congress in the early 1960s, the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s, and the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s.”
Some of the people who once belonged to these organisations – like Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, Joe Seremane and Wilmot James – “have come to find their political home in the DA”, Zille said.
She said that their stories were part of the DA’s story. “Far too few people know this, and we have to fix this,” she said.
She wrote that many people actually believe that Suzman – a member of the Progressive Party which became the Progressive Federal Party and later merged with other parties to become the DA – was an ANC member. “It is at times like these that I realise the extent to which we have allowed our opponents to define us and impose their version of our history on South Africa’s political narrative. We must take responsibility for changing this. And that is why we are running this campaign now,” wrote Zille.
A draft presentation emanating from the Western Cape ahead of the launch of the DA provincial election campaign next month has also irked the ANC, and stirred up controversy within the DA. Leaked to the Mail & Guardian, the presentation likens the ANC of today to the apartheid-era National Party.
DA deputy provincial DA leader Theuns Botha would not comment on the draft that includes an image showing the ANC’s black green and gold flag replaced by the colours of the old South African flag. “Speak to (DA provincial leader) Ivan Meyer because he is the author of it,” he said.
Meyer could not be reached for comment.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said that the DA had “stooped to its latest lows with the blatant distortion of the African National Congress and its insignia in their desperate campaign for legitimacy and relevance”.
ANC Eastern Cape spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the campaign “violates the rights of all our members and infringes on the rights of South Africans to make political choices by venturing
into evil smear campaign”.
“Only a clever by half person would ever liken the ANC to the evil Nationalist Party, which killed, tortured, hanged, poisoned, disabled, bombed, harassed women, children, youth, scores of our members and our leaders,” said Qoboshiyane.
DA national spokesman Gavin Davis said “it was a PowerPoint presentation produced at an internal DA Western Cape meeting. It has no standing in the party and will not form the basis of any election campaign”.
Zille said she wanted to see the presentation before she could comment and De Lille said she hadn’t seen it but said Meyer and the provincial leadership was responsible for the party’s election campaign.
Several DA provincial leaders had distanced themselves from attempts to compare the ANC to the NP government, the Weekend Argus reported. Ex-DA leader Tony Leon said “you’ve got to stay in the future business; if you get into a contest about the past, the ANC is going to beat you every time”.
Political analyst Judith February told the Cape Times that the image with the old flag and the ANC emblem was particularly provocative.
“To me the campaign is backward looking. The DA has a real chance in certain areas to dent the ANC, yet a campaign like this has the real potential of alienating black voters. For no matter what the mistakes of the ANC, to equate it with the apartheid government and to raise the spectre of the offensive old South Africa flag is a simply a historical approach to our present challenges,” she said.
February said the document provided the ANC with a quick line of defence without it really having to go into its record of delivery.