Black, young and gifted...

The Democratic Alliance is not a white party full of grumpy ex-apartheid MPs, said its new spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko, the party's first black spin doctor.

Outspoken in her beliefs and articulate in her arguments, Mazibuko, the 28-year-old daughter of a nurse and a banking executive, said it was the party's leader, Helen Zille, who first drew her attention to the party.

When DA leader Tony Leon announced that he was stepping down, Mazibuko decided to write her university thesis on the party.

"From May 6, just after she (Zille) was elected, I started going though old news cutting and newspaper articles... and that was it.

"The more I read the more I realised that it wasn't this big monster that everybody assumes it to be and the more I realised I actually agreed with the DA on a lot of points."

But it's difficult she said, as DA federal chairman Joe Seremane has repeatedly pointed out, for a black person to be seen to agree or even associate with the DA.

There is this unwritten understanding among black people that the liberation struggle was fought on their behalf and that voting for any party other than the ANC was an insult those who laid down their lives for the cause, Mazibuko said.

"That argument has its valid points but it's really a knee-jerk way of thinking and does not take in any of the complexities of living in a one-party dominated democracy like ours," Mazibuko argued.

Although she described herself as someone who was always open-minded, it took both her family and herself by surprise when she found herself in agreement with the DA.

"Obviously not on every point - it's very rare that you agree with a party's every policy - but I agreed on most points and certainly on more points that I did with the ANC, which I could barely recognise as it was splintering into a many-faceted monster that nobody could actually pin down."

Her family has largely accepted her decision to side withe DA.

In a certain sense, she said, she is not the only black person to admire Zille and connect with her views.

In fact, she said, there were even ANC members who held a grudging respect for Zille.

Zille's head-to-head battle with the ANC's Nomaindia Mfeketo for mayor of Cape Town in March 2006 saw many ANC supporters grapple with their loyalties.

Some opted to vote for Zille as mayor but could not bring themselves to break with the ANC on a national level.

Even Mazibuko's friends, who went to private schools in Johannesburg and were too young to have really lived under apartheid, had to overcome feelings of guilt when they chose to support Zille, she said.

"I know of many people from my background who are wholly disillusioned with the ANC but can't translate that disillusionment into anything because they still feel beholden to this idea that they can't elect whites into government because it's a tacit acknowledgement of failure on the part of the African liberation movement," she said.

This was also why many black people refused to speak out over the disbandment of the Scorpions, she said.

She believed there was an intense desire to fight the prejudiced notion that blacks could not successfully govern a country.

This battle was passed from parents to their children and from teachers to pupils like a baton, she explained.

Dropping that baton and voting for the DA or even Zille left many blacks feeling extremely guilty, said Mazibuko.

However, she said, at the end of the day, it was policy that mattered not race.

"The DA is definitely a white party and nobody is trying to deny that but I feel that people have got to come to terms with the fact that it's not always going to be a white party, it can't be."

"The dilemma is that for it to become a representative party, the majority of South Africans need to feel that they can join but they won't join until they see other blacks - it's a Catch 22 situation," she said.

Mazibuko argued that while it had to be conceded that while apartheid had shaped everyone's consciousness, race could not be held up as the sole principle of every issue. At some point, people simply had to see themselves as South Africans.

"I think that is the major challenge ahead for us," she said.




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