NP is back, itching for a fight

Church Square, in Pretoria, and Greenmarket Square, in Cape Town, are on the short list to be sites for public executions. If the National Party has its way, there will be gallows among the pigeons sooner rather than later.

Yes, the National Party (NP) is back, and it's trading breathlessly off the apocalyptic images of blood, mayhem and the eradication of whites stoked by right-wing websites such as Crime Expo and emigrants who have a problem with blacks being in charge.

The old, new party, which recently reconstituted itself by registering with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), is talking tough about its intended mercilessness towards drug lords, rapists and murderers. And there couldn't be a more appropriately controversial personality to be its public face than Juan-Duval Uys, its spokesperson.

He's a veteran of the anti-crime movement, which would archly deny that it is a front for the white right. Uys was behind the reactionary Crime Expo SA website - a source used by racists at home and abroad to build a self-fulfilling prophecy about this country - so he knows all about whipping up images of South Africa as a hellish place.

Crime Expo is where the idea to revive the National Party began. Its "leadership" - a conbobulation of fiction and delusions of grandeur - had considered applying at the IEC to register as a political party until strange events began to occur.

The muscle behind the website was said to be two men, Neil Watson and Shaun Thompson. But then it was suggested that they could, in fact, be one and the same person, and Uys's name emerged strongly as the conflation of the mystery pair.

This attracted the ire of Simon Grindrod, the Cape Town leader of the Independent Democrats (ID). He used the lure of the donations that were solicited on the Crime Expo website and demanded to know where the cash received had gone.

So Uys - who was also behind the somewhat shady Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which created a furore over gay men's blood allegedly being rejected by the South African Blood Transfusion Service a couple of years ago - shifted gear. But, clearly attracted to the shadows, he moved into the job of spokesperson for another rather dubious character, fiery Cape Town councillor Badih Chaaban.

A couple of years ago, the ID raised a storm over the coalition between the Democratic Alliance and Chaaban's African Muslim Party, pointing out that Chaaban had a less than salubrious past as a businessman.

Helen Zille, the DA leader, would later dispense with the coalition, saying Chaaban was a man the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) considered so dangerous that it wrote to the ANC-led city administration in 2004 and warned it to stop awarding him tenders.

Zille claimed, in a letter to Independent Newspapers earlier this year, that the NIA had warned that Chaaban was "involved in a wide range of organised-crime activities, including dealing in false passports, drugs, money laundering, prostitution, human trafficking and murder".

When the the Cape Town council investigated Chaaban, it revealed allegations that he had called Zille a "f***ing bitch", Patricia de Lille, the ID leader, a "coloured k****r" and had said it was time for the Jews to be "f***ed" again.

On August 8, Chaaban - who was once alleged to have offered Cape Town councillors money if they agreed to join his new party, the National People's Party (NPP) - was expected in the Cape Town magistrate's court to face a charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and two charges of crimen injuria, after John van der Merwe, a former organiser for the NPP, said Chaaban had assaulted him. David Sasman, a former leader of the NPP, and Van der Merwe, were expelled from the party when Chaaban accused them of going clubbing in George instead of recruiting new members. They allege that Chaaban assaulted Van der Merwe in September last year and verbally abused both of them, calling them "bastards and dogs".

Also at court earlier this month was Uys, now the enemy of Chaaban, who said he had witnessed the assault. Sasman is now the national director of strategic planning and policy - for the new, old NP.

In his evocation of the NP as a viable force for power in 2009, Uys enthusiastically sets forth propaganda that hinges on the noose. But his delight is tempered by the callow manner in which the DA tried to steal the NP's thunder. Isn't it strange, Uys says, that Zille's party announced ambitious plans for factory, farm and construction prisons only days after the NP unveiled its crime policy? But no matter, the NP insists, it will simply shrug off the competition as it intends to go even further than that.

Should the party accede to power again, it will cut prisons' food budgets to zero. Prisoners will have to grow their own food - and there will be a sanctimonious corollary: the most sinister villains will be forced to share their food with very poor communities or there will be nothing for their plate. No good deed, no mashed potato.

The elections are no joke, said Uys. Though the NP can't wait to take on its old nemesis, the ANC, its candidates anticipate the victory of punishing the DA even more. The recruitment drive is going full steam ahead, says Uys.

To get things started, the first of the nine NP provincial leaders has been appointed for the Western Cape in the shape of Sarah Vogt, a Ravensmead community worker and grandmother of eight.

Vogt has since appointed the first of her 11 regional leaders, Sonia Falmer, for the Boland. The remaining 10 Western Cape regional leaders will be announced before the end of September and, says Uys, in the weeks to come, the NP will announce leadership appointments for the remaining eight provinces.

Pure political nostalgia dictates that the number of candidates each province can list will be based on the 1994 results of the last elections that the NP contested under its hero, FW de Klerk.

The party is keen on the dreams that litter its history, "bar apartheid". Its view is that it "handed over a modern, impressive state to the ANC" in 1994.

"That state, with all its resources, was built under NP rule while sanctions were firmly in place," insists Uys.

"What we have after 15 years under ANC rule, without any sanctions, is not what the NP envisioned. It is time for the NP to return and introduce policies that passed the test under its rule for more than 40 years. We are eager to unleash those policies to the benefit of all 47 million of us."

On religion, the NP says it respects the practice of all, but will not tolerate Satanism.

On job equity, it says it is in favour of "a sunset clause" by which it will apply the rule of merit without discrimination because "service standards are collapsing due to the fact that people get appointed based on race rather than skill requirements, and this the NP will not tolerate as we aim to make South Africa right".

Uys claims that the NP never really died. The blame for its demise is shoved squarely into the hands of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the last leader of the NNP, who is now environment minister.

Uys said the party continued to live after Van Schalkwyk sold it out and that factions of the NP had "remained strong".

"Yes, the voters continued. The only person who stepped aside was Mr van Schalkwyk because he did not have the guts to face the challenges of today. He sold out the voters for a ministerial position in the ANC. Van Schalkwyk did us all a huge favour by taking the party out and giving us a chance to sit on the sidelines, but Mr van Schalkwyk is still welcome to join us. It's just that we will not make the mistake again of putting someone in a position of authority who can press the button and kill us off.

"The shutting down of the party gave a chance to other parties to make huge mistakes and for us to regroup and develop a fresh, young, dynamic policy. We have got a mandate from our supporters to put everything in place and the support base is now leading the whole agenda of the party. In fact," he laughs, "we in the leadership are struggling to keep up with the supporters."

The old logo, with the orange sun rising, is back in use and Uys says there is excitement around seeing it on the ballot sheet, even if the sting of 1999, the beginning of the end, is still felt. He's convinced that the devastating history of racial hatred within the party will not affect its chances.

"In fact," he mused, "people see us as the only party that really is for everybody. Zille's party we see as white English. Zuma's is black. We immediately attach the nature of the party to the person taking the lead, so that is why we are concentrating on offering a diverse leadership - and it is working.

"Right now" (he speaks in a slightly hushed tone) "we are busy with a group of Africans from the ANC." He pauses. From the ANC?

"Yes, indeed. Meetings at executive level have been held in the Free State.

"These people came to us and offered to launch the NP youth league, so we know race is not a stumbling block.

"The NP is a modern party. We are not an open grave which has taken out all these fossils in the form of the old Nat leaders. We know we need fresh input, we need the black diamonds who can definitely play a role. We're so excited on that point.

"Black diamonds who have not voted before, and who are sick and tired of race politics, are starting to think for themselves.

"And, unlike some other parties, we don't want to use coloured people as window dressing. We have absolutely all the colours, and we're not going to have to keep quotas as developing our representation must be a natural process."

Uys refers to the NP's policies of 2008. He says the party doesn't have to promise houses and then "hope and pray like hell that people will vote for you".

His party will tell the voters why it can implement a policy, unlike its rivals "who are working on how to con the with a new truck and a new colour".

Uys admits that De Klerk might have winced slightly when an NP leadership delegation recently made an appointment to see him and presented him with their bona fides.

Apparently, the Nobel Peace Prize winner wondered if they might not consider calling the party something different, "though, in principle, he did not have a problem with the name".

In the end, the delegation, the spokesperson confides, left De Klerk's office "as happy people, happy with the conversation we had with him".

The spokesperson is certain there could not be a more opportune time for the NP to reconstitute itself.

"Most of the big parties are not in touch with their voters anymore.

"We're going to give them all a fright."

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