Rorisang Tshabalala has written an open letter to Helen Zille on behalf of the AgangSA Youth Forum.
Dear Helen Zille,
Over the past week, we have watched you go to the media and denigrate our leader and those of us that she leads. Over the past week, we have watched you turn your back on the agreement that you and Dr Mamphela Ramphele both made last Sunday – that in spite of the failed agreement, neither of the parties would be vindictive.
In fact, it was Wilmot James who sprang to your defence saying how, having worked for you for years, he could say that you were not vindictive. Well, this week came and this week now comes to a close, and we have watched as you have proven the words of James to be lies as with every media interview, you sought to raise and rescue your own profile by pulling down that of our leader.
Yet through all of the happenings of this week, we the youth have observed and learnt what true leaders are made of and what pretenders to the throne are also made of. In our agitation and frustration at watching you tell our nation untruths and half-truths at the expense of our leader and ourselves – as those she leads we have sought to return fire with fire – we have sought to match your vigour and vitriol with the same.
Yet it has been Dr Ramphele who has been steadfast in reminding us not to drink from the cup of bitterness and anger from which you have taken liberal swigs as though they were gulps of beer right out of a bottle.
It is Dr Ramphele who has been steadfast in reminding us to continue to conduct ourselves with dignity and discipline not because we are weak, but in spite of our strength.
Two months ago, our nation lay to rest a great South African in the shadow of whose legacy the 2014 elections will be contested.
He was the epitome of dignity and discipline, in spite of the hardships and pain that the apartheid government put him and those that he loved through.
It is through his example and his inspiration that the majority of our nation still carried themselves with dignity and discipline, although on the inside, deep pain, anger and bitterness brewed.
It is the same example that we have sought to emulate as you have gone out to insult and attack our leader and those who she leads.
The DA speaks of unity of the opposition, and yet it is the same DA that seeks to engage in the multi-party forum on its own terms, showing little regard and respect for its fellow opposition parties.
The DA speaks of unity of the opposition and yet it is the same DA that lacks the capacity to imagine an opposition strengthened through collaboration, as opposed to one where the DA swallows up other opposition parties.
The DA speaks of leading the realignment of South African politics, yet it is its own arrogance and patronising of other opposition parties that disqualifies it from leading any form of realignment, and weakens rather than strengthens the cause of opposition parties in the aggregate.
It is this attitude that our members rejected two weeks ago.
Furthermore, the DA speaks about doing away with race-based politics, and yet it is the same DA that, just this past week, reinforced the racial stereotypes that continue to keep us apart. Your tirade this week reminded us of the writings of Biko in Black Souls White Skin about the fallacy that was Bantustans and Bantustan leadership.
He said at the time: “For me, as a black person, it is extremely painful to see a man who could have easily been my leader being so misused by the cruel and exploitative white world.
“It becomes so apparent that whatever one does in the context of the Bantustans is likely to be exploited for self-aggrandisement by the white world. When you agree with the government, you are an exemplary native who sees value in being led by whites.”
This is the reason that we stand by our leader: she refused to be turned into DA’s Bantustan leader, she refused to be turned into a black figurehead for what remains a party of untransformed attitudes to racial injustice in our country and, for that – for refusing to be “an exemplary native”, for refusing to turn her members into refugees – you attacked and defamed her.
We write to you this morning, Ms Zille, to tell you not to mistake our silence for weakness; we write to you to not mistake our silence for naiveté – we are not unaware of the fact that it was your party’s strategy to leak aspects of the talks between yourselves and Dr Ramphele in order to precipitate a rush and an urgency that would make it difficult for Dr Ramphele to consult fully with her structures before an announcement.
Following the announcement, the DA propaganda machine sprung into action and claimed victory, not allowing the joint technical committee to be formed, or meet and iron out details of the nature of collaboration that best suited all parties, and all members.
We have lost out on needed funding because our leader not only took a stand but also listened to members. Yes, we have lost the hearts and minds of some. However, in spite of all of that and in spite of your bullying, we will not wallow in the valley of despair.
Instead, we commit ourselves ever more so than before to give this race our best; to continue to strive to ensure that the fruits of liberation find their way even into the littered alleyways of Langa, Khayelitsha and the Cape Flats where rivers of sewerage still flow unabated.
It may not always be easy, but for the sake of the township and rural child, it will always be worth it. Go and tell your funders that the young people of AgangSA say that our dignity is not for sale.
* Rorisang Tshabalala (Convenor) writes on behalf of the AgangSA Youth Forum
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.