Cape Town - 140618 - Pictured is Phumzile Van Damme. The State of the Nation Debate started today and will continue tomorrow as parties debate the address the President made the evening before. Picture: David Ritchie (083 652 4951)

The attack on Phumzile van Damme makes a mockery of the life of struggle that ANC activists endured, says Yonela Diko.

Cape Town - The attack on DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme is mischievous.

When Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete made a speech at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, he jokingly asked Thabo (Mbeki) whether he had returned the passport issued to him by the Republic of Tanzania all those years back.

In fact, the first ANC National Consultative Conference, 45 years ago was held in Morogoro, Tanzania. The audacity of calling a national conference of one country (South Africa) on the soil of another could only reflect the complications of the time.

No life of a South African has been linear. The frivolity of pulling a Donald Trump on Van Damme, no doubt trying to parallel the whirlwind of frenzy that followed a sowing of doubt into Barack Obama’s country of birth, on Van Damme is not only mischievous, but makes a mockery of the life of struggle that South Africans endured, being denied human rights in their own country and ending up spending many years of their lives in foreign lands.

Yes, our constitution is clear, no foreign person can become a member of Parliament. But this is not the US.

We have a history in this country that puts a few extra layers into this simple policy so that Van Damme’s mother is correct to say that one has to understand the life of an ANC activist at the time to appreciate the complexity of anyone’s birth.

One can’t imagine South Africans before 1994, risking their lives, risking arrest, darting in and out of the country just to ensure that they gave birth to their children on South African soil. Van Damme is a South African, whatever the complications of her birth may be.

The idea that we are going to let people rise on the back of their hard work and commitment and then, when they reach the top, we try to pull them down on the basis of frivolity, is just too desperate for any newspaper.

We still want to believe our politics has not deteriorated into the silliness witnessed elsewhere.

Yonela Diko

ANC Western Cape Communications Office

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus