The DA keeps proving its critics right in their argument that the official opposition party, with ambitions of governing this country, excels in exposing its double standards and it does not tolerate dissent.
DA senior MP Ghaleb Cachalia learnt this lesson the hard way when party leader John Steenhuisen fired him from his so-called shadow cabinet for speaking out against Israel’s atrocities on Palestinians.
Cachalia, a controversial figure himself, will now find himself as a backbencher in Parliament.
His firing may please DA funders, but certainly, the party’s reputation will take a hard knock, especially among its Western Cape voters during next year’s much-anticipated national elections.
In the immediate term, this decision points to a worrying trend within the second largest party represented in Parliament – that is, it polices what its members can and cannot publicly say. But it also confirms that action is only taken when it is convenient for the party to do so.
Steenhuisen, who claims that by tweeting “I will not be silenced. Israel is committing Genocide. Full BLOODY stop”, Cachalia’s conduct amounted to a display of remarkable selfishness and was in violation of a caucus decision, needs to be reminded of the DA’s position when the ANC directed its MPs and members to toe the party line.
The same enthusiasm was conveniently missing when DA senior member Helen Zille defended her views on colonialism.
No one dared take her on for her views, except then leader Mmusi Maimane, who also got cold feet.
In a sense, this scenario confirms that the DA is no different to the ANC – toe the party line or you are out. But some may argue that the ANC takes criticism on the chin, even by its own members.
That is why it’s noteworthy that none of the black DA senior members have openly spoken about the party’s stance in silencing Cachalia. Whether they agree with his views or not is another question. The issue here is his right to freedom of speech.
Perhaps he could ponder on fellow MP and Good Party secretary-general Brett Herron’s advice: “Cachalia, meanwhile, must either resign on principle or quietly accept his designated DA role as a servant in his master’s kitchen, do what he’s told and leave the important issues to more important people”.