Johannesburg - Former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko has urged the DA to interrogate the almost exclusive dominance of white males within the party’s “brains trust”.
Mazibuko, a resident fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, has referred to them as “highly disconnected men callously strutting about social media like a law unto themselves”.
She commented online about DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s anti-racism pledge this week: “It would be easy to cast aspersions on his timing and see it as reactionary, but one of the vital tasks of any public leader is to read the national mood and interrupt the conversation in a way that is productive and shows leadership.
“The party,” she says, “should reflect on a culture that isolates black members and leaders.”
Even more hard-hitting is her suggestion that the DA should also reflect on hurtful and inaccurate internal party narratives that presume “white competence”, while labelling black leaders products of the generosity of their white counterparts. It should consider that were it not for the efforts of blacks, fellow democrats working tirelessly in areas formerly hostile to the DA, the party would be nowhere near 23 percent today. A new narrative about working together needs to be nurtured in the party.”
Mazibuko penned her words as political heavyweights were calling on all South Africans to put aside racial prejudice and face up to some hard home truths.
The call comes in the wake of a string of racist provocations, which observers believe are pulling the country apart, causing racial divisions and damaging its reputation as a “free and fair” society. And yesterday, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced plans for a broad national nation-building, social cohesion and anti-racism convention to be held in Joburg on February 1.
Mthethwa met “social cohesion advocates” this week to discuss the proposals, he said in a statement.
Former trade unionist and political analyst Steven Friedman, who is the director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, warned in a recent interview that racial tensions would continue to plague the country until all institutions faced up to their role in keeping prejudice alive.
“How can we fight racism if we don’t admit it exists?” asks Friedman. “If those in the national debate had worked this out before, we might be a less angry society now.”
South Africa, he says, has a form of liberalism that has washed its hands of racism while continuing to practise it.
In the wake of racial tensions, former president FW de Klerk has also called on the government and the communities to come together as a matter of urgency.
A statement from the FW de Klerk Foundation in Cape Town reads: “Let us condemn racism from whatever source it comes.”
this week the uproar continued with the DA fielding accusations of racism involving an MP, Anchen Dreyer, who attended an event celebrating Transvaal Republic president and Boer hero Paul Kruger.
Dreyer attended a Solidarity trade union function three months ago, which happened to fall on the same day as Kruger’s birthday.
She was photographed next to a cardboard cut-out of Kruger holding up a placard which read: “Lekker verjaar Oom Paul!! (Happy birthday Uncle Paul!!).”
In the wake of these new revelations, ANC chief whip Stone Sizani issued statements painting the DA as a political home for racists.
Fighting back, DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme accused Sizani of trying to divert attention from the ANC’s failure at local government level. She called it a “cheap election ploy” to distract the public’s attention away from its record at local government.
Van Damme said the ANC should desist from “gimmicks” as it was pointless to try to sanitise South African history. “The injustices of the past must be recognised and learnt from,” she said. “Those who violated the rights of our fellow South Africans must be remembered for that crime too.”
The tit-for-tat racist punch-up has gone viral with Twitter and Facebook having morphed into a battleground – and each new outburst bringing with it another hefty layer of hate rhetoric.
At the centre of the storm is Maimane, who is having to manage not only a string of racist issues erupting in his own party, but pockets of anger and growing bitterness with agendas being pushed from all sides. Over the past few weeks, he has had to field a barrage of attacks about perceived racism within the DA ranks, ranging from a mistaken forwarding of a Facebook comment about PW Botha to a derogatory racial dig about New Year litter on the beachfront – and now the Paul Kruger incident.
Maimane, who says his role is to remain a “dove” in this slanging match, believes finding solutions to the racial divide is what the country needs. He has called it a matter of urgency.