030214. Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Rosebank. Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille during the news conferences following Sundays announcement that the alliance between Mamphela Ramphele and the DA had fallen through. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Toadies are not only those who suck up to the government, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.

Pretoria - DA leader Helen Zille made an interesting point the other day. Writing in Independent Newspapers’ titles, she approvingly quoted pre-eminent American jurist Louis Brandeis who once said: “We may have democracy or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. But we cannot have both”.

Zille used the quote in her criticism of President Jacob Zuma’s decision to approve a pay rise for his cabinet and public servants.

What was startling about the quote was that it was under Zille’s name. We know that busy politicians like her do not always write stuff that appears under their name. That said, she has not protested that it was done without her permission, so we assume she believes what she wrote.

Insofar as the DA could be regarded as a broad church, it would be of those who believe in the various forms of free-enterprise, from libertarians who want no state involvement at all to liberals who believe that the world would be a better place if everybody was nice to each other in a capitalist state.

The DA and its ideological ancestors have traditionally been the party funded by the mostly English-speaking mining and finance moguls. They have been funded by those Zille now says are antithetical to democracy.

For Zille to therefore quote a man who among his many accomplishments was publishing a book titled Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It, which aimed at exposing and curbing the power of large banks and big corporations in public policy, Zille operated outside of her usual parameters.

As things turn out, Zille has not heeded her own counsel.

She entered into an arranged marriage with AgangSA’s Mamphela Ramphele on the advice of that South African-born billionaire businessman Nathan Kirsh, someone whose financial status would describe those Zille implicitly suggests is bad for democracy.

If it is good for the goose that is Zuma and his government, then it must be good for the gander she and her party are.

Besides it is too much of a stretch to suggest that the salaries paid by the state create “wealth that is concentrated in the hands of the few”.

As champions of free trade, the DA ought to know better than everyone else that real wealth seldom comes from earning a salary, unless you are a mining or a telecoms executive.

If Zille believes what she wrote in this newspaper last week, then she must face her core constituency as much as she should address Zuma.

Given what we knew already and what was again confirmed at the weekend with the news that Kirsh was the mysterious businessman behind the failed DA-Agang merger, it would be highly hypocritical of Zille and the DA to think that old money bags are only bad for those in government but perfectly acceptable for the them.

Not that the ANC is in a better moral position to judge Zille’s hypocrisy.

The governing party is no saint when it comes to growing fat on the largesse of the few who have wealth concentrated in their hands.

For 20 years the ANC has unapologetically created individuals who belong to the few in whose hands the great wealth is concentrated.

The instant minerals and energy millionaires who happened to be ANC leaders, created by the same few who have traditionally propped up the liberal establishment, disqualifies both the ANC and Zille about talking about how “we may have democracy or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. But we cannot have both”.

It is a breathtaking admission of the flaws of our democracy when a leader of a proudly pro-big capital party says such formations are not good for democracy.

It is a kind of quote more likely to be attributed to anarchist Emma Goldman who believed “if voting changed anything, it would be illegal” than to Zille, whose party, to be fair, also hypes small businesses as a solution to unemployment and economic growth.

It may have been a slip by the leader of the official opposition seduced by a profound quote from one of the best thinkers of his generation, but it reminds us in civil society that true democracy is not just about making a mark next to some politician’s face every five years.

It also reminds those who believe that being independent-minded means to be cynical of anything that comes from the governing party but accept the versions of everyone else as gospel.

Toadies are not just those who suck up to the government or the ANC, but it is anyone who sells their soul to the highest bidder, including those in the opposition or business.

* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is executive editor of the Pretoria News

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