By Gillian Schutte
In DA Leader, John Steenhuisen’s, recently tabled, and woefully unsubstantiated, Motion of No Confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, he makes a special meal of sullying Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in a follow up press release : 5 reasons for the DA’s motion of No Confidence in Lindiwe Sisulu.
Top of his list is her apparent ‘attack’ on the judiciary – which of course outrages this white man with his whitewashed party and covert whites only agenda. We all know that in the conservative white man’s thinking a Black woman can do nothing right and certainly never as well as a white male. So, when a Black woman engages in a full-frontal challenge of white hegemony, colonialism and structural racism, she must be taught a lesson and put back in her place.
This is what he intends to do in his confused and inaccurate motion to eradicate Sisulu from the Cabinet.
That she has a vast history with both the struggle for emancipation of the South African majority as well as a long history of service in the ANC seems to not occur to him.
He intentionally writes off her entire body of work with reductive and derogatory terms and statements, pointedly overlooking her successes. As far as he is concerned Sisulu has done nothing right, has made no attempt at redressing inequalities, has delivered nothing of substance and is more interested in Gucci and business class travel for leisure than she is in serving the people she represents.
He pulls this gross prejudice together in a spiteful invective stating: ‘From casting aspersions on the judiciary; leaving the tourism sector – crucial to the revival of the country’s economy – in the lurch; and allowing millions of South Africans to remain in squalor as Minister of Human Settlements and Water and Sanitation, while sparing no expense for herself to jet-set around the world;'
It is hard to imagine what the DA has done to lift the desperately poor masses from squalor – least of all Steenhuisen himself. We all know that the DA’s neoliberal economic policy and objective to entrench a more corporatized government will do nothing to help the poor and everything to further the gap between the rich and the poor as well as continue to enrich whites over the majority Black population.
Perhaps he does not understand this given his questionable post-matric qualifications and his apparent lack of scholarship in anything other than hot air and hubris.
He wants to pull rank over a Black woman with an educational record that far exceeds his and political experience that far outwieighs his – but because he lacks the gravitas to one-up her, he uses the oldest trick in the book. Spin a lot of half-truths and fabrications into a document that the business-serving media will pick on and make full use of in their unfettered fake-news trend that has an obvious political agenda.
It is not surprising to see headlines picked from this anti-intellectual document weaponised and used against Sisulu. In the end it is not the truth that matters to them. It is more about casting doubt in the public’s collective opinion to create mistrust in the minister's abilities.
Using catchy terms such as 'Gucci Minister' and 'Part-time Minister' is not innocent. These are meant to hurt her public persona and harm her presidential campaign.
They are easily used by social media trolls and tabloids alike in a trend that has become so heavy handed and obvious that only the noncritical in our society will fall for it – and unfortunately, they do. Thus a perfectly acceptable invitation will be turned into an illegitimate act that deserves utter condemnation – such as Sisulu’s recent attendance of an MK event.
According to a Times Live article by Unathi Nkanjeni - 'Part-time minister' Sisulu's attendance at MK event draws mixed reaction - many were outraged by Sisulu because she accepted an invitation to attend the Umkhonto we Sizwe veterans' national conference build up program in Ekurhuleni on Human Rights Day. According to some, she attended this event to garner support for her presidential campaign. Interestingly his article makes use of Steenhuisen's document titles referring to her as a "part time minister."
Mission accomplished - the public now ignores Sisulu's long standing relationship with the liberation struggle veterans that stems from her MK history and her ongoing interest in their general welfare - and speak about her as missing in action.
How does this event translate into her being missing in action? In fact, her total engagement in her duties was to be seen in national newspapers in the days following this event when she commented robustly on matters pertaining to revised regulations and improved accessibility across the Tourism industry. Referring to her as a part time minister missing in action is churlish and offsides and ought to be put on record as ad hominin.
But perhaps most laughable about Steenhuisen’s list of recriminations is his desperation to prove all of the above as infallible truth when he states: “A response to a DA Parliamentary question revealed that President Ramaphosa’s leading globetrotter in 2020 was the then Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, who undertook no less than 38 overseas jaunts at the taxpayers’ expense. This is an extraordinary amount of international travel which reveals Sisulu’s insatiable appetite for gallivanting at taxpayers’ cost instead of focus on delivering derive services.”
This, it turns out, is an outright fabrication according to the Chief of Staff in the relevant department. His official response to this misinformation reads: "Minister Lindiwe Sisulu whilst at the Department of Human Settlements Water and Sanitation, did not undertake any International Trip with the department. In 2020, due to Covid 19, no trips were undertaken."
Just what is Steenhuisen smoking to have referred to insatiable appetites for galavanting et al if the 38 international trips in 2020 are said to be untrue? If this is an outright matter of lying to the public it is pure expedience that aims to create reputational damag and should automatically give rise to a vote of No Confidence in Steenhuisen from parliamentarians.
What is clear is that the guns are out and blazing for Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as many conservatives and liberals continue to disparage her in an attempt to sully her reputation. This comes after her criticism of the South African Judiciary and constitution in her article Hi Mzansi, have we seen justice?
The cardinal sin Sisulu has committed is to question the continuation of white privilege in a so-called liberated South Africa as well shed light on the cozy relationship between the current ANC, the Judiciary, White Business, and the Media in maintaining this status quo. This has ruffled blue feathers in the DA as the status quo serves its constituency the most.
It also reveals the DA’s divisive agenda to further the fragmentation of the ANC, most likely with the hopes of destroying it, by putting undue pressure on Ramaphosa to fire a long standing ANC senior leader.
In addition, the DA, it seems, is out to eradicate any Black views and criticisms that threaten the entrenched white establishment and, if this No Confidence document is anything to go by, it appears they will obfuscate facts in their quest to realise these objectives.
*Gillian Schutte is a columnist, filmmaker and social justice/ counter-hegemony activist. She holds a BA degree in African Politics and PM Literature (UKZN) as well as an MA in Creative Writing - Wits.