ZILLE AND THE PITFALLS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Following a series of tweets that ‘not everything was bad about colonialism’, Zille has been dragging the party down the drain with her, writes Solani Ngobeni
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Helen Zille is extremely unhappy with what she terms “an Africanist or nationalist trajectory” that she posits the DA is now fervently pursuing. And since she is of the view that she made Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA, she cannot countenance his going astray “ideologically” as it were. The DA’s dalliance with the Economic Freedom Fighters in Parliament must also be abhorrent for her to watch.
Zille is treating Maimane the same way she treated former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko. With Zille, it’s either you bow down before her in deference or you are likely to face her wrath, especially given her patronising attitude that she made them. This attitude is pervasive in her aptly titled memoirs, Not Without a Fight, that somehow black South Africans owe her a great deal of gratitude for her contribution to the struggle and for her perpetually peddled achievement – her reporting on Steve Biko’s death at the hands of the apartheid police.
She also does not forget to remind us that Umkhonto weSizwe combatants used her home in Rosebank, in Cape Town, as a hideout. We are constantly reminded that given the foregoing she cannot in all probability be racist.
It is now clear that she is convinced that she is not going down, Not Without a Fight. She, like the biblical Samson, is willing to take the DA house down with her. Her entitlement is thus blinding her to the fact that she is to the DA what ubaba kaDuduzane is to the ANC. She is costing the DA an avalanche of potential support and voters in 2019.
It is therefore understandable that Maimane’s frustration boiled over, resulting in his prematurely announcing her suspension. Since he is being accused of not being in charge of the party, I suppose he can’t wait for this albatross to be removed and who can blame him. Zille is yesterday’s news, the DA’s future is black. The sooner Zille recognises this obvious truism the better for the future of the DA and South Africa’s political pluralism. Her publishers must be ruing her ill-timed comments. Suppose they had 10 000 copies of her book in stock and her nonsensical tweets brought the sales of the book to a screeching halt? Perhaps book publishers should consider their contracts going forward. They might have to include punitive clauses for authors who wittingly or unwittingly utter diatribe that is likely to bring their name into disrepute, thus negatively impacting on the potential sales of the book. One of the major pitfalls of social media is that there is no moderation of posts. If Twitter had a moderation system, Zille, and by implication the DA, would not be in trouble today because the publisher or editor would have advised her against publishing such diatribe. McIntosh Polela would still have his job today if WhatsApp had a moderation system. Generally, publishers do what social media does not do, which is to give authors or contributors space to cool down. So an author can rant, but by the time the editor or publisher has read their piece, the author will have come down to earth. So while many laud social media for its immediacy and lament print publishing for being protracted, the fact remains that print offers the reader credibility and validity. Every idiot can disseminate any nonsense on Twitter and WhatsApp, but not every idiot will be published by The Economist. Ngobeni is a book publisher and the 2007 South African finalist in the British Council’s International Young Publisher of the Year awards programme