Zille is the big­ots’ new poster girl

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

In jour­nal­ist cir­cles, He­len Zille has at times been un­fairly com­pared to Es­sop Pa­had. Un­fair to both of them, that is. They would def­i­nitely both be deeply of­fended to be likened to each other and would prob­a­bly stran­gle you for mak­ing the com­par­i­son. The one is a hard-boiled lib­eral who con­sid­ers the other a back­ward Stal­in­ist, and the other is a so­cial­ist son of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment who con­sid­ers the other a re­ac­tionary.

When they were both still at the peak of pub­lic life, there was no love lost be­tween them.

But those who com­pared them were not too far off. They share a gene.

Pa­had, an ANC lu­mi­nary and for­mer se­nior min­is­ter, struck fear into many hearts as erst­while pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki’s en­forcer. When Premier Zille held both po­lit­i­cal of­fice and the lead­er­ship of the DA, she was the clos­est thing the party and its pre­ced­ing in­car­na­tions had to a strong­man.

The bond that Pa­had and Zille shared was an in­tol­er­a­ble de­gree of in­tol­er­ance. This was felt equally by their party col­leagues, staffers and their po­lit­i­cal foes. Of course, the poor tribe called jour­nal­ists got the sharpest end of their iras­ci­ble per­son­al­i­ties. This lowly jour­nal­ist won’t go into de­tails here but, if you hap­pen to bump into a mem­ber of our tribe, take them to their near­est wa­ter­ing hole and buy them a qual­ity sin­gle malt and they will down­load their tales.

Not to to­tally ab­solve him, but Pa­had can be ex­cused for his ten­den­cies. He grew up in an SA Com­mu­nist Party en­vi­ron­ment that had been heav­ily in­fected by the cul­ture of Stal­in­ism. His univer­sity days were those in which the ide­al­is­tic hard left be­lieved it had all the answers and ev­ery­body else was ig­no­rant or mad. Zille is a for­mer jour­nal­ist and there­fore once be­longed to the most tol­er­ant and open-minded bunch of peo­ple in the world.

The two find them­selves in very dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances to­day. Pa­had is one of the 100-odd strug­gle vet­er­ans who are try­ing to save the ANC from a klep­to­cratic clique that is cer­tain to sac­ri­fice a legacy of more than a cen­tury to a fam­ily that does not give a hoot about South Africa’s past, present and fu­ture.

Zille is wag­ing her own de­ter­mined strug­gle to de­stroy what­ever chances her party has of con­tribut­ing to the al­ter­ing of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape. While Pa­had fights to save democ­racy, she is fight­ing to save the pres­tige of the colo­nial­ism project.

Since those in­fa­mous early-morn­ing tweets af­ter a long, tir­ing and ob­vi­ously emo­tional flight from the Far East, Zille has been on a mis­sion of de­struc­tion. The ob­vi­ous first tar­get of de­struc­tion is her­self and her rep­u­ta­tion. That’s okay. We all have the right to mess our­selves up.

The other tar­get is DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who was never sup­posed to grow out of her shadow and out­shine her. He was al­ways sup­posed to ac­knowl­edge un­der whose lead­er­ship he grew to be a na­tional fig­ure. That’s okay, too. He is a big boy who went through pu­berty when Whit­ney Hous­ton could still sing.

Zille is also aim­ing her poi­soned ar­row at the party she once led, un­able to ac­cept that her phone doesn’t ring ev­ery five min­utes any more.

The party will suf­fer huge set­backs as a re­sult of her ac­tions and gains made will be re­versed. An in­ter­nal war is al­ready rag­ing as her loy­al­ists dig trenches to de­fend the last cred­i­ble de­fender of colo­nial­ism. The work that was done to re­po­si­tion the DA in the minds of black peo­ple – a lot of it by her – is be­ing un­done. Strate­gic al­liances are be­ing dis­solved, threat­en­ing the DA’s hold on the lo­cal gov­ern­ments it gained last year through coali­tions. But that is the DA’s prob­lem.

Zille’s great­est crime is un­der­min­ing the South African project. She is now po­si­tion­ing her­self as the leader of white South Africans who are sup­pos­edly the vic­tims of a new apartheid ide­ol­ogy that is tak­ing root. Her self-serv­ing noises of late have sounded more like those of a whinge­ing wanna-leave than some­one who claims a strug­gle back­ground. She has be­come the ed­u­cated big­ots’ Steve Hofmeyr, the Kal­lie Kriel of the posh sub­urbs. The on­line right wing trolls she used to ab­hor now love her. She is the le­git­i­mate leader who is stand­ing up for the marginalised whitey. Her ar­gu­ment that some black peo­ple have ac­knowl­edged some ben­e­fits of colo­nial­ism sounds like one of those “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black” re­frains.

Zille is do­ing this at a time when South Africa des­per­ately needs to re­turn to the ideal of non­ra­cial­ism. The cur­rent ANC lead­er­ship has jet­ti­soned the build­ing of a non­ra­cial South Africa in favour of short-term pop­ulism that is meant to shore up cor­rupt prac­tices.

Dem­a­gogues and big­ots have re­placed think­ing in­tel­lec­tu­als as the driver of the ANC truck. Na­tion­build­ing has taken the back seat to greedy ac­cu­mu­la­tion dis­guised as em­pow­er­ment and rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

Those in the ANC with a con­science (the ma­jor­ity, we hope) are be­ing clubbed into sub­mis­sion by an ag­gres­sive mafia. But they con­tinue to fight, not only for a cor­rupt-averse ANC, but also for an ANC that be­lieves in higher ideals such as a non­racist, non­ra­cial coun­try.

By her ac­tions, Zille is mov­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to the ex­treme mar­gins, the space oc­cu­pied by the Hofmeyrs and Jimmy Manyis.

It is an easy space to oc­cupy. You just need to sound an­gry and ag­grieved, and am­plify the sen­ti­ments of big­ots. Pop­ulism 101.

Zille could well win her case and cause Maimane and his lead­er­ship em­bar­rass­ment. And South Africa’s racist corps will cel­e­brate with her.

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