The DA’s prompt change of tune
IN APRIL this year, a new phrase entered the public lexicon, thanks to wags on social media. To “mantashe” quickly came to mean to change one’s tune abruptly, after the eponymous secretary- general of the ruling ANC did a surprising volte-face over President Jacob Zuma’s dramatic cabinet reshuffle.
This weekend, though, South Africa discovered that it is not just the ANC that can and does “mantashe”; the opposition DA can do as fine a job.
On Saturday, the DA announced with some fanfare that disgraced national leader Helen Zille was to be suspended from the party – but not as premier of the Western Cape – over her controversial tweets on colonialism because she had not apologised for them, pending her disciplinary inquiry for bringing the party into disrepute.
Many praised the party, in particular parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, for taking action – albeit delayed – against the once iconic Zille, who has quickly become a highly divisive figure, a millstone dragging the party down.
No sooner had the hubbub died down than an amended note was sent out – the federal executive of the party had resolved to give Zille 72 hours’ notice of their intention to suspend her and to give her an opportunity to explain why she shouldn’t be suspended.
Only then will the party’s federal executive decide whether to suspend her or not.
There’s a wealth of difference between the two announcements, and none of it is semantic.
Instead it is indicative of the various power bases at play, winning crucial little battles in a long-term war. Zille is both a master politician and a determined individual, very much like Zuma in that respect.
Neither will be going anywhere anytime soon, as Maimane will have discovered to his chagrin and the ANC’s anti-Zuma factions are relearning every day.
The art of politics is what German statesman Otto von Bismarck termed the “art of the possible”, the triumph of pragmatism over policy. The art, indeed, of “mantashing”. The court of public opinion has no relevance whatsoever in the smoky backroom corridors.
This weekend was a lesson for all of us in realpolitik.