Five top articles on the DA, De Lille and the damage done
The DA is in crisis. It has fired Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille and its leaders are arguing about the meaning of 'white privilege'. Here are five top articles on the state of the party
Trending right now is this article by Gareth van Onselen with the title 'Mmusi Maimane presses the self-destruct button'.
This article is exclusive to subscribers, but here's a taste of Gareth's argument:
Speaking at a recent Freedom Day rally, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said: "When we speak the truth, there is such a thing that we must confront of white privilege and black poverty [sic]."
The remark reportedly triggered a backlash inside the DA. The party’s caucus meeting last Thursday, according to City Press, led an "orchestrated attack" on Maimane for his remarks and, following a slew of front page newspaper reports on Maimane’s comments and the internal fallout, various DA members spent Monday prostrating themselves before the social media mob, explaining themselves or endorsing the idea.
It was, essentially and at its heart, an unthinking piece of opportunism. Maimane has now opened the floodgates and, once open, such is the torrent likely to rage through them, they are going to prove very hard to close.
It is unlikely the DA leadership will understand what it has done. It will, as is so often the case, believe this a discussion on paper and "white privilege" an idea that can be explained and easily understood. It cannot. It, like so many other words and phrases that permeate the South African lexicon, means whatever you want it to mean.
Writing in Business Day, Natasha Marrian tackles the fall-out from the DA's decision to fire Patricia de Lille in 'DA faces monumental image dilemma ahead of elections'.
There is a widespread perception that black leaders in the DA are dispensable at the whim of an "old guard" in the party — a bloc that has been immovable in its approach towards politics, even in SA’s dynamic and ever-changing political environment.
Former DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko’s departure was vastly different on the surface to the unceremonious dumping of De Lille, but in politics perception is critical.
De Lille did what the DA needed her to do when it needed her to do it — she helped elevate the party’s support in Cape Town to a two-thirds majority. But if her comments on Tuesday are anything to go by, her usefulness came at too high a price.
She claims that her woes began in 2014 when she presented a document on transforming the spatial landscape of the City of Cape Town. She says her agenda would have done away with apartheid spatial planning in the city and would have begun to develop it as a truly inclusive place to live.
Also on the subject of Patricia de Lille, Bekezela Phakathi writes under the headline 'Patricia de Lille’s removal threatens DA’s brand in Cape Town'.
The long-running fight between De Lille and the DA would damage the party’s brand in Cape Town, which was seen as a "crown jewel".
"If this were another metro, it [the fighting] would not have been seen as symbolically important," Silke said.
Deputy chairwoman of the DA’s federal council Natasha Mazzone said: "It is no secret that the DA has suffered … damage because of this issue due to the lack of information presented to our voters."
The DA’s decision was based on an interview De Lille gave to 702, during which she said she would leave the party after clearing her name.
Some ID members were expected to leave the DA as a result of De Lille’s removal.
Business Day's Claudi Mailovich writes about the storm that Mmusi Maimane must navigate as his party tries to re-invent itself in 'Can Mmusi Maimane steer the DA through SA's maelstrom of race?'.
This from her thoughtful article:
Mmusi Maimane said on the campaign trail before being elected DA leader in 2015 that he did not agree with people who said that they did not see colour, "because if you don’t see that I’m black, then you don’t see me".
He added that his skin colour did not define him and that SA’s politics must never again be allowed to degenerate into a contest between races. "Instead, it must be a battle of competing ideas," he offered.
Addressing the DA’s federal congress in April, where he was reelected unopposed, he referred to that 2015 speech, saying: "But the flipside of this is also true. If all you see is that I am black, then you equally don’t see me."
At that congress the so-called "battle of ideas" was fought and a new value, which was championed by Maimane, was adopted by the party. That value was diversity.
The party proclaimed that it would take "active steps to promote and advance diversity in its own ranks". Unlike many other political parties in SA that have committed to diversifying their public representatives on race, gender and age lines, the DA did not spell out what it meant by this, other than concluding that it "recognises the right of each individual to be who they want to be, from domination by others (sic)".
Finally, Business Day's editorial 'Expelling Patricia de Lille harms DA' argues:
The grounds on which the DA has finally fired Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille from the party are so technical that they are ludicrous.
To say that De Lille effectively fired herself when she said on a radio talk show that she would "walk away" once she had cleared her name is also disingenuous. The entire country knows that the DA fired De Lille because it no longer wants her as mayor.
After all, this is about their fourth attempt. Even the addition of a clause to the constitution that makes possible "the recall" of DA leaders, which it appears was written particularly to deal with her, has not done the trick. De Lille was ready to challenge the validity of the clause in court, which the DA had intended to apply retrospectively. Realising this flaw, the DA resorted to the "she fired herself" argument.
In any case, if her undertaking was to walk away once she had "cleared her name", then this is not something she has yet had the opportunity to do. This is a big part of the problem. What she did wrong and the reasons why she had to go are yet to be explained. Yes, there are disciplinary charges laid, which presumably will no longer be pursued, but no proof of wrongdoing has been provided. Instead, DA MPs have participated in the distribution of a faked letter from the auditor-general alleging that she misused public funds.
It stinks as much as the Browse Mole and the hoax e-mails used in the ANC’s internal faction fights. It is as short-sighted a move as was the ANC’s perpetual decision to keep Jacob Zuma in office for reasons it believed were good for the party although bad for the country.