The DA’s “Untold Story”, ch. 2

It’s coming on by degrees

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Drewan Baird. Oudtshoorn. 21 April 2013. 15h00. DA Leader Helen Zille published the 2nd instalment of the DA’s “Untold Story” earlier today – click here.

And click here for the first instalment, and here for my criticism of that initial submission.

I reacted when Zille announced the 2nd instalment on twitter earlier today:

Ahhh, it comes by degrees! This is better! Good, even. But a strategic comms campaign indicates the route at the outset, ma’am!

Today’s City Press editorial hits the sweet spot, I think:

DA must grow its own heroes

The next general election may only be next year, but you know we are in electioneering season when political parties start behaving like juveniles.

The DA has been first off the blocks with their ill-thought-out campaign of appropriating struggle icons and styling its earlier incarnations as a liberation movement.

To use Nelson Mandela in embrace with DA icon Helen Suzman is disingenuous, and displays a lack of faith in its own historical choices. Even worse, it smacks of desperation.

The DA and its forebears made political choices and must stick to them. They embraced liberalism as their political creed when it was unfashionable to do so.

They chose Parliament as the theatre of their political battles, even if this meant partaking in an institution designed to exclude the vast majority.

The DA’s participation in the tricameral system was no different to other groupings participating in various race-based pseudo-democratic dispensations such as Bantustans or the Urban Bantu Councils, “Useless Boys’ Clubs” as those who were meant to serve them called them.

They all attempted to give apartheid legitimacy and a pretence of democracy it did not deserve and were rightfully shunned by true democrats of all colours.

These included another icon of South African liberalism Frederick van Zyl Slabbert, who timeously appreciated the futility of fighting apartheid from within a parliament that excluded South Africans based on the colour of their skin.

By now, pulling a picture of Suzman or trying to project itself as a historical liberator, the DA sets on a dangerous path of seeking to rewrite history or insult collective memory.

Instead of going this route, the DA may be better placed to play a role of a party of the future.

It must grow its own timber fit for today’s purposes. Dwelling on half truths and yesterday’s politics can only hurt the party’s future prospects.

DA functionaries reacted to the fledgling 2014 election campaign in an article in the Sunday Argus today:

The DA has been rocked by controversy over draft electioneering proposals drawn up in the Western Cape and a campaign to rebrand itself by emphasising its liberal roots.

Several DA provincial leaders this weekend scrambled to distance themselves from the Western Cape draft proposals, which seek to equate the ANC with the apartheid-era National Party (NP).

Meanwhile former DA leader Tony Leon cautioned the party that it could not win against the ANC in a contest over the past and pointed out that the party was being selective about its history.

Reports emerged this weekend that the Western Cape’s draft electioneering proposals include an image of the ANC logo with the party’s black, green and gold colours replaced by the orange, white and blue of the old South African flag and images that juxtapose photographs of police shooting miners at Marikana last year with those of the infamous Sharpeville Massacre, when apartheid police killed 69 protesters.

The proposals are reportedly to be considered at the party’s provincial election campaign launch next month.

DA chief executive officer Jonathan Moakes said the documents came from an internal presentation in the Western Cape. “It is not intended to form part of our election campaign… It has absolutely no standing”.

Gauteng DA leader John Moodey said the DA in his province had its own campaigns and intended to focus on service delivery. Drawing parallels between the ANC and NP “is not on the DA agenda in Gauteng”, he said.

Mpumalanga DA leader Anthony Benadie said discussions on a campaign were still under way. Comparisons between the ANC and the NP were “definitely not” under discussion in Mpumalanga; it was a Western Cape matter.

Northern Cape leader Andrew Louw said their focus for 2014 elections would be the DA’s successful track record of delivering services to all and telling the DA’s story, not on drawing comparisons.

Moakes said the DA’s 2014 election campaign would focus on telling South Africans what the party stood for.

“Most South Africans will want to hear what the DA has to offer,” he said, dismissing that there would be any negative impact on the DA from the Western Cape presentation.

The DA’s leader in the Western Cape, Ivan Meyer, did not respond to requests for comment.

The ANC slammed the Western Cape proposals, saying “the DA has stooped to its latest low”.

“Not only is comparing the ANC to the NP disingenuous, it is also not factual,” said ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu. “The ANC continues to uphold the highest values of a free, transparent and democratic country, which cannot be comparable to the erstwhile apartheid system.”

The DA last weekend launched its “Know Your DA” campaign in Alexandra, Johannesburg with pamphlets depicting Nelson Mandela embracing liberal stalwart Helen Suzman next to the words “We played our part in opposing apartheid”.

This campaign seeks to emphasise the DA’s liberal legacy and that many anti-apartheid activists, including party leader Helen Zille, are prominent DA members.

This version of the DA’s history conspicuously avoids mention of Zille’s predecessor, Tony Leon.

In an interview with Weekend Argus, Leon cautioned the DA against looking to the past.

“You’ve got to stay in the future business; if you get into a contest about the past, the ANC is going to beat you every time. We can have an argument about what the ANC did… but they have all the moral authority because they represented the disempowered,” he said.

“There is always a danger if you start reliving the past that a lot of inconvenient truths come out.”

Leon pointed out that the party’s alliance with the New National Party, which had helped win the Western Cape for the party, and the “die-hard NNP voters” from the Cape Flats were left out of the party’s narrative.

“The reason we formed the DA – let’s not be too precious about it – was to expand the opposition with what was available, and what was available was the NNP. And the reason the DA governs the WC today is because the NNP voters… came into the DA. People are questioning why the white men are being left out of the story; what about the coloured men and women?” Leon said.

Leon was at the helm of the DA’s forerunner, the Democratic Party. The party rose in the hustings to 9.56 percent support, up from 1.73 percent in 1994.

Meanwhile, sharply different views have emerged among opposition parties at Parliament on how to broaden collaboration. With elections due next year, there is pressure to produce concrete agreements.

A DA proposal for dual membership, an approach which led to the party swallowing up much of the NNP 10 years ago and more recently taking in the ID, has been rejected by other opposition parties.

While these parties have welcomed co-operation, one described this as a “non-aggression pact”, while another hinted that egos and personalities were getting in the way.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said last week there was “a tentative understanding of issues we can take to the electorate that we have agreed (on)”. This included governance arrangements in all spheres of state “if we get the necessary majority”.

However, DA MP and federal executive chairman James Selfe said while the DA was “in the market” for co-operation after the poll, election co-operation was not feasible unless all participated under the same political banner.

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3 thoughts on “The DA’s “Untold Story”, ch. 2

  1. No Demo they the DA have no such people! All of them were against apartheid including people like Theuns Botha and Jac Bekker, Koegelenberg et al who still require their employees to call them “BAAS” on their farms. These members of the DA faught gallantly against apartheid. Hierdie mense is goeie mense man!

  2. Demo, It would be nice but I doubt anyone truly knows. We know that the DA is a little like the USA, employing Nazis after WWll. – juxtapose with Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) … Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs and “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, men would swallow one another alive” – Problem as I see it today is LACK OF CONSEQUENCE. NO FEAR!. (wise words, in deed).

  3. I ask again: Is there anyone out there that can tell us the real untold story of the DA cadres from the old NP, AWB, Freedom Front and old Labour Party and beneficiaries of the Tri-parlementary system. Let the DA come clean. Please.

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