Time for firmer action against Zille

DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille
DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille

DA federal chair Helen Zille has become rather a poster gogo for some South Africans disaffected by the policy and practice of the democratic state.

Much of that disaffection is understandable. But, too often, Zille and her ilk’s brand of colour-blindness finds comfort in racist narratives about our country’s glorious past and alleged oppression of minorities currently.

And, simultaneously, refuses to acknowledge how society is historically structured — and perpetuated — by racist practices.

In comments on Twitter this week, Zille once again ploughed into a discussion on race, writing inter alia that there “are more racist laws today than there were under apartheid”, a statement so outlandish that it raises questions about her state of mind, let alone her ability to empathise with victims of systemic racialism.

Zille’s claims are easily but emphatically debunked by historical facts

She also said former NP leader and apartheid-era SA president FW de Klerk had “decided to dismantle apartheid”.

This comment, absent of contextualisation, diminished if not entirely dismissed the work of liberation movements, the  Mass Democratic Movement, foreign peoples and their governments, even the liberal then-parliamentary opposition, within whose line she now purports to act.

Zille’s claims are easily but emphatically debunked by historical facts, as with other unfounded statements by those occupying the right wing on SA’s political spectrum.

But her nonsense statements are allowed to sprout in the absence of a clearly articulated and lived version of antiracism on the part of her opponents, in the ruling ANC and the official opposition DA.

It is deeply regrettable that, as the systemic racialism of apartheid was broken down in SA’s turn to democracy, the ANC’s formerly exiled leadership did not at all appropriate the strident nonracialism of its internal Mass Democratic Movement.

Instead, under a post-1994 ANC government policy that paid lip service to a “Rainbow nation” while essentialising race, African nationalism became a benchmark and tribalism thrived.

Non-racism in every aspect of life was pushed to the margins, if it was considered relevant at all.

Today, we are hard-pressed even to find a lip service-paying ANC leader commenting on the issue of non-racism or its absence.

We understand the ANC has much else on its hands by way of national crises, which already its current cohort of leadership has struggled to manage effectively.

But in failing to offer a viable non-racist option for South Africans, the ANC permits Zille’s venomous racial one-liners to flourish.

The DA also offers no antidote to Zille’s divisive tendencies.

It has now chosen to investigate her latest tweets.

It must do more, to show it has entirely broken with some of its unjust, undemocratic and racist antecedents.

Or be judged with Zille, and others who hide their true beliefs behind a slim veneer of liberal respectability.