Archive for May, 2009

bull in the china shop Consequences came knocking on the door of the provincial legislature in Cape Town today . I speak here of the aftermath of Zille’s attack on Jacob Zuma and the resultant furore, which led to a march to Mrs Zille’s office today. There have been other events though with a volley of defence of Mrs. Zille from her supporters and certain commentators, curiously the response from DA quarters is so deeply tinged with spin.

Now, obviously there were going to be those who saw absolutely nothing wrong with Mrs. Zille’s outbursts, but what is curious is the amount of commentators who don’t see the simple fact than in politics, especially the delicate art of opposition politics in South Africa, that perception is 90 percent of the game.

And the perception of the statement by the vast majority of this country is that it was rude, unnecessary, and insulting. It was, from a person tasked with nation building, damn stupid.

I say that with respect to an article  posted today on PoliticsWeb, entitled 

“Jacob Zuma and the Anti- Zille frenzy”

Here James Myburgh attempts a grand feat of spin in this so-called war of words, in an attempt to  portray Helen Zille as the victim of an attack from Zuma. Now aside from being just simply untrue, for the attack came from Mrs. Zille, and of course Zuma has said, well, nothing, the idea that Mrs. Zille is innocent in any respect is simply rubbish.

Under the guise of comparative analysis, Mr. Myburgh attempts to portray, what he calls the opposition of dissent of the Mbeki regime as a deeply held ANC doctrine of sorts, which he concludes is now amplified in Zuma. To do this he hops, skips and jumps around the ANCYL and Malema and cuts and pastes the responsibility of this fracas squarely at the feet of Zuma in some sort of guilt by association.

Then in an astonishing display of magical thinking and simple cheek, he concludes that the attacks on Mrs. Zille are about,

“…whether it (THE DA)  (and anyone else) had the right to criticise and oppose the ANC…”


For Mr. Myburgh Helen Zille was well within her rights to say what she did, because it was actually “true.”

In these simple circumstances MR Myburgh wants you to think the remarks are perfectly legitimate, and nothing more than a smokescreen to allow Zuma’s “attack dogs” to savage Zille.r-1

Mr. Zuma’s presidential silence is portrayed as Mbeki style “behind the scenes” manipulation to promote his inarticulate discourse of racism and misogyny;

“There is an underlying theme in much of the anti-Zille rhetoric – dripping as it is in gross misogyny and racialism. This is that no-one, especially no woman, and more especially no white woman, should think themselves entitled to criticise the president’s personal conduct. The ANC alliance appears to be trying to dish out a lesson to her, and South Africa more generally.  “

Calling the ANC racist and misogynistic in defence of Helen Zille boggles the mind. Actions they say speak louder than words.  It’s curious that Myburgh speaks of underlying discourse, because in truth this is really what the whole thing is about. It has nothing to do with dissent.

There is a deeply held perception in this country (correct or not) that Helen Zille’s DA is a white cabal. It was further strengthened by her cabinet choice. Then it was even more underscored by her flippant responses about window dressing. Finally it was all but cast in stone when she took a swipe, out of context at Zuma.

Helen Zille has long been intolerant of dissent. In her stint as Mayor she was routinely taken to task by organisations like the Freedom of Expression institute, for her heavy-handed clampdown on free expression:

The Freedom of Expression Institute is extremely concerned that, in the recent past, the City of Cape Town has acted in a manner that has flagrantly denied the rights of people to gather and protest, essentially preventing them from exercising their right to free expression as enshrined in Section 16 of the South African Constitution.   and    it is necessary to add, Mayor Zille, that the City of Cape Town does not have the best reputation in the country in terms of its respect for the above sections of the constitution and the RGA. Indeed, in an ironic twist, a march on Human Rights Day – to call for the full implementation of all human rights contained in our constitution – was illegally proscribed by the South African Police Services in Cape Town, with the support of the Cape Town Metro Police.”


When it comes to dissent Mrs. Zille has an abysmal record.

0.93152800 1240480632The issue that has the ANC supporters, (65% of the electorate) up in arms is simple respect.

Now that’s a big thing in politics everywhere, not just here in South Africa. Her outburst was nothing short of deeply disrespectful to Zuma, and to the institution he holds. And in any event it was contextually vacuous.

She should just apologise.

Consider, in the light of the above, and the accusations about intolerance of dissent, Mrs. Zille’s response to the Veteran march about this issue.

In true South African tradition, a peaceful march to her headquarters to ask for an apology, expressing massive dissent with regard to her behaviour was met with the same, deeply disrespectful insult.


“Well, I think that the ANC leaders should call those hotheads and loudmouths to account. I ignore them – I’m not making an issue with them. Quite frankly I am getting on with my work and they must dance on the sidelines.”


So now, the ANC must dictate to people not to approach her with their grievances, she is busy. They are hot heads and loudmouths.

This reflects too one of the major problems with Mrs. Zille having a real political position. She is not the CEO of a private company. She is responsible to all the people.

What would be wrong with just going downstairs and accepting the petition ?

Why get rude, again ?

Mrs. Zille has made it clear that she is on the attack. She spoke of using her position in the Cape to “attack” the ANC almost moments after her election.

Here is the rub, her statement about Zuma could only have incited anger.  It was bound to escalate. Now it has.

What beggars belief, is that she continues to up the Ante, instead of just showing some small respect, she spits yet more insult and abuse.

For God’s sake man, surely she can see this will only go away if she just says she meant no offence, that she is sorry for upsetting people, and give them a bit of respect instead.

Her position mandates that she understands the delicate art of opposition politics.

Can you imagine if Zille was negotiating at Codesa ?

More important is that the words from Zille were badly calculated, and reflect a deep lack of understanding the way the majority of voters in this country feel.

Simply put, Helen Zille is an elected leader in this country. She too, is the head and spokesperson for a liberal party. Unlike Malema, she is responsible to the people of this country. There rests upon her shoulders the very real responsibility of opposition politics in a fledgling democracy. The goal here is nation building, and reconciliation. Mostly, she has to preserve the fragile,  and delicate art of liberal opposition politics, and stop behaving like a bull in a china shop.

The consequences are already gathering.