Racial divide threatens to collapse SA’s official opposition


DA leader, John Steenhuisen

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) AN exodus of black leaders from South Africa’s official, albeit beleaguered, opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), gives credence to the notion of white supremacy that it has struggled to shed off since its founding almost 20 years ago.

In a country that is struggling to rid itself of racial disparities and skewed control of the economy, this spells doom to the opposition party with municipal elections scheduled for October.

The resignation of Phumzile Van Damme as a Member of Parliament (MP) and from the party is the latest in a series of high profile resignations from the DA by black leaders.

It brought to an end a damaging spat between party and member which dates back to three years ago when Van Damme had an altercation with a man she allegedly punched reportedly in self-defence.

Party members argued the ensuing legal battle between the party and her was linked to the incident that occurred in Cape Town, the DA’s stronghold.

Van Damme slammed a “clique of individuals” within the party for her decision to leave.

It is not the first time this so-called clique has cropped up each time a black leader has exited in a huff.

Van Damme has previously been the party’s spokesperson and Shadow Minister of Communications.

At the time of resignation, she was the party’s member of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies.

The DA wore a brave face amid the resignation.

“The DA wishes Phumzile well in her future endeavours,” Siviwe Gwarube, the party’s national spokesperson, stated.

Her resignation comes hot on the heels of first black leader Mmusi Maimane, to lead DA resigned.

Van Damme quit as Federal Leader of the DA Women’s Network (DAWN) at the end of April.

The veteran politician’s exit coincided with that of her partner, Bonginkosi Madikizela, who resigned as the Western Cape’s party leader and Transport and Public Works Member of the Executive Committee (MEC).

The DA has found itself increasingly besieged in the wake of a dispiriting outcome of its 2019 election results.

Then, it lost a share of its traditional support base –white voters- to rival parties.

This despite securing 20,77 percent of the vote.

The first high-profile resignation of a black leader in the DA was Herman Mashaba’s later in 2019. Mashaba is the mayor of Johannesburg.

The iconic businessman was the mayor of Johannesburg.

He quit in 2019 because of differences with the DA party leadership. Mashaba, the Black Like Me cosmetics company founder, is now the leader of the ambitious opposition Action SA.

The most prominent resignation from the DA remains that of then-party leader, Mmusi Maimane, three days later (October 23).

He led the party from 2015.

The pair’s resignation followed the election of former party leader, Helen Zille, as federal council chairperson,.

It is a high-ranking position in the DA.

Maimane’s resignation ended months of hearsay that he would be fired as party leader following the party’s decline in the 2019 general elections.

A pastor, he subsequently formed the One South Africa Movement in 2020.

Tony Leon, leader of the DA from its inception in 2000 until retirement seven years later, in April this year triggered a racial stir when he described Maimane as “an experiment gone wrong.”

It remains a mystery what inspired the careless statement but critics believe DA was banking on Maimane to lure black voters to the party and shatter the notion DA was pro- white.

John Steenhuisen succeeded Maimane after overcoming Mbali Ntuli in a contentious intra-party election in which he emerged with 80 percent of the vote.

“Colonialism is in DA’s DNA,” said Johannesburg-based socio-political commentator, Sifiso Mkhize.

Mkhize echoed a long-held view that the DA would “take us back to apartheid” if it were to win elections.

– CAJ News


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