Simon Howell
Simon Howell

Pandering to apartheid

The DA has recently launched a poster campaign entitled “Know Your DA”. It attempts, I think, to bring to light the “untold” role that some of their founding members played in the fight against apartheid. Typical of South African politics, supporters of opposition parties countered these claims with a series of spoof posters, intent on revealing the pivotal role that some founding members of the DA played in actually supporting apartheid.

My concern here is not with the “truth” or historical accuracy of these claims. What does concern me rather is an increasingly predominant form of “doing” politics in this country that is increasingly reactionary and baseless. It seems to me that these posters, and the responses to them, are the latest incantation of a subversive political strategy, adopted across the board from Zuma to Zille, that does a disservice not only to the memory of apartheid, but to the many contemporary problems that the country is facing. The articulation of this disservice can take many forms, but in the instance of this example, it takes two styles: the trivialising of the memory of apartheid in the name of banal politicking, and the (simultaneous) cloaking of contemporary issues in the glorification of an imagined past.

Making reference to apartheid is of course a very powerful strategy in South Africa. Invoking its memory unearths deep-seated prejudices and provides the reference points for a potent moral compass that is understandable and meaningful for the majority of South Africans. However, and as the DA/counter-DA posters show, contemporary references to apartheid often trivialise that memory, using it not as the reference point for our struggle for justice, but as a simple scapegoat for badly thought out political positions. Surely we should use the memory of apartheid as a means of judging ourselves, as a means of determining whether we have succeeded in becoming a democratic nation, rather than trivialising its lessons in a tit-for-tat banter about who did what and how?

Furthermore, both the DA and ANC have changed fundamentally since apartheid, so much so that making reference to their various historical roles draws attention away from their contemporary failures. It seems to me, as ever, that political parties are more focussed on rewriting history than they are in scripting the future.

Of course I recognise that political parties have to claim for themselves a legitimacy that often relies on past incidents. But using the commemoration of apartheid as a mere tool for the justification of their own existence seems to me to do a disservice to that memory. Furthermore, when these political bullfights begin to draw attention away from the many crises facing this country, education, crime, and housing for instance, one must begin to question exactly whose interests these parties have at heart. Neither party, moreover, is “innocent” in this game.

South Africa is facing a number of serious problems that cannot simply be wished away or hidden in the glory of the “revolution”. Rising crime, levels of unemployment, a lack of basic services and so on are not going to magically disappear, however much the present dispensation wishes it so. While it is important to acknowledge that these problems have their roots in the collective history of the country, and that there is indeed work to be done because of this history, the acknowledgment of this is not going to prevent or solve these problems. The reactionary attitude that so characterises this country’s political imagination detracts attention from these problems, bureaucratises service delivery, and wastes time. Have our political parties nothing new to say? Have they no advice, policy positions, or ideas? It seems to me that the memory of apartheid, a memory that should occupy a rare and special place in our collective memory, is tainted every time it is invoked in a banal or trivial manner. I find it absurd that in the face of our many problems, and our achievements, politicians and political parties still seem to think that references to apartheid will heal the gaping wounds in our collective psyche. In doing so they do both a disservice to the past and the needs of the present. Sticking one’s head in the sands of time is not, in short, going to help us now.

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    • bernpm

      Having addressed what you do not like in SA politics, Let us know what your advise is to these bankrupt politicians on their way to create an ANC dictatorship. .
      While at it, you might as well advise the voters how they can achieve your recommendations through the next elections.

    • Feel the Love

      Politicians are completely mercenary, they will rewrite history with a straight face to gain votes. They always have manufactured the truth, nothing new.

      Solving real problems comes a distant second. Its called opposition politics, one of the main features of democracy, but apparently democracy is the best form of government we have. That does not say much for human intelligence.

    • manquat

      The DA is not stupid. The reason they chose that campaign is because they understand what South African politics are all about. There’s a large group of voters that vote with their hearts because they believe that it was the ANC that got them out of apartheid. What they are trying to do shift that worldview in the minds of the masses that give the ANC it’s two thirds majority.

      The DA is going to the root of the problem. They are trying to shift a deeply ingrained worldview, hoping that somehow this will lead the masses to switch their vote to the DA. Will it work?
      We saw how angry COSATU was when the DA marched for economic freedom, the youth wage subsidy if you please. The reason why they were so angry was because the DA now was threatening to take their voters away.
      Switching the worldview and core beliefs of those voters who put the majority into power is pivotal for the DA and they are gaining ground.

      This is a little off topic but I also believe that the current state of education is not an accident. An educated person would never vote a corrupt, incompetent party into power.

    • Dave Harris

      “..subversive political strategy, adopted across the board from Zuma to Zille”
      Simon, in the process of claiming that both parties are equally to blame, you belittle the sacrifices that millions have made in overcoming one of the greatest crimes against humanity under the generations of courageous inspiration of ANC leadership.

      Furthermore, the DA, largly the beneficiaries of apartheid and their corporate media mafia are on an offensive against the ANC by strategically targeting the Guptas who have openly supported the ANC.
      The silence to outrageous media hype in the past week is reminiscent of the silence of the majority of whites during the dark days of apartheid.

    • Littlebobpete

      Ah…….Dave Harrased at it again. He must have been to the Justin Bierber concert last night.
      Both parties are equally to blame for the stances they take, but the ANC specialises in gutter politics, rather attacking the messenger than the message. The reason for this is that by and large, the ANC’s electoral support base remains uneducated and emotionally immature, and the simplist way of appealing to them is via emotion rather than reason.
      The DA understand this, and they too see the need to attract support based on emotion rather than reason. As long as our education levels remain as they are, this will be the case.
      The problem is, the ANC lack any real quality examples of sucess. They trade on their hero’s of time gone by. They have no current hero’s. They realise that if they have to try and use the current lot of leaders as role models for success they will be found wanting.
      Question to Gwede Mantashe. “is this lot of current ministers really the best the ANC has to offer at the moment”

    • bernpm

      @dave Harris: “The silence to outrageous media hype in the past week is reminiscent of the silence of the majority of whites during the dark days of apartheid.”

      How many can be “the majority” of whites and how can this tiny group influence SA politics? The Gupta family has more power. The secretly trained Muslim terrorists -under the sight of the ANC government- seem more a threat than the few boerermacht people in jail for 10+ years.

      come on Dave, times have changed a little since you were a boy.

    • Racist in ANCspeak means someone who thinks (differently from them)

      The Z-ANC – totally panicking because of increasing grass level protests at their failures and corruption began a nasty vilification campaign known as “Operation Reclaim” to get back the Western Cape and other DA-run areas and to keep their own patronage, perks and plunder. As part of this campaign is the lie that the DA would bring back apartheid and undo the good work the ANC has sporadically done.

      Harris’ lies above are typical.

      The DA has responded by rebutting these lies.
      The success of their campaign may be judged by the fury with with the Z-ANC is trying to undo it (see Harris’ letter, for instance) The biggest critics of the Gupta’s hold over J783 are, in fact, his opponents within the ANC, while the DA has said comparatively very little about it especially when compared with the questions it – correctly – asked about the 14 soldiers sent to die for Zuma, defending faceless business interests in an obscure country.)

      Harris, Fransman, Zuma and so on must be ever so grateful that Guptagate has eclipsed the CAR scandal.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      The DA is doing as much re-writing of history as the ANC, and have been trying to claim the Dutch Afrikaner Socialist tradition of the Cape Liberals, Jannie Smuts, and Alan Paton and the Liberal Party. This is just hot air.

      The Progressive Party under Helen Suzman was backed by Anglo American and based in Houghton Transvaal, and inherited the same Rhodes Randlord and Rothschild Financial Backer combination as funded the Anglo Boer War against the Dutch Afrikaner.

      The Liberal party was not founded under Margaret Ballinger in 1953, but was founded by Alan Paton and concerned Smuts supporters in 1948, after the Nats had won the election. They only registered as a political party to fight elections in 1953, with Ballinger selected as political leader, but she was not the founder. I should know – my mother kept the minutes for the inaugural meeting, and the party could not be formatted to fight elections until after my grandfather had drafted the constitution.

      The supporters of the Liberal Party split after it disbanned- the Coloureds supporting the PAC, and the Whites supporting Sir De Villiers Graaff and the United Party.

      The Progressive Party only broke away from the United Party later, with the financial backing of Anglo American.

    • Tofolux

      @Simon, there is a fundamental difference between a liberation movement and a mere political party. The biggest mistake that some make in judging the two is that as DA they want to be judged on the individual (individualism of capitalism) against the ANC as a movement and in that they hope to find some commonality. I do not understand how this assessment is suppose to fly other than to give DA some credibility in the fight against apartheid. I am also quite taken aback that when does an ”objective” analysis on what is a clear travesty that you wouldnt as a very basic and fundamental measurement ascertain how the two has contributed or not contributed against the fight against apartheid. Personally for me, this is nothing but spin once again by media houses to give apartheid supporters some historical credibility. What they dont know is that history will not be written by media houses but by the memories of those who record it. History will therefore judge them harshly.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      You have got it the wrong way around – it was the Dutch Afrikaner who respected and protected the Jews; it was the British who were anti-Jewish anti-Semites. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is a story of Dutch resistance to the Nazis, at a time when it is well known that there was strong pro- Nazi sentiment among some of the British aristocracy.

      Rhodes, Milner and Rothschild might have won the Anglo Boer War in South Africa, but they lost the war in Britain. There was such an outcry when the methods of attacking the women and children and the concentration camps information leaked out in Britain, that the Imperialists were unseated in a change of government and there was a growth of anti-Semitism in Britain.

      The big difference between Dutch and British religion and culture is that the ideal Dutch burgher was a respected merchant trader; whereas in British and French society the aristocracy were the elite and traders, including Jewish financiers, were despised as lower caste and “trade”. Also Britain was Anglo Catholic, the French were Roman Catholic, and the Dutch were Calvinist Protestants.

      Even after World War 11 British Elite Clubs in South Africa, like Kelvin Grove and Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town, banned Jewish membership.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      When I met my husband in 1976 he was a very keen sailor and a member of Royal Cape Yacht Club. He and his friend Brian Robertson bought a small racing quarter ton yacht together. Because they had become friends working for Shell Oil, and Brian was a Shell pensioner, and Tom had a Shell service station lease, they named the yacht “Doppie” (Afrikaans for “Shell” and also for a “Small Drink”).

      When they dressed their crew in Shell T Shirts there was an outcry from members about “crass commercialising” of a gentleman’s sport! Now all racing yachts are sponsored.

      How fast Money changes Morality!

    • Tofolux

      Actually Simon, you should be commended for raising an issue of honesty. I will always maintain though that there is something fundamentally dishonest and patronising in the DA. Isnt it ironic that media is so silent on this particular issue of honesty?

    • Enough Said

      When those who vote for the ANC on the basis it was a liberation movement (struggle credentials) realize it is no longer that but an elitist crony capitalist party that serves the interests of certain high ranking party members and powerful families the better.

      Right now the ANC rank and file are being mislead big time.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      There are many cases in history of “winning the war, but losing the peace”. When Bush and America invaded Iraq I was staying with a friend and in bed with flu. When he told me what was happening I dragged myself and my blankets to the living room to watch BBC News with him, and the first thing I said was “They will win the war, but lose the peace.” I was stunned that the USA would make the SAME mistake they made in the Vietnamese War of my youth AGAIN!

      It looks to me like the ANC is also losing the peace.

    • Truth be known

      The rand is falling and the rest of the world know South Africa hitting an all time low with secret hearings on the Guta case and Nkandla. Spin doctors can try and mislead us in the local media, but a banana republic trend of government secrecy is being set and South Africa is heading south. Those who invest in this country can see the writing on the wall. Dictatorship here we come.

    • Tofolux

      @Enuff Said, you can insult ANC supporters all you like. The fact remains that it is a liberation movement with longstanding credentials throughout the world. Every well known person from Presidents, to philosophers to writers to entertainers to activists have always wanted or desired an association with the ANC, its leaders, its cadres or its fighters. Many stories have been written, many films have been produced and many an example has been made of its illustrious history and those who fought and died in its name. Thats the reality. It is a 100year movement with an incredible history. The DA has none of these associations, it has not fought in its name for the freedom of ANY person. Most of its members and its supporters are people who fought for apartheid and supported apartheid. The ANC fought for freedom of oppression and the DA did not. It is a fact that cannot be challenged. Let me remind you, the spin doctors, the media and others that there is a wonderful phrase coined by an illustrious freedom fighter named Amilcar Cabril, and it says” TELL NO LIES, CLAIM NO EASY VICTORIES”. This phrase describes the DA in a few simple wordss and it reinforces the fact that it will tell lies and it will claim easy victories. It says a lot about the nature and values of a party, its supporters and its members. It tells us that on closer investigation you will come across an underbelly of sinister associations that will seek to take us back to apartheid type status of refugees.

    • Mr Sarcasm


      “Every well known person from Presidents, to philosophers to writers to entertainers to activists have always wanted or desired an association with the ANC, its leaders, its cadres or its fighters.”

      Especially the Gupta’s want this association very strongly. đŸ˜‰