“For the past 30 years we fought against apartheid law tabled in parliament.” This, among others, is a tagline from the Democratic Alliance’s perfidious “Know Your DA” campaign. “Know Your DA” is the DA’s kick-starter campaign for 2014 general election. The campaign was launched in January by the DA Leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille in Umzimkhulu in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Zille has explained that the purpose of the campaign is to tell the “untold story” of the DA. This “untold story” is that “The Democratic Alliance was and remains part of South Africa’s struggle for freedom”.
While a few poster-child blacks have responded fervently to the supposedly secret history of the liberation of South Africa, many black people (like me) are in shock and utter disgust.
The reason for our disgust is not, as many believe, because we think we have a monopoly over the legacy of the liberation movement or even its heroes. We acknowledge all those who contributed to our liberation, whatever their contributions.
We also acknowledge that many other movements existed simultaneously with the liberation movement. There were movements for multiracialism or non-racialism or liberalism or whatever. These were “struggles” of preference, or social or economic necessity. These were “struggles” of choice.
The liberation movement on the other hand was a struggle for the emancipation of black folks. It started more than a half-century before apartheid. This was the struggle of Bambatha kaMancinza, the struggle of Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo and many others. It was this struggle which gave birth to the ANC in 1912.
The liberation movement, which intensified after the institutionalisation of black oppression in 1948, was not just a struggle for recognition, but for the respect of humanity and inherent dignity. It was a struggle for blacks to retain their citizenship in the land of their forefathers.
What Zille and the likes misunderstand is that apartheid was not just a Minotaur that blacks had to slay to exit the labyrinth of poverty and suffering. For black folks, apartheid was not a failed exercise or policy gone wrong. Apartheid was the intensification a ghastly reality that had battered blacks for centuries.
For Helen Suzman, politics was her chosen career, not freedom fighting. She had the choice to quit her job as university lecturer and to become career politician, as it was Helen Zille’s choice to become a journalist. Further, both Helens were beneficiaries of the system which oppressed blacks and neither of them denounced those benefits.
The Rivonia Trialists didn’t choose to be prisoners at Robben Island. They didn’t choose to become “freedom fighters”. They were freedom fighters by virtue of being born. Their only other option would have been to accept that they were sub-human. Any black person alive in South Africa who wanted their humanity, dignity and equality, was a freedom fighter.
Freedom fighters did not cherry-pick the system. They did not accept some parts of the system and reject some simply because it was fashionable to do so. When the apartheid government gave Mandela and others limited citizenship by handing them passes, they denounced such a “benefit” and set those passes on fire.
What the DA must understand is that blacks are not naive. We don’t secretly believe that black people or the ANC alone slew apartheid. Blacks acknowledged the role played by all races in the demise of apartheid when our leaders the signed Constitution. The Constitution is now the foundation that anchors our democratic state. It is the stone on which our values are cast.
The Constitution was not a mistake. It inscribes the values that have long been part of the liberation movement’s foundation. These values were first realised in the Freedom Charter in 1955, in the ANC’s “Bill of Rights for a New South Africa” and later in the 34 Constitutional Principles, which formed the backbone of the Constitution of the Republic.
According to Helen Zille: “Not many people know that the Constitution that emerged from the Codesa negotiations has its roots in the Molteno Commission set up by the Progressive Party back in 1961. We recommended a national convention, an entrenched Constitution, a bill of rights, a common voters’ roll, a clearly defined role for the provinces and an independent judiciary.”
This is a lie and an affront on the soldiers of the liberation movement who died from oppression between 1961 and 1994.
The DA says that South Africans fear that if it came into power, it would bring back apartheid. Yet the DA is in power in the Western Cape! So then, how is the Western Cape different from the rest of South Africa? Are all parts of the country afraid of the DA except the Western Cape?
A more fundamental question, what about all the victims and children of victims of apartheid who vote DA? Is it because they are smarter than the rest and they alone know the correct history of South Africa.
The fact is that the Know Your DA campaign seeks to mislead South Africans. It makes a mockery of sacrifice. Suddenly, Helen Suzman’s stroll to visit Robben Island or Helen Zille’s newspaper article is the same as Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in a 4X6 cell. The Know Your DA campaign is insulting.