Significance Of The Demise Of The Da’s Liberal Tolerance

The letter by JR Whitlock (Mercury, June 19) concerning fake smiles and friends in the DA is pertinent in the light of remarks by RW Johnson in the second edition of his book How long will South Africa survive? Noting the growing influence of China and the frequent pilgrimages of ANC leaders to China, Johnson points out that the Chinese communists have not been remiss in educating the ANC on political strategy (p.132-133). Whereas previously ANC strategy towards opponents was, in the words of Tony Leon, “to demonise, marginalise and colonise,” stealth is regarded as the smart way to hobble opponents. It involves planting activists within an opponent’s ranks and then getting them to foment trouble on the inside

The IFP was an early target for those tactics which saw a breakaway group named the National Freedom Party causing great damage to the IFP and being rewarded as an ANC coalition partner along with a cabinet post. In the drive to blacken itself and to maximise recruitment of black support, the DA runs the risk of infiltration. The distinct chorus among black DA public representatives against Helen Zille over her educated and objective remarks on colonialism suggests that a fault line has been found to exploit with a view to causing division and discord within the DA.

The first indication of that is the demise of one of the fundamentals of the DA and its predecessors,  namely, liberal tolerance. The fact that Zille was obliged to apologise for her historically correct stance on colonialism and that DA leader Maimane has snuffed out debate on what amounts to history and heritage, constitutes a significant departure from liberal tolerance and objective thought.

Although the legacies of colonialism have nothing to do with the utter failure of the ANC to govern, it has dredged up colonialism as a red herring to divert attention away from its corruption and looting, By proscribing debate on colonialism within the DA Maimane is thereby hobbling liberal tolerance. In so doing, he has weakened, not strengthened, the DA. He has thus commenced a re-branding exercise which, in time, may yield further concessions until the distinction between the DA and the ANC is blurred, bearing in mind that already the DA is a firm supporter of BEE and affirmative action despite Tony Leon’s call years ago for sunset clauses to be imposed on them.

Sent into The Mercury and published, 20 June 2017.

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