The DA's facile 'anti-colonialism'

Thomas Johnson says Mmusi Maimane should consider the full implications of the position he adopted yesterday

Zille’s colonialism tweet: Maimane’s and DA’s hypocrisy

Colonialism is defined as the subjugation of, or influence over, one nation by another in order to gain economic and political advantage.  Post World War 2, modern day colonialism is to extend economic advantage or an ideology (neocolonialism and communism). 

Colonialism ought not to be romaticised like the British Raj – the “Jewel in the Crown” – often is.  Then the local Indian population were considered little more than servants by their overlords.

Some colonial powers were better than others, and some colonies worse affected than others, e.g., Belgium's African colonies, and in the 20th century, post-European-era, the Soviet Unions' and its vassals throughout the world, Iraq at and after the unprovoked 2003 invasion, etc.

But it's facile and incorrect to state colonialism, despite political oppression and denial of nations’ right to self-determination, uniformly as a rule never brought collateral benefits.  In South Africa that was: a sophisticated western legal system and business environment, built environment infrastructure, large scale mining and industry and educational institutions, especially former world-class universities UCT, Wits, etc.

Christianity went with it in the form of European missionaries who accompanied colonial empire-builders. European missionaries, who often had an ambiguous, superior relationship with locals, founded missionary schools that provided education including to rural people who might never, or not at that time anyway, had access to it. That’s how Lovedale College, Alice, which educated many prominent black leaders, was founded.

Are DA leader Mmusi Maimane, DA, ANC, EFF and other Helen Zille critics like Rhodes and Oxford-educated (alma mater of Cecil John Rhodes, who Oxford’s Famous Oxonians website lists as “colonial pioneer, founder of the Rhodes Scholarships”) Eusebius McKaiser prepared to repudiate (the founding of) missionary schools and the good they brought? Ditto SA being the most industrialised country in Africa (for now), a direct result of colonialists?

Maimane is a pastor (Master's in theology from Bangor University, a colonial institution).  The specific, personal problem for him (if in his haste he ever considered it) is: if everything colonialism brought to SA was bad, then so is Christianity. Is he prepared to repudiate his Christian faith and ministry because of its origin: a direct line from colonialists and its proselytizing missionaries?

If colonialism was only bad, do he and the others regret and repudiate SA's multi-cultural and multi-racial population that came about as result?

The arms and space race between the United States and Soviet Union and their allies, and the huge human, financial and material investment in it, produced weapon and nuclear stockpiles that if it ever came to it – and the world came close with the Cuban Missile Crisis – would have had disastrous, near fatal consequences for mankind. 

But the direct benefits were significant technological advancements in computers, networking, science, research, engineering, high-tech industries and related fields that would not have happened without it, or only much later. We would not have the politico-economy and society, and be without many of the goods, including life-saving medical diagnostic tools, and services at our disposal today. Without doubt the world would be intellectually, economically and possible socially poorer, almost certainly less technological advanced.

Uncomfortable as it is to think the world missed Armageddon by a hair’s breadth and wished it never happened, it’s impossible to deny it resulted in immeasurably good, and bad. (The Soviet Union was bankrupted trying to keep up with the US, which eventually led to its breakup and the fall of communism, a very, very good thing.) So it is for colonialism.

Historical revisionism is fashionable among the politically correct and socialists. This predicament, and failing, Maimane and DA (the ANC and EFF, who subscribe to the other neocolonialist ideology, communism and socialism, are merely opportunists making hay with Zille's and DA’s embarrassment) find themselves in with their overhasty, politically correct witch hunt against Zille for her tweet places them in the awkward position of repudiating indirect, often (but not always) beneficial consequences of a bad practice and time in the world’s history, a time we now judge with hindsight’s 20/20 vision.

In effect, they are in the similar morally murky area of repudiating the good offspring – an innocent child – of a bastard union or rape.

The DA and “Mr Clean” Maimane take the moral high-ground at every opportunity, and like to boast about it. But they have shown they are as juvenile, pusillanimous and backward-looking as the rest of SA’s body politic. The ANC and EFF, which embrace discredited communist and socialist principles (communism’s – under which many of them trained – excesses are conveniently forgotten), and many of their members whose words and actions are genuinely egregious compared to Zille’s factual, if un-PC, remarks, have little to crow about.  But that’s politics. 

Less understandable though, is Maimane’s and DA’s immature, hypocritical rushing to judgement over something that can be proven, however inconvenient that truth is. 


By the way, I can’t stand Zille and have no reason to defend her.  Her combative nature and style of politics and know-all hubris is distasteful. Under her leadership the DA shifted right away from the firm liberal position it held until then, and at least as far as the Western Cape and City of Cape Town are concerned, its former principles of accountability and transparency. 

But if she loses her career, as commentators now suggest may happen, or censured it should not be for speaking the truth, no matter how uncomfortable an element within the DA find it, but for overweening incompetence and/or arrogance that’s so common among SA’s political leadership.