Why Helen Zille is to blame for rising racial tension in SA

Eddy Maloka writes that the DA leader is a divisive factor in our nation, bent on tearing our nation apart along racial lines

Open Letter to Premier Helen Zille

Dear Premier Helen Zille.

I am concerned that racial tension in our country is on the rise, and I blame you for this.   Your party, the DA, has put the cherry on the top by naming part of the Western Cape landscape after one of the leftovers from our past.   BBC News said it all: "Cape Town's city council has voted to rename a street after South Africa's last white ruler".

When we said we must forgive, we did so with the intention of taking our country forward, to avoid a ceaseless civil war and destructive racial hatred.  But we also said at the same time that we must not forget so that in future we don't lead our country in the direction of the horrors of our past.   The "not forget" should not equal the iconisation of what we have forgiven from our past, or the trivialisation, and in an offensive way, of what we would prefer to forget.

Of course, Patricia de Lille is to blame.  But I don't think she could dare act without the knowledge nor consent of her boss, the Premier and party leader.  You take no prisoners in putting down your foot in your party to show who's the boss.  Lindiwe Mazibuko today regrets the day you "made" her.  Mamphela Ramphela dared kiss you in daylight in full view of all of us, and she's now in the political trash bin gasping for her last breath. 

The list of your casualties is indeed long. Ask Iqbal Surve how painful your Mike Tyson body punches can be for he dared you by removing your party activists from strategic positions of his Independent Newspapers.  In your liberal jargon people like you are called "dictators". But I can't use this word to refer to you because I fear what you will do to me. Between silence and ending up in hospital from one of your deadly punches, I choose the former.  Freedom of speech and independent thinking are acceptable and cherished liberal values only  when exercised by you, but not  by those who dare stand against you.

More fundamental however is your perspective and thinking which has entrenched race in the spectacles you wear every day.  

In our Constitution we "Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."  But not to you. Your South Africans are not about to be united in any diversity.  Your South Africa is a nation of "minorities" that are fighting against a  feared "majority". 

You said this in your own words when you addressed the Liberal International Congress in Belfast on 17 May 2008: "In our last general election in 2004, 12.5% of South Africans (mainly from minority communities), supported our alternative ...  Voters from minority groups, fearful of majority tyranny and single party domination, are more receptive to our message."

It is this perspective that is at the centre of the rising tide of racial divisions in our country.  We should be one nation,  black and white;  and united in our diversity  - not "groups", "minorities" versus the "majority", that are framed in "identity  politics" or race.  

This fear-based perspective serves you well.  It gives you more and more votes.  It has given you a metro city to run and the beautiful province of the Western Cape that you treat as your racially defined, exclusive enclave, in a federal setting.  You have referred to the racial undesirables in your province as "refugees ".

Must this be the price our country pay for a political party to grow and prosper?  No! There must not be any "minorities" nor the "majority" in our country, but one nation!  South Africa belongs to all who live in it!

Let the truth be told - you are a divisive factor in our nation, bent on tearing our nation apart along racial lines.

Please, see an optometrist to change your spectacles, plus their prescription.  Say goodbye to the racial lenses! See in Mmusi Maimane not a young black township talent to be exploited and manipulated in the big game of the politics of exclusion and inclusion.  This humiliating treatment of your fellow black party colleagues is contrary to our Bill of Rights which states: "Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected."

Stop fighting any attempt to correct our painful past of land dispossession.  Black Economic Empowerment should not be problem to a true South African.

Our Constitution implore us to "Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;" and to "Heal the divisions of the past".

Help us reach these goals! Be a true leader, our role model! Our unity in our diversity cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the racial opportunism of identity politics.   Madiba must have real meaning to you, and not be a tool to use for your political legitimation, self-gratification, populism, and the quest for relevance.

We must forgive but not forget.  To forgive must not mean to forget or deny that the legacy of apartheid is still alive and in our midst.  To forgive must not be tantamount to opposing redress of the terrible legacy of apartheid.  Our Constitution is very clear on this: "Recognise the injustices of our past".

I can't keep quiet while our country is being deeply racialised under the guise of some cheap, opportunistic non-racialism. You are taking our nation backwards. 

Please, join the fast moving train towards nation-building.  Be part of the majority!  Be part of South Africa!  Be a South African, not a "minority" trapped in siege mentality and fear of being overwhelmed by some "majority".

In this nation of ours, there are no "minorities", but all of us - the majority!

Eddy Maloka is Adjunct Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and author of Friends of the Natives: The Inconvenient Past of South African Liberalism. He is also Special Adviser to the Minister of the International Relations and Cooperation.  He writes in his personal capacity.

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