Lindiwe Mazibuko: An assessment

Isaac Mpho Mogotsi asks whether the DA parliamentary leader is the real McCoy

In the "Powerpuff Girls" political triumvirate running the Democratic Alliance (DA) today - made up of the party leader Hellen Zille, the Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, and the newly elected DA parliamentary caucus leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko - it is clear the last is the most junior. Yet, to hear the DA's political spin, it is upon her broad shoulders that the future fortunes of the party are placed.

Were the DA's "Powerpuff Girls" female triumvirate to stand at attention before the party's political future, Lindiwe Mazibuko would easily be tapped as the Woman of Substance from the three. The DA future is for her to fashion, or muddy.

There are three distinct historical political tasks before her to fulfill, as she sails off into sunrise as the newest member of the DA's "Powerpuff Girls" ruling triumvirate. Firstly, she is tasked with ushering in the DA electoral victory over the ANC in 2019. Secondly, she must ensure a steady increase of support for the DA amongst black voters between now and 2019. Thirdly, she is expected to continue to project to the white voters the face of a good, non-radical, non-controversial, dutiful, trustworthy, and reasonable but politically active young black South African, namely to be the Good Young Black Person.

In this role, she would be a counterpoint to the white voters' irrational notion of, and fear for, a radical, controversial, ill-tempered, ill-mannered, ugly, and politically active young black South African. In brief, she is expected to continue to be a re-assuring anti-Julius Malema persona. This, in a nutshell, is the DA's political agenda, and operating framework, for Lindiwe Mazibuko.

That she subjectively mouths on endlessly, and boringly, about the virtues and values of post-apartheid South African liberalism, or occasionally throws in a quote here from A.C Greyling's "Towards the Light", or approvingly memorizes passages there from Amartya Sen's "Development as Freedom", does not make oblique, nor does it  obscure, this fundamental core political program bequeathed to Lindiwe Mazibuko, as the first substantial black DA parliamentary leader.

In the words of the Soviet leader, Vladimir Lenin, Lindiwe's unadorned chief political goal is to facilitate the DA's unhindered capture of national State power in South Africa.

Or as she herself once inelegantly put it in a recent interview with the Mail and Guardian, "the Union Buildings is the prize"!

It is vital to note that were Lindiwe Mazibuko to achieve for the DA the three major political goals assigned to her by her DA political masters, she would indeed go down in the history of South Africa as a legendary figure of massive historical importance, on par with South African leaders like Paul Kruger, Jan Smuts and Nelson Mandela.

Afterall, she would have deposed Africa's oldest liberation movement, the ANC, which was, and still is, the political home of global freedom struggle icons like Chief Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ruth First and Oom Govan Mbeki. But, actually, how realistic is all this scenario? Is it the product of DA's political fantasists?

Are we being entertained to an elaborate, smoke and mirrors, political charade by the DA, using Lindiwe Mazibuko as the main prop? In other words, is Lindiwe Mazibuko a fake and humbug, politically speaking?

Or is there even one tiny chance,, that despite all odds, Lindiwe Mazibuko may just pull off  South Africa's first post-Nelson Mandela political miracle, despite her almost improbable, meteoric and prescient rise to national political pre-eminence, and usher in the DA's first and unthinkable national rule over South Africa, on the back of a politically vanquished and subjugated ANC? Is she the real McCoy, politically speaking?

The only way Lindiwe Mazibuko can answer these questions to her political heart's content, is by overcoming major political challenges that loom large over her horizon.

The first major challenge she confronts is to make it clear she is not a ventriloquist for the DA's powerful male patriarchy that still evidently calls the shorts, and pulls the strings, behind the "Powerpuff Girls" female triumvirate, as recently exemplified by Helen Zille's bizarre and unconscionable appointment of an all-white male Cabinet to run the DA-controlled Western Cape.

It is clear that Lindiwe totally rejects traditionalist black African male patriarchy and chauvinism. But she has so far failed to give any unambiguous and consistent indication that she feels similarly offended and outraged by the economically powerful white male patriarchy and chauvinism within her political party home, the DA.

She should heed the counsel of the legendary former American actress, Jane Fonda. In her autobiography, "My Life So Far", Jane Fonda wrote that: "Of course there are some women...who are ventriloquists for the patriarchy, who try to get seats at the table by doing things the way men do them".

To be a ventriloquist? That would be too high a political price for Lindiwe to be made by the party she loves to pay.

Secondly, Lindiwe needs to come into her own pretty quickly; to find her own mind and voice within the context of evolving DA politics. Only by doing so will she address the public perceptions, right or wrong, that she is just Helen Zille's poodle, or lap-dog; and that she is inexperienced; and that her young age is a drawback; and that she lacks the right temperament and long enough political internal party grooming to hold a very senior DA parliamentary position. In a word, that Lindiwe is untested by the hurly-burly of national opposition politics.

The best way for Lindiwe to achieve that is to totally disavow herself, and her party, of the false notion that her skin colour represent some black vote- catching political asset. It does not, in the larger political scheme of things, as she herself will soon discover in the next national elections. She should rather sell her leadership qualities on the basis of her political values, principles, orientation and goals.

To do that, she will do no worse than to study closely the amazing rise to national prominence of the USA Democratic Party, and Massachusetts, female politician, Elizabeth Warren, whose white colour is irrelevant, but whose political message is so potent, whilst she has retained an admirable consistency in her political values, beliefs and principles, over a very long time.

If Elizabeth Warren wins the contested Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the departed Ted Kennedy, she has as good a shot, and chance, as any Democratic politician to catapult herself into being the first USA woman President, just on the strength of her erudition, her beautiful and independent political mind, and her highly refined political instincts.

This Elizabeth Warren would achieve whilst she refused to be a dutiful, obsequious and loyal servant of USA's economically powerful white male patriarchy, which is concentrated within Wall Street. She has simply refused to conform and abide by the set-piece rules of America's dominant "financial oligarchy", an achievement effusively celebrated in a long article devoted to her in a recent Vanity Fair magazine issue.

Therein is an object lesson for Lindiwe Mazibuko. In short, Lindiwe Mazibuko, like Elizabeth Warren has done before, needs to demonstrate that she is no one's patsy and that she will be no party to what the Washington Post op-ed contributor, Michael Gerson, recently described as "the passionate embrace of shallow ideas", just to win plaudits from some economically powerful white males within the DA. For a start, Lindiwe should stop describing herself as the keystone, and epitome, of the apolitical so-called Generation Y. Because she is neither.

Thirdly, Lindiwe needs to understand that the precondition, and prerequisite, for her national political success and appeal, is to first effect a revolutionary overthrow of DA's old-fashioned, current, dominant, but moribund political mindset, including right at the top.

This crisis of DA mindset, values and political orientation, was revealed and illustrated in a recent article by RW Johnson, the self-appointed and loud-mouthed High Priest of old-fashioned South African liberalism, entitled "The rise and decline of ANC hegemony", in which he stated: "Recent election results suggest that such resistant attitudes towards the ANC rule have become virtually unanimous among whites, with the white support for the DA reaching dimensions hitherto seen only in the Eastern European People's Democracies".

The only basis for such "East European People's Democracies"-type "virtually unanimous" white political and electoral support for the DA is obvious - white racism and white laager mentality.

There is simply no way such a party, as characterised so correctly by RW Johnson, enjoying an almost "unanimous" support among whites, can be an instrument for South Africa's non-racial and egalitarian future, and less so achieve an equal opportunity society, even if it is led by a well-meaning and prodigious black Lindiwe Mazibuko. Simply impossible. This is especially so because, as DA strategist, Ryan Coetzee, once correctly pointed out, the DA enjoys only 5% of black electoral support, in a situation where blacks make up 80% of the SA population.

Fourthly, the quickest way for Lindiwe to assist the DA to grow its electoral, and political, support among black voters, is not so much for her to boast that she lived and grew up in KZN's Umlazi black township, as she recently did in a late October interview with Chris Baron of the Sunday Times.

It is rather for her to make the words of our venerated author and novelist, Nadine Gordimer, have a deeper and more liberating meaning for our white South Africans, when she once stated:

"In relation to this country, attachment to the land is regarded by the Afrikaners as proof of some kind of right that is entirely separate from behaviour, social behaviour. Whereas the only attachment that makes claims valid in human terms is some sort of vital attachment to the people: you cannot be 'attached' to soil and thorn trees, because these do not respond, you can kiss the earth, in bliss or be hanged from one of the trees in terror - the landscape is totally unaffected by either".

All the white DA members and supporters need to make genuine "some sort of vital attachment" to the majority black population in this country "the only attachment that makes claims valid in human terms". It is not what they own and possess that is vital and over-riding in the long-term, but the welfare and material condition of their fellow black compatriots.

This, even more than drubbing the ANC electorally, and winning a national election for the DA in 2019, could be Lindiwe Mazibuko's greatest contribution to our country's divided, embittered and heated political culture, propelling her into the pantheon of our national political heroes and heroines, past and present. And it is how she will deal with this last task that, in the final analysis, will determine whether Lindiwe Mazibuko is either a fake, or a real McCoy, politically speaking.

The stakes for the DA and its "Powerpuff Girls" leading triumvirate could not be higher.

Isaac Mpho Mogotsi is Executive Director of the Centre Of Economic Diplomacy In Africa (CEDIA). He is also a businessman and former diplomat.

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