Nothing contradictory in Maimane's statements on race

Geordin Hill-Lewis replies to JKB's criticism of the DA leader

John Kane-Berman’s critique of DA Leader Mmusi Maimane requires rebuttal ("Hunting with the hounds and running with the hares on race”, 27 August 2017). Mr Kane-Berman points to a supposed hypocrisy in two statements dealing with race made by Mr Maimane in recent weeks. However, there is simply nothing contradictory at all in the two statements. 

Consider the two statements side by side. 

Firstly, speaking about the news that there has been an increase in absolute poverty in South Africa since 2011, and that 55.5% of the country now lives in poverty, Mr Maimane said: "There can surely be no greater indictment of any government's performance than the number of people living in poverty rising on their watch…(stemming from) the ANC's economic policies that have failed to grow the economy and create work”. 

Secondly, speaking about the historical basis for the acute lack of opportunity faced by most black South Africans, Mr Maimane said: "the general socio-economic underdevelopment of black people in our country today can be accounted for chiefly on the basis of race-based colonial and apartheid policies”. 

It is entirely true to say that the ramifications of forced dispossession and economic exclusion of black South Africans are still profoundly felt today, and that this terrible legacy has not been addressed by a failing ANC government. Those two statements are clearly complementary and not contradictory. 

To use these two statements as evidence of the DA buying into the analysis of the ANC’s project of a National Democratic Revolution (NDR) or “mouthing NDR rhetoric” is clutching at straws, to put it mildly.  

The DA is the only political party in South Africa that proudly champions racial reconciliation and eschews any divisive race-baiting or scapegoating. However, rejecting divisive race-baiting does not at all require that we reject the facts of the painful social and economic trauma suffered by black South Africans under colonialism and apartheid and the terrible legacy of those systems that still endures.

Neither does it require that we mute our criticism of the venal government that has done so little to unstitch that legacy. It is not binary. That is a relatively obvious nuance that is crucial to our political development and to the reconciliation project.

That is why we took on BellPottinger for its cynical divisive campaign to sow racial hatred in South Africa, and our victory against BellPottinger in London is a victory that all South Africans should celebrate, including Mr Kane-Berman. 

He should not be so hasty to see evidence of an erosion of principle around every corner. Rather, he should recognise the progress made by the DA in building a new coalescence of South Africans around the vision of a prosperous, shared, and united country underpinned by a strong and respected Constitution; and the ever more urgent task of this movement in redressing the economic exclusion that still defines our country. 

Kind Regards,
Geordin Hill-Lewis

Chief of Staff: DA Leader’s Office 
Member of Parliament (DA)