In response to the racial insults that have been uttered by South Africans against each other, the opposition party, Democratic Alliance(DA), which has also been implicated in the racist attacks decided to set out a clear vision on the party’s non-racial policy.
On Tuesday, 19 January, DA leader Mmusi Maimane held a special media briefing at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, where he made it clear that, “If you are a racist, don't vote DA.” Maimane who has over the years as member and now leader of the DA faced a lot of scrutiny and mockery for being the face of a “white” political party. The DA, in response to such public opinion, has been committed to proving that it represents all demographics and races in South Africa.
To rectify the faint image that has been compromised by bigoted members of his political party, leader Maimane therefore took to the podium to firmly explain the stance of the party to his constituency and the general public. In his speech, Maimane stated the following:
“I stand before you as an individual, with the right to decide for myself how to think and how to feel. No pencil test can define me.
I’m so much more than the colour of my skin, but I will never deny who I am and the forces that shaped me. I will never forget where I come from.
Apartheid may be history, but the racism that nurtured and sustained it continues to this day.
Racism demeans us. All of us, black and white.
It opens the wounds of its victims, and exposes the ignorance of those who perpetrate it. It robs us of the dignity that so many fought for.
And racism divides us. Just look at us. At the very moment we need to be standing together, we are being torn apart.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
When I look back, I still marvel at what we have achieved together.”
Maimane further took the neo-liberal approach in addressing the public claiming that South Africa has come far and should embrace its freedom and honour the vow it made towards true reconciliation. However, he attempted to address the high inequality between white and black South Africans and furthermore how blacks are disenfranchised and still live in similar conditions they did under the system of apartheid. He also emphasised that;
“All South Africans – black and white – must talk about the persistence of racialized inequality twenty years after the end of Apartheid. And, if we believe this government has failed to redress Apartheid’s legacy, we must say that as well.
There can be no conversation more important than this one. It is a conversation we must keep having until the structural inequalities of our society have been flattened.
This conversation is interrupted, however, every time a racist incident hits the headlines and explodes onto social media.”
However, Maimane’s lack of direct and authoritative condemnation of white supremacy within his own political party and in the country’s institutions was very evident in his inability to explicitly demand transformation and radical change in how black people are treated in white institutions (lack of diversity and upward mobility). In fact, Maimane’s speech was more apologetic than addressing the current issue at hand – transformation. His cautious tone and wording was quite ineffective and sounded more like a regurgitation or summary of the late former President Nelson Mandela’s “I Am Prepared to Die” speech in his sentiments:
“Fellow South Africans.
I still believe that most people in our country – black and white – feel a deep and abiding sense of shared destiny. More than anything, they want this imperfect union to succeed.
And yet we are talking past each other, and we are not listening to each other. When we do listen, it’s like the meaning is lost in translation.
Fellow South Africans, we need to find each other again. We need to recognise what we saw in each other all those years ago.”
Furthermore, Maimane added that he was as a result proud to lead the most diverse political party in South Africa, and also because as a party they are able to stand up for the rights of every individual, regardless of the colour of their skin.
Maimane concluded his address with a pledge and commitment to South Africa:
“I pledge to uphold the values of the Constitution, to cherish its vision for a united, non-racial, democratic South Africa, and to nourish this vision in my personal conduct.
I acknowledge that Apartheid was an evil system, and recognise that its legacy remains reflected in the unequal structure of South African society today.
I reject discrimination in all its forms, and pledge to help root it out wherever I encounter it in South Africa.
I will not perpetuate racial division, and will never undermine the dignity of my fellow South Africans.
Instead, I will commit myself to working to overcome inequality and achieving shared prosperity.”
Lastly, the DA leader then assured the public that he will require the DA structures at constituency, regional and provincial levels to set targets for the recruitment and development of candidates for public office. These targets, and the progress made towards achieving them, will be reviewed regularly by the Federal Executive.
[READ FULL SPEECH HERE]: https://www.da.org.za/2016/01/lets-find-each-other-again/