Facebook faux pas may bruise DA

Despite extensive efforts to seem inclusive, the Democratic Alliance has struggled to shake off its reputation as a political party with only white interests, and many black South Africans genuinely believe it would bring back some form of apartheid if it came to power.

With the municipal elections coming up next year, it should have taken strong action against its MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, not just a demotion in her parliamentary role, if it seriously wants to shed this image and be considered as a viable alternative to the ANC by the black majority.

Kohler Barnard came under fire last week after she shared, on her private Facebook page, a post in which the writer not only called life under the ANC a “circus” but also expressed a longing for the return of heinous apartheid-era leader PW Botha.

She has since removed the post from her Facebook page and publicly apologised for sharing it, saying she had done so without reading all the way through, and it’s inconsistent with her beliefs. But it might be too late: the post had already gone viral on social media and may have damaged the DA’s reputation.

Past and present leaders of the DA took to social media to try to do some damage control, calling the share “indefensible”. DA leader Mmusi Maimane added that the MP would face disciplinary action.

The DA can survive only so many such scandals. It recruited Thembu king Bulelekhaya Dalindyebo to the party, but he is now going to jail for assault. At Helen Zille’s outgoing ceremony this year, a social media furore erupted when veteran journalist Allister Sparks seemed to laud apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoed, calling him “a smart man”.

Many commentators have called Maimane, the DA’s first black leader, a puppet to white masters. Now would be the perfect time for him to prove that wrong and be seen to push for action against Kohler Barnard.

The DA recognises the only way it could control South Africa is if black people – constituting more than 80% of the population – voted for it.

Many black people are impressed by the DA’s record in political office and are dissatisfied with the ANC’s underwhelming performance. But they are scared to put their trust in a white party. This is understandable, considering South Africa’s past.

The DA did absorb many people who were part of the former oppressive regime. Have they changed their bigoted views overnight?

Incidents like this don’t help the DA to look like the inclusive party “committed to building one nation, with one future, reversing the legacy of apartheid” it wants to be seen as.

If anything, it plays into the ANC’s hands, fuelling insecurities about what might happen if black voters choose a white party. The DA cannot afford this, especially if it wants to win “the big five” in next year’s municipal elections.

It might take the sacrifice of Kohler Barnard to show they’re serious.

Siya Mnyanda reads politics and philosophy at the University of Cape Town, and works in the private sector

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world