There is no better time than now for the young black caucus of the Democratic Alliance to take a page out of the Freedom Front Plus strategy and tactics and “slaan terug”.
As the DA enters the most crucial time in its post-1994 history, the young black caucus — and indeed black people across the country — need to stand their ground and not only protect Mmusi Maimane, but actively fight to preserve his future, regardless of our personal feelings towards him.
There is a trend that has evolved in the DA that views and treats black leaders as cannon fodder, while white legacy leaders continue to be outdated and out of touch, and are never held accountable for the party’s failures.
The experiences of Lindiwe Mazibuko, Mbali Ntuli Makashule Gana and Patricia de Lille are examples of what happens when influential voices of colour question and challenge the capacity, experience, logic and relatability of the white legacy leaders in the party.
These legacy leaders are characterised by the older classic liberals in the vein of Helen Zille, the quasi-libertarians led by chief whip John Steenhuisen and the neoconservatives led by James Selfe, the federal chairperson and resident patriarch.
To describe the current situation of black DA leaders who don’t toe the legacy line as perilous is an understatement — it is more akin to a massacre. If anyone is to fall on their sword or be the face of collective responsibility, it should be the leaders of the legacy groupings in the party. But that won’t happen if no one is willing to take the fight to them — especially now, considering the window of opportunity available after the recent election results.
The young black caucus comprises prominent leaders of colour under the age of 35 who play a variety of roles in the party. This caucus is less of a formalised structure and more a collection of allies with similar views and ideologies regarding the DA’s current trajectory and future ambitions.
It is a group committed to the improvement of the lives of South Africans without the additional need, addiction even, to being colour-blind across every single aspect of the party’s policy and ideological infrastructure.
From Ntuli and Phumzile van Damme to Luyolo Mphithi and others, these young black leaders play roles as MPs, MPLs, spokespersons, parliamentary administrative staff, emboldened and intellectual bureaucrats scattered across government structures and various communications managers and directors in the party.
There is a desperate need for this caucus to behave less like a WhatsApp group and more like a political structure of influence.
Furthermore, the need for the young black caucus to stand its ground should be critical to any young black South African, regardless of their political affiliation or beliefs, because their fight is our fight. The idea that their future should be tied to the feelings of a white boss should resonate with many of us.
I don’t particularly like the DA in any respect, but I will be damned if I allow another young black leader to be marginalised by whiteness. If we allow our egos to stand in the way of helping this caucus, then how do we, as young black South Africans, even begin to fathom uplifting all black people in the country?
The notion of toeing the party line to move up the ranks to make a change in the future is only valid if you are allowed to express yourself truly in the future.
Maimane’s position as party leader is as precarious as it has ever been in the DA, with words about the lack of confidence in his leadership spreading like wildfire across the party’s various WhatsApp groups and its federal executive council.
The party will retain him as the leader in the run-up to the 2021 elections and its elective conference, but now is the time for the DA’s young black caucus to be the vanguard of black leaders in the party. Not because you are black, but because you are the most qualified for the role and you should own that viewpoint as an organised collective rather than individuals.
You worked hard to push the message of change in the country during the elections, but are you willing to push for change in your party?
Stop taking roles as spokespeople of the party and start demanding a seat at the decision-making table. Stop deferring or allowing the white legacy of the party to control your future and ambitions.
Now is your time. Stand your ground. Change this party before they remove you from it. Otherwise all your beliefs and dreams of building a better South Africa will be for nothing because, whether you like it or not, the legacy leaders will soon come looking for you.
First they came for Mazibuko and, because you were not old or experienced enough, you didn’t speak out. Then they came for Ntuli and, because you were too afraid of Zille and the donors that she spins around her silver tongue, you didn’t speak. Then they came after Maimane but, because you have key performance indicators you have to achieve, you didn’t speak. When they eventually come for you, don’t expect the country to speak up for you.
Don’t be another casualty in a war of which you are only a foot soldier. Take command and “slaan terug”.
Rekgotsofetse Chikane is the author of Breaking a Rainbow, Building a Nation: The Politics Behind #MustFall Movements