DA: Stalkers and sicknotes


It’s day 258 of the national lockdown.

Durban is already in full-on festive mode. The streets and the beaches are already packed with merrymakers, despite the fact that many of us are still slaving and we’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic. 

Perhaps they should be making merry, while they still can.

It’s pretty clear that Christmas — or at least Christmas as we know it — is about to be cancelled. Called off, along with Boxing Day, New Year, December 16, the works.

Things are bad, and getting rapidly worse.

We’ve drunk and danced our way into a second wave of Covid-19; prayed and played ourselves back into level two or level three, just in time for the festive to start in earnest and have nobody to blame but ourselves.


The mobile goes.

It’s a recording of Democratic Alliance federal chairperson Helen Zille, asking me to vote for the DA in the ward 66 by-election that’s been taking place along with 23 others around the country.


I’ve also received several SMS messages from the DA locally, asking me to vote for their candidate for the ward, which is on the Bluff, where my parents used to live. The Freedom Front Plus, which also views the Bluff as its turf, has also sent me an SMS, in Engels nogal, asking that I throw my vote in their direction.

I hit the kill switch, long before Zille finishes her spiel.

I’ve heard it all before. This is the third “call” I’ve received from Helen since the start of the week, when the campaign hit the “get the voters out” stage, so there’s no way I’m listening to her again. 

It’s all a bit weird to be honest. Disconcerting actually. It’s as if Helen’s sitting in some DA eye-in- the-sky control room in Cape Town, tracking her enemies inside and outside the party, stalking media types, watching, silently and malevolently, as they go about their lives. 

I start getting paranoid.

Perhaps Zille has my pozi wired, bedroom to bathroom, after deploying some of JP Smith’s heavies to the East Coast? Perhaps there’s a DA spy drone hovering over lower Glenwood, zooming in every time I spark up a spliff; transmitting high-resolution footage to Zille’s video wall every time I take a shower.

I have reason to be paranoid about Zille.

In 2007, I got the aerials that Zille was preparing to make a bid to take over the DA leadership for the first time. Tony Leon was still officially leading the party. Zille was getting ready to make her move for the number one spot in the party.

It was a big story. 

Tony had owned the DA forever. Zille hadn’t nailed her colours to the mast of colonialism yet, and was a bit of an unknown quantity, politically.

I briefed my bosses in the newsroom I was working in at the time, got the go-ahead and started getting busy. I’d spoken to two people in the party who confirmed what I’d heard, but was still getting ready to talk to more people in the party before talking to Zille herself.

Out of the blue, my mobile rang. It was Helen, telling me she had heard I was working on the story, and that it was too early for me to be speculating about her political future given that nominations had not started as yet.

I’ve been leery of Zille since. Kept my distance. Whether she had spies in the newsroom, or in her own party, or was bugging my phone, I’ve been nervous about interacting with her from then.

I get the giggles. 

The paranoia vanishes.

It’s not just the fact that I don’t live in ward 66.

There’s some irony in the calls from Helen, despite the stalker tendencies.

Since Monday, I’ve been calling John Steenhuisen, the DA national leader, to try and get comment on his placing of DA MP Phumzile van Damme on a “sabbatical” for “health reasons.” 

I’ve had no joy. 

For some reason, Johnny Sicknote has been ghosting me. Ignoring my WhatsApps. Letting my calls ring into voicemail. 

I eventually gave up calling Doctor John the White Tripper.

Perhaps he’s scared that I’m going to ask which medical school he went to? Perhaps he’s worried that I’m going to ask him to book me off sick for the rest of the year?

Perhaps John’s still angry with me for calling him the Interim One, after Mmusi Maimane got the heave, and is never going to talk to me again? 

Perhaps I’ve been blacklisted, although given the party’s current political trajectory, would whitelisted be more appropriate? 

Perhaps it’s just difficult to justify the kind of baaskap thinking that gives Doctor John the idea that his leadership of the party gives him ownership of Van Damme’s body; her life?

Perhaps I should call Helen?

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories


Subscribers only

Poachers in prisons tell their stories

Interviews with offenders provide insight into the structure of illegal wildlife trade networks

Covid-overflow hospital in ruins as SIU investigates

A high-level probe has begun into hundreds of millions of rand spent by the Gauteng health department to refurbish a hospital that is now seven months behind schedule – and lying empty

More top stories

The politics of the Zuma-Zondo showdown

Any move made by the Zondo commission head or by former president Jacob Zuma must be calculated, because one mistake from either side could lead to a political fallout

Museveni declared winner of disputed Uganda election

Security personnel out in force as longtime president wins sixth term and main challenger Bobi Wine alleges rigging.

Pay-TV inquiry probes the Multichoice monopoly

Africa’s largest subscription television operator says it is under threat amid the emerging popularity of global platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime

​No apology or comfort as another Marikana mother dies without...

Nomawethu Ma’Bhengu Sompeta, whose funeral will be held this weekend, was unequivocal in calling out the government for its response to the Marikana massacre

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…