Zille’s recent rant reflects the DA’s 180 degree turn on race

Helen Zille’s latest rant, first appearing on her Facebook platform and later syndicated in the Politicsweb article on 24 June, The DA has no time for racial lunacy, serves only to demonstrate the lunacy that has become Helen Zille.

In this latest rant Zille defines her, and the Democratic Alliance’s stance of nonracialism: “A basic understanding of this means that we accept that people cannot be classified on the basis of their race, and must be judged on their qualities, attributes, qualifications and contributions to society.”

There is indeed lunacy but not where Zille thinks it lies.

Nonracialism must be understood as an ideal that we must actively work to achieve rather than a state that can realistically exist. 

Everyone else has recognised that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world and this inequality stems from centuries of racial discrimination. The truth is that 27 years of democracy under the ANC government has increased the depths of these inequalities.

At the heart of this conflict is whether nonracialism is an ideal to be obtained through addressing inequality or whether it should be regarded as a current stance.

The truth is that more than 20-million South Africans continue to live under the legacy of apartheid. More generations than I care to calculate of these South Africans endured oppression that was systematically designed to hamstring their ability to compete for economic opportunity.

Put aside policies such as broad-based black economic empowerment, which have been disastrous and should be removed purely on the basis of their failure. But don’t allow Zille’s “whataboutism” in terms of ANC corruption to deflect the fact that inequality remains racial in nature and suggesting that the redressing centuries of colour-based discrimination can be colour-blind in its approach is mad.  

In considering this classical liberal approach to redress, we are given an insight into just how far Zille and the new DA have strayed from the great liberal mind of Alan Paton when he said: “By liberalism I don’t mean the creed of any party or any century. I mean a generosity of spirit, a tolerance of others, an attempt to comprehend otherness, a commitment to the rule of law, a high ideal of the worth and dignity of man, a repugnance of authoritarianism and a love of freedom.”

You may think, at this point, that I have dealt with the greatest conflicts that reside in Zille and the DA on this matter but you would be mistaken.

Consider the leaflet distributed in 2014 in a campaign called Know Your DA while Zille was still the party’s leader.

Essentially, in 2014, Zille and the DA supported race-based redress. There is no ambiguity about this, and it is there for all to read for themselves. Six years later, in 2020, they did a 180o turn and adopted a position that race does not exist.

At least I can take a breath now and be comforted by the fact that it wasn’t me that went mad.

In those six years South Africa did not make progress in addressing its racial inequality legacy. Inequality has deepened, and poverty, unemployment and the arising social ills remain heavily racialised.

It is intellectually lazy to equate the fight against racial classification during apartheid to the need for race-based redress. The former was necessary to end racial discrimination, the latter is necessary to redress it.

The truth is that South Africa is a racial tinder-box. Racial tensions remain high. Those who suffer from poverty, unemployment and the social consequences thereof are mostly those whose race disqualified them from opportunity in the past. Perspectives such as those espoused by Zille are no better than those championed by the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema in terms of what they do to race relations in our country.

Zille finishes her article as follows: “The DA represents the alternative. The DA represents the country’s hope.”

All we can do is be eternally grateful that this is not true.

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Michael Beaumont
Michael Beaumont is the national chairperson of ActionSA

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