/ 13 May 2024

Korner Talk | Burn, burn, burn: Steenhuisen’s ‘Sarafina’ moment

Safrica Politics
DA leader John Steenhuisen.Photo: Michele Spatari/AFP
Graphic Khaya Text 1000px

I had a terrible vision last night. Sitting in his night school classroom Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen received what he felt was sage advice from his classmates.

“The people should burn their South African flags rather than let the ANC win,” shouted a woman, known only as Sarafina, from the front of the class — a star pupil in her own right. 

What followed was a cacophony of “Burn, burn, burn!” chants, as the class realised that — much in the way the Russians had razed their homes to the ground in September 1812 to defeat French general Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Army invasion — the governing ANC could be removed from power with the torching of the national flag. 

Okay, I concede the above is a bastardised take on the famous scene from the musical movie Sarafina, where learners attack their history teacher for giving them a sanitised version of Napoleon’s invasion, in line with apartheid censorship laws. 

I got the Sarafina image after the DA unveiled its political advert last week, ahead of the 29 May elections. In it, the opposition party shows the national flag burning as a metaphor for the torched state of South Africa. 

As if burning the flag was not enough, Steenhuisen misfired by dabbling in disinformation, declaring that the petrochemical giant Shell’s announcement that it would divest from the country — selling the more than 500 service stations and forecourts it operates — was the result of investors “fleeing…at the prospect of an ANC-EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] doomsday coalition”. 

“Our economy will be burnt to ashes under the coalition of corruption,” the DA leader asserted last Monday, adding to his heated metaphors. 

If he had burnt the midnight oil and studied what Shell was doing, Steenhuisen would have realised that the company is selling off its assets around the world, including last week’s statement that it was disposing of its interests in Singapore. 

Moreover, in June last year, Shell said it would relinquish its home retail energy businesses in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands because of poor financial returns from in those markets. 

Steenhuisen’s faux pas has seemingly lit a fire under cupcake-in-chief Cyril Ramaphosa, who chastised the DA, calling the flag “a sacred article in the life of our country”, adding that it “united all of us”. 

“It is despicable that a political party can, as it seeks to express itself, go and burn the symbol of our unity [and] the symbol of our existence as a nation,” Buffalo Bill contended. 

“And I think it is treasonous because anybody, particularly an organisation, that does something like that for political expediency should really be ashamed of themselves because it is the most despicable political act that anyone can embark upon, particularly when they are campaigning for votes,” he added. 

Those were bold words from a suit whose presidency has covered the country in the soot of record-high unemployment numbers, which stand at a staggering 32.1%

Steenhuisen and the DA would do well, then, to — like a phoenix rising from the ashes — resuscitate the stagnating Multi-Party Charter alliance, also known as the moonshot pact, seeking to coalesce in removing the ANC after elections.

The alliance, like a candle in the wind, is striving to keep the flame alive amid accusations by Action SA, one of the charter partners, that the DA is refusing to run through the fire with its friends to unseat the ANC. 

Things came to a head last month when the DA declined to support an ActionSA mayoral candidate in Ekurhuleni after the latter had successfully sponsored a motion to remove Sivuyile Ngodwana from the African Independent Congress, which has a paltry three of the council’s 224 seats. 

The musical chairs led to the election of the ANC’s Nkosindiphile Doctor Xhakaza as mayor, with Siyanda Makhubo, ActionSA’s Ekurhuleni caucus leader, stating that the DA, which neither supported Ngodwana’s removal nor endorsed a candidate from its alliance to succeed, had displayed “leadership failures”. 

Steenhuisen has his work cut in trying to strengthen and unify his alliance if he harbours any hope of extinguishing the ANC’s 30-year reign of misgovernance. 

It should not be too much of a problem, I don’t think — what with him being the leader of a party that takes great pride in holding hands with all races around the campfire to sing Kumbaya

And that would surely lead Steenhuisen, as the renowned torch bearer that he is, to blazing a trail all the way to the Union Buildings’ corner office.