African National Congress (ANC) President Jacob Zuma (left), Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille (centre) and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe (right).  Picture: THE TIMES
African National Congress (ANC) President Jacob Zuma (left), Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille (centre) and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe (right). Picture: THE TIMES

THE battle between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) over their respective legacies in the struggle against apartheid continued on Freedom Day with former president Nelson Mandela featuring in most of the speeches.

The DA’s "Know your DA" campaign has clearly got under the skin of the ANC in recent weeks with numerous angry exchanges in the National Assembly. Cabinet ministers insisted the DA was part of the apartheid problem while the ANC and its allies were the solution.

Indirectly the battle is also over Nelson Mandela, with the ANC claiming him for themselves and the DA insisting that the ruling party has betrayed the legacy of the former president and struggle icon.

President Jacob Zuma, addressing a Freedom Day rally at the Union Building on Saturday, praised ANC struggle heroes at length. "We achieved the elimination of apartheid colonialism and institutionalised racism and replaced it with a new society founded on human rights, equality, justice, dignity, peace and stability," he said.

He recalled the launch of the women’s struggle for freedom 100 years ago by Charlotte Maxeke and recorded that it was also the 50th anniversary of the Rivonia trial. "We salute Madiba and all our leaders, the Rivonia trialists, and pledge to continue learning from their resilience, strength, wisdom and their boundless love for this country and its people."

DA leader Helen Zille defended the Know Your DA campaign, citing how both Mr Mandela and another former ANC leader, Albert Luthuli, had praised the late Helen Suzman for keeping the flame of freedom burning during the dark days of apartheid. "On Freedom Day we would do well to remember that democracy is not about slavish devotion to a particular political party," she said.

"Democracy is about the freedom to choose; the freedom to change your mind. A lot has been written in recent weeks about the ‘Know Your DA’ campaign we have embarked upon to tell South Africans the true story of our opposition to apartheid. It has been met with controversy from some quarters.

"We have been accused of air-brushing history, of abusing Madiba’s legacy and, that old favourite, political opportunism. These criticisms do not worry us.

"We cannot just sit back and allow the ANC’s propaganda to falsely paint the DA as the party of apartheid. And we will reject the ANC’s lie that if we win an election we will bring apartheid back.

"The ANC is using scare tactics and emotional blackmail to take away choice in our politics. We can’t allow this to happen, which is why we are making (an) effort to tell SA the truth."