DEMOCRATIC Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille has been arguing for some time that her political party is the most nonracial in South Africa in terms of membership. This, she avers, is the case because the DA has more black members than white members.
What she conveniently omits to mention on these occasions is the fact that most DA voters are white.
By her own logic, one can argue that a political party is nonracial only to the degree that, either as members or voters, people of a particular race are in the majority.
But she cannot afford to take her argument to its logical conclusion because if she did, she would paint herself into a non-nonracial corner.
In fact, if we take the DA logic even further, we have already succeeded in building a nonracial society because the majority of citizens in this country are black. In short, Zille’s logic is not dissimilar from that of an apartheid cabinet minister, who told the British media that the fact that the majority of vehicle owners in South Africa were black proved that apartheid, conceived as discrimination against black people, did not exist.
Surely Zille is far better than what her argument suggests. If the DA continues to posit this sham of postracialism, all it will achieve is to come across as a dishonest bunch of crude denialists.
This is unfortunate because it does a disservice to those members of the DA — and I know some — who are genuinely committed to building a nonracial society that is at peace with itself.
Whether they are being prudent in choosing the DA as their preferred instrument for the construction of such a society is another matter altogether.
There are times when societies fail to achieve their strategic goals simply because the vehicles that are supposed to transport a vision for the future turn out to be skorokoros (jalopies).
Talking about things rickety, the day will come when South African voters will have to decide whether it is the African National Congress (ANC) or the DA, or both, that is the skorokoro of South African politics. In other words, when the DA talks, correctly, about the need for political realignment, it assumes that the only thing that is wrong with our post-apartheid condition is the ANC.
Maybe that is no longer true. Perhaps it has never been true. We must be open to the possibility that political realignment in South Africa is about finding a credible alternative to both the DA and the ANC.
The problem is that some among us, including DA supporters in the closet, bemoan our post-apartheid reality of single-party dominance only to the extent that it is the ANC, not the DA, that is in power.
In other words, for them, single-party dominance and our uncompetitive political party system are not the real problem.
When they, correctly but sometimes dishonestly, decry the fact that the opposition is weak, or that the ANC is too strong, what they mean, as fellow columnist Steven Friedman says, is that the wrong party is in power.
To the extent that black voters hold the key to the realignment of the South African political landscape, and to the extent that the DA, even if it is not the nonracial thing to do, recognises that black voters are the key to electoral success, the worst thing that can happen to the official opposition is the perception that it is trying to use black members and voters as electoral fodder.
In the end, that the perception may not be grounded in truth will probably matter less than its potency when it comes to informing electoral choices that are to the disadvantage of the DA.
Further, the potency of such a perception may cause Zille to suffer a credibility and image crisis among black voters.
Before I forget, why is it that, as the DA continues to insinuate, it is a problem that the majority of black voters — who supposedly vote with their hearts — continue to support the ANC, but it is not a problem that the majority of white voters — who supposedly vote with their heads — will probably never vote for the ANC?
• Matshiqi is a research fellow at the Helen Suzman Foundation.
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