The Case for Letting Helen Zille Stay in the DA (and Keep Her Twitter Account)

Zille asked,

“Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence?”

and said,

“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

At the risk of making it sound as though whose ancestors built what toys is the measure of which race group is more civilised, I answer in two parts.

The first is that Africa had these things before colonialism.

The second is that the anthropologist jury is still out on whether a civilisation’s development is dependent on the duration for which its people are settled, undisturbed, and their infrastructure maintained — or dependent on cycles of conflict, displacement and resettling.

By either measure, bearing in mind that it had just been settled by the Bantu from further up north (not forgetting the Khoi-San), the region we now call Southern Africa was, by Eurocentric standards, relatively “civilised” in the early 17th century.  So saying colonialism wasn’t all negative is a bit like beating a child bloody, and then attributing the subsequent recovery to the medicinal effects of blood-letting.  It is colonial-age thinking.

If Zille is acquainted with these basics of history, why is she asking what she’s asking?  If she isn’t, what does she gain from wilful ignorance?  Would she tweet of the positives of the holocaust her relatives escaped?  Did she stick her neck out for the Steve Biko story so she could leverage the admiration of liberals for political prominence in this dispensation, only to use it to spew the antithesis of everything Biko died for?  Her remaining role is as a mirror for many white South Africans to look into.

I’ve described why, to the extent the DA explains its governance successes without reference to the post-apartheid gains its mostly-white network got to keep, to that extent, its supporters unconsciously believe corruption and incompetence are inherent to majorly black political parties, good governance and ethics to majorly white ones.  The white intellectual supremacy Zille openly tweets is a natural flowering of this white moral superiority.  This is why black people would rather countenance the ANC get away with murder than vote the DA into power.

The DA cannot denounce those who celebrate apartheid and colonialism without likewise denouncing the blatant economic disparity that resulted from these crimes, and from which many of their members currently benefit.  To hold Zille to account properly, the DA would have to challenge much of the thinking that makes it a popular choice amongst its current constituency.  If the DA is unwilling to go that far, I’d rather they keep Helen Zille and not discipline her at all.  Their feigning a purge would be worse than their not having one at all.

Zille subsequently asked,

“How much does our freedom rating actually mean” when “we cannot even get the rudimentary criminal justice pipeline functioning?”

and,

“What does freedom mean without the rule of law?”

She’s playing God — playing freedom and the law against each other — so as to undermine the equality, freedoms and rights she claims to stand for from the other fork of her tongue.  Yet even she knows that law and order were divorced from justice in 1994, after which apartheid’s beneficiaries used its spoils to dazzle us with their “better” governance and, therefore, white supremacy.

The DA knows that justice isn’t the same thing as order.  But to let white South Africans get away with acting as though they’re more entitled to comfort, law and order than black people are to justice, reparations and redress, it’s conflated justice with law and silently passed them off as conjoined twins, hoping nobody would notice the hidden (and false) premise of white blamelessness, but would call into question black consciousness-style questioning of the structurally racist status quo.  But it seems Biko’s ghost has said, “over my dead body” to Zille’s using the platform he built for her (because the black man has been building shit for white people way too long) to silence the kinds of questions and thoughts he would have us voice today.

Zille’s individual martyrdom would prove inconsistent (and therefore illegitimate) all resistances to white minority rule that pick on some racists, but not on all systemic racism.  She would have “taken one for the team,” and with her expulsion, the DA would have staged a purge, only to re-broadcast its old message — now aired with more apparent credibility than ever before — that it alone can carry the “reconciliation” project forward.  Without redress or the elimination of systemic racism, of course.

Do you see why calling for Zille’s head could be like chopping off the Lernaean Hydra’s?  Other heads, perhaps less coiffured, perhaps less blond and botoxed, would replace it.

Having fought apartheid not because it was evil but because the form it had could not sustain exclusive white interests forever, she’d have triggered the salvation of the colonial project at a level deeper than we can imagine.  Her crucifixion would be the DA’s salvation.  But what DA would emerge, and what would that mean for the rest of us?

Let’s hope the party treats this not just as a PR disaster but as a much-needed identity crisis.  The identity it arrives at isn’t as important as the integrity of the process it follows.

It might be better if they just keep Helen Zille.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

I’m nearing the final stages of that book working on me.

 

 

 

 

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