The media and analysts portray black liberal Democratic Alliance members as ‘puppets of the whites’, but breaking news: the DA is the only party that doesn’t ask me what I am, but asks me what I think


Business Live

In its analysis of the DA’s adoption of a new economic justice policy and the party’s renewed commitment to the principle of non-racialism, the SA media and political analysts, many of whom are white, have revealed a deeply reductionist and patronising attitude towards black voters and black leaders within the DA that is beginning to border on blatant racism.  

It deeply frustrates and offends me that the media continues to refer to black DA leaders and members not as individuals capable of autonomous thought and agency within the party, but rather as helpless calves separated from the herd of group-think and racial nationalism, the doctrine expected of us by those whose thoughts and opinions never go beyond what they see in the mirror.  

The media portrayal is that black DA leaders and members are not accomplished liberal politicians, or South Africans with informed opinions who reject the policies du jour and are brave enough to seek and embrace a workable alternative. Instead they depict us as traitors to our own kind, perpetrators of political heresy because we dare exercise our right to stand up, disagree, and abandon the failed policies of the political left and the governing party.

We are “rented blacks” and “puppets of the whites”, or, as the Sunday World put it, the “darkies” who are being flushed from the party like mere political collateral.  

As black DA leaders, the media will not afford us the luxury and respect of being acknowledged as sovereign and decisive adults who are active in the party and hold influence. Instead, we must be placed into narrow boxes of racial victimhood because we are too weak and stupid to think for ourselves or contribute to the party we voluntarily and gladly serve. Equally outrageously, they allow discredited leaders, who leave the party instead of facing very serious charges, to speak on behalf of us all.

The real DA is not whitewashed. The fictitious DA is the one whitewashed by the media and opportunists who cannot and will not understand its liberal diversity

We love the DA and choose to serve SA this way. Racial stereotypes may sell tabloids, but the cost is the denigration of the autonomy, capability and agency of individual black people, particularly those in the DA. This is not only insulting but racist.   

Steven Friedman recently stated that the DA is “determined to antagonise politically active black people” (“DA may have doomed its own voters to permanent opposition,” September 15). To purport that black voters in SA are nothing more than victims of political antagonism is highly offensive. In essence, Friedman is alleging that all black South Africans live in fear of those who make decisions on our behalf.

He should know that black leaders in the DA write and contribute to our policy; debate; vote on our values and principles as individuals not as a racial block; represent our voters in parliament; and lead highly successful DA governments. 

Moreover, the media cannot seem to fathom that black South Africans can and do choose liberal politics over racial nationalism and socialism, and value individual thought over the politics of racial identity. It is this sheer political illiteracy that has so many journalists lazily pitting black against white in a vacuum of logic and reason, egged on by the DA’s detractors, who use the trope of racial victimhood as their only means to feel vindicated and relevant. 

Mail & Guardian’s Lester Kiewit wrote that the DA is moving towards a “colour-blind future” due to its adoption of non-racialism. This derogatory perversion of our non-racialism clause would have the DA painted as a political party remaining purposefully oblivious to race and the effects of racism in SA, a policy bulldozed through by the “DA whites”.

In reality, non-racialism was supported and voted in by an overwhelming majority, including the voices of many prominent black liberals within the party. The only person who is colour-blind in this instance is Kiewit himself, because he and the rest of his media brethren are colour-blind to the power and prowess of our black leaders and the wisdom and excellence they impart onto the party and its processes.

The real DA is not whitewashed. The fictitious DA is the one whitewashed by the media and opportunists who cannot and will not understand its liberal diversity. The DA is not colour-blind, but it would seem that many journalists are, ironically, blind to the talents and accomplishments of the DA’s black leaders and electorate.    

It is one thing to state that a black member left the DA based on irreconcilable ideological difference, but it is racist to those of us who choose to stay and serve SA to state that black leaders are being purged from the party.

This is precisely why the DA has adopted the non-racialism clause, because there is no such thing as black or white thought. There are only ideas, and among them, good and bad ones. It is this very ideal that SA needs to embrace if we are ever going to move forward. We need to judge individuals on the merits of their ideas and actions, and not on how well they adhere to the ideas expected of them based purely on the colour of their skins. If the media could wake up to this realisation we may be able to move beyond a racially divided state.  

It is high time that black, liberal minds are acknowledged with as much vigour and respect as black socialists and fascists

Until then, journalists, including many whites among them, will continue to patronisingly tell us what we are supposed to think on the basis of our race. In the DA we won’t be told what to think, because we know how to think. South Africans are far more than the colour of our skins — we are the sum of our ideas, our skills and our merits.

I am not an antagonised black, or as the media wish to portray us, out of place in a party where I don’t belong. I am a black liberal  who joined the DA out of my own free will and proudly stand for a set of ideals and principles that are not, and never will be, determined by the colour of my skin.

That is why I support, and will continue to support, the DA — because it is the only party that doesn’t ask me what I am, it asks me what I think. Until the media, journalists and political analysts are able to see and respect black independence and influence within the DA, they will continue to be the very racists they so condemn.

It is high time that black, liberal minds are acknowledged with as much vigour and respect as black socialists and fascists.

Identity politics is a double-edged sword — it may serve you in the short term, but it will box you in and silence you in the end. For me, as a BA political philosophy graduate, the ANC was never an option and never will be. I do not resonate with how, in 25 years, the party has brought this country to its knees.

It had the opportunity to make this country economically vibrant, but has done the opposite, leaving SA one of the most unequal societies in the world. What have their race-based policies done for South Africans? Nothing! This year I completed my master’s in policy development and realised that, sadly, many policies are formulated in government without proper problem definition. 

SA needs a party that will revitalise it and get the economy going again. I am not blind to the fact that I am a black woman and have black children. I fully understand black struggles. In fighting for South Africans, like any other black South African, I need to help give hope to everyone. This is painful when, daily, the media insults us in how they portray black leaders in the DA as objects.

So how about shifting focus to our work, where, every day, the DA is fighting for a better life for South Africans across all spheres of government? The beauty of diversity in the DA is that we bring those black voices to the table when we have robust debates on issues — including policy discussions. 

• Nt’sekhe is DA deputy federal chair and national spokesperson.