Stop playing the ANC’s game; get off Zille and do your job – Wilf Nussey

What at first whiff seems a mystery wrapped in a conundrum – the party turning on its former rescuer Helen Zille – is unceremoniously yanked out of its ‘rank’ wrapping here by former 1980’s Star newspaper editor and subsequent author, Wilf Nussey. He suffers no great existential angst, pouring no metaphorical ink onto acres of paper opining on just why the DA – and political society at large – is excoriating a former colleague in the Fourth Estate. Rather, he bemoans how the dominant discourse on racism/colonialism/white monopoly capital (you name it) is diverting critical energy away from addressing the corruption and rot at the centre of government. The ‘twits’ debate, as Nussey calls it, has even seen DA leader Mmusi Maimane gunning for Zille, but it’s a fatuous distraction from what really matters, and the Zuptoids are laughing all the harder on their way to the bank. Yes, perhaps Zille deserves a rap over the knuckles, perhaps demotion at worst; but calling for her head and publicly burning her at the stake is rank nonsense, demonstrating just how shallow and pliable the opposition have become by buying into the dominant racial discourse that is the ANC’s most successful political lever yet. – Chris Bateman

By Wilf Nussey*

The stench that rises when one lifts the lid off the South African political stewpot has become disgusting.

Wilf Nussey

It was bad enough after the ANC began rotting from the inside with the feud over Zuma and his effective dictatorship, among many other issues, but has become intolerable since the Democratic Alliance began to pour in its woes like some obscene sauce.

Never has there been, certainly not since 1994, such a sickening display in the leading opposition party of back-stabbing, calumny, lies, disloyalty, and slander.

And all of this has been brought to festering by a simple and accurate tweet saying that colonialism did in fact leave behind some useful tools for Africa.

I am no great admirer of Helen Zille in spite of the good work she did as a journalist – always more activist than reporter – and hardly know her, but have great admiration for her intelligence, energy, and dedication to the DA cause.

Now she is being pilloried and will likely be torn apart by the very people she saved from political oblivion when she rescued the DA from its own gutless lassitude and lack of leadership – coming out of the nowhere of UCT administration to shake the party by the scruff of its neck and build on the base left by Tony Leon.

The seeds of division were already within the DA. Many who themselves had neither the personality nor power, or who were too tainted by their political pasts, were jealous of the novice politician. Some didn’t like being told what to do by a youngish, seemingly inexperienced woman, forgetting the record of Helen Suzman. None had the will or strength to challenge her.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille

To see these people now attacking Zille is enough to make one throw up. What definitely triggers vomit is the wholesale preoccupation by the party with a single fairly innocuous if damnfool “tweet” (a nauseous medium used by twits) when it should be concentrating all its efforts on far more important matters like the numerous national crises created by the Zuma gang, most notably the theft of the judiciary computer records and the blatant support by Zuma of Bathabile Dlamini, SSA chief Mahlobo and others with sullied records now in senior positions. In short, the very overt capture of the State.

How can the DA call itself the Opposition when it doesn’t oppose?

I have been watching most of the comments, analyses, and so-called advice given by the hip-pocket savants on the Daily Maverick, BizNews, Noseweek and various other media and, frankly, most of them are thumb-sucking, vastly subjective, often ill-informed or purely vicious. And too often repetitious, regrinding the same arguments over and over. Pierre de Vos, who should know  better, offered his “two cents worth” responding to Ferial Haffajee, who defended Zille’s right to freedom of speech. Frankly, he’s right, it isn’t worth more than two cents. Eusebius Mckaiser was simply insulting; if that’s the best a self-styled political analyst can do he should write about growing dahlias. Eddie Maloka, of whom I had not heard before, had the cheek to tell Zille “She can’t forget she’s white …” Now there’s a new slant on racialism.

Zuma and Co must be chortling with glee as they dance one-legged around their campfire raising their jars of Johnny Walker Blue or Fanta. Never before has there been so timely a distraction from their train crashes as that within the Opposition.

The one man for whom I feel sorry for is Mmusi Maimane, DA leader. Now even he is disloyally asking for Zille’s head on a pole, like Gordon’s at Khartoum. He could find another way out of the mess and into fresh air, such as a severe chastisement and a promise from her never to tweet again, or various other disciplinary options maybe even demotion. But no, he must exert his “Africanness” so as not to offend potential voters – forgetting that the DA is supposed to be a non-racial party and not his alone.

In disposing of Zille he might fragment the party and dispose of himself in the process. He could be seen as racist.

For a start, to stay out of the stew cooler heads within the DA should have got together immediately when Zille made her gaffe.

Leader of South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

They should take a good look at “colonialism” to begin with. Undoubtedly it was totally evil and a crime against humanity motivated by greed, international competition for territory and power and pure profit. Millions of blacks were carted off as slaves to other parts of the world as a commodity like coal, ivory, silver and gold. Hundreds of thousands were forced to build ports and railroads, dig mines, create cities they were not allowed into. A great many died, as did so many Far Eastern slaves who built the Great Wall of China.

In the context of the Europe that time, from some five centuries ago, that was the norm. Blacks were regarded as inferior, no better than draught animals, hewers of wood, drawers of water. There is absolutely no excuse for it, especially when seen through the reversed perspective of time. Can we now punish the Italians and Arabs for what the Romans and Muslims did to ancient Carthage?

Europeans were certainly not the first to commit the crime, however. Arabs had been enslaving blacks for centuries before then, though there is little reminder of that today and slavery is still quite common in the Arab world according to UN investigations.

There is enough evidence of this in literature. I will single out just one: John Reader’s excellent “Africa, a biography of the continent”. It contains copious information about slavery, including the fact that among the biggest slavers were African chiefs who happily sold captives or their own people to Arab and European slavers along the coasts.

And yes, the colonisers did leave a great many “facilities” or “amenities”, or whatever you want to call them, like railroads and dams, most of which were damaged or destroyed by incompetence because the colonisers never taught Africans how to cope with these things. That’s yet another crime, one we are seeing much of the results of right here in South Africa now. Look at Ms Dlamini and the welfare debacle, or Dudu Myeni and SAA, or Ntlemeza and the Hawks, or … one could go on for pages.

So let’s look at Zille’s “tweet” with that hindsight. Was it so serious she has to be crucified? No. Is the furore over it warranted? No. In the longer run it will be her attackers who emerge stained with the stench of malice. She deserves a good spanking, but let the spankers consider who will be next for the strap.

  • Wilf Nussey, educated at Potch Boys High, had a career in newspapers with the Argus Group before becoming a full-time author. His books are available on
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