On Sunday, DA MP and Deputy Chairperson of the Federal Council, Natasha Mazzone, tweeted the following:
This was in response to the furore created by statements made by DA leader Mmusi Maimane during a rally in Soshanguve in which Maimane commented that “white privilege and black poverty” must be confronted. Mazzone and other senior DA MPs are reported to have taken Maimane to task and cautioned him over alienating the DA’s white electoral base.
The ‘liberals’ in the DA are spitting fire over Maimane’s pointing out of a very obvious characteristic of this country’s personality. There is even talk of ousting Maimane in some quarters, all in a bid to erase the fact that privilege, in many of its forms, is a trait of whiteness in South Africa. Even the poor and disenfranchised whites show it in ways applicable to their stations in life. The other day a white beggar told me that he had “caught the disease of the kaffir” after I had asked him how he found himself in such a position . After all , he was white.
The backlash coming from within the DA, a party that parades itself as the citadel of liberalism in South African politics, is alarming to say the least. It hints at a strongly denialist and conservative attitude in the party. They want to behave as if there was never a time in this country when one had a legal advantage over the other simply because of the color of their skin.
Mazzone exposes this attitude in a reply to one of her tweets when she admits her privileged upbringing but was quick to add that her Italian father, who was ‘dark and could not speak English or. Afrikaans’ had made that possible for her due to hard work.
What she fails to note here is that in as much as her Italian father was ‘dark’, her certainly enjoyed the privileges afforded to whites during apartheid. He certainly did not occupy the same structural class as the indigenous blacks of this country, the so-called ‘darkies’, many of whom, as Maimane rightly points out, still live in poverty, black poverty, and can not guarantee privilege for their children, however hard they work.
Her statement, which also fails to interrogate the reasons why during a time when blacks where structurally excluded from the economy, her ‘dark’ father succeeded in creating a privileged future for her, is rooted in minimalism and is an insult to the blacks who have felt and continue to feel the brunt of the twin yokes of whiteness and inequality that weigh heavily on this country’s neck.
One can argue that the main reason why her father made it in apartheid South Africa was precisely because the economy was not inclusive and therefore did not offer that much competition. One can even go further and say that he came here in order to benefit from the white racism which was rampant in the country then, as it still is now. The reference to her father is also an attempt to morally exonerate her father, firstly as a white foreigner (who had no idea what was going on in SA), an individual and a business person from benefiting from structural racism.
These are the things that the DA wants to crucify Maimane for. It almost seems as if there is an unwritten code that the majority of white South Africans live by, one that makes them choose to be ignorant of their privilege. They collectively do not acknowledge their contributions to the general state of blacks in South Africa. Instead, they continue to show an inherent loathing for everything that is black.
The conservative elements within the DA are becoming apparent each and every day. The pity is that the black leadership of the party is the one that is being made to crumble under the pressure of the DA’s high liberalism.
Simbarashe Nyatsanza is a student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.