There are two DAs, and they’re heading for divorce
Tweets by Zille and Mashaba show the party is split into two groups that can't share a bed any more
On Monday, as Herman Mashaba humped Donald Trump’s leg and Helen Zille exhumed her defence of colonialism, many South Africans wondered aloud if the Democratic Alliance is deliberately trying to lose votes.
Certainly the two tweets in question seemed to be the latest example of the DA’s loose cannon unloading into both feet.
Zille’s tweet was more of the same, but Mashaba’s – a comparison of Donald Trump (labelled “Success”) and Cyril Ramaphosa (“Failure”) – was uniquely mad, citing as fact at least three blatant lies about the American’s “successes”. (One of these, according to Mashaba, was “Zero Violent Demonstrations”. So now we know that the mayor of Johannesburg doesn’t think that the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville counts as violence.)
Indeed, for a moment the whole thing teetered on the edge of a state of psychedelic Trump-ception: a populist millionaire who uses immigration as a way to appeal to xenophobes, peddling homemade memes riddled with fake news about a president who got elected thanks in part to anti-immigrant xenophobia and fake news.When I reposted Mashaba’s alt-right arse-dribble to Twitter and Facebook, asking the DA and Mmusi Maimane if Trump was now a political role model for the party, the Blue Wave roared up out of its koi pond and splashed all over my ankles. With all the pent-up rage of a Porsche Cayenne driver offered only two adjacent parking bays at the local park-n-shop, loyal DA voters told me that Trump was a splendid president.
Antoinette, for example, told me that “we need a Trump ... someone who is incorruptible and acts in the interests of the country”. Woody denied that the comparison was an endorsement of Trump. You know, like when you make two lists and call the one “Good” and the other “Bad” you’re not really taking a stand either way. Marthinus cut straight to the chase, opening his argument with the assertion that I represent “every reason why journalism has deteriorated into shit”.
The most telling comment of them all, however, arrived later on Monday morning, after Mashaba had deleted his tweet. The DA, wrote Jonathan, had definitely lost his vote.
“This is precisely why I won’t be voting DA as Mashaba cannot offer an astute assessment in his own capacity without them censoring him. The DA are spineless, desperate to win the popularity contest.”
Yes. You read that right. Jonathan isn’t angry with the DA because it appoints populist spewers of alt-right propaganda into senior positions. He’s angry because the DA won’t let the spewers spew. Poor Herman, just trying to tell it like it is, being gagged by those liberal snowflakes.
Which brings us back to the incredulous response to Monday’s tweets. What the hell is the DA doing?
The answer, of course, is that it’s splitting. It is starting the process of getting divorced over irreconcilable differences.The schism is inevitable. The DA has tried to marry young liberals and elderly conservatives. It has claimed to be a home for people who admire Stephen Biko and people who admire Donald Trump. It has tried to construct a shared identity between people who believe that apartheid was a crime against humanity and people who voted for the apartheid government. And the two groups simply cannot share a bed any more.
So yes, Mashaba and Zille are losing votes for the DA of Mmusi Maimane. But there are two Democratic Alliances. And the other half – or third or quarter or fifth – is lapping that stuff up.
When the divorce comes, may it be amicable and speedy. And let’s hope they do right by the children, and all the other naïve souls who believe that Donald Trump is incorruptible.