I think the country deserves better than the rubbish and low-brow politics we’ve been dished up over the past few days. We’re used to imbecilic statements from the ANC Youth League, but this time they’ve exceeded even their own rock-bottom standards.
The Youth League’s vitriolic attack on the opposition leader was inexcusable. But also inexcusable were DA leader Helen Zille’s highly-personal and inappropriate comments about the country’s president. Zille can cry she was “quoted out of context”, but seasoned politicians who speak to the media all the time should know better. I think by her own purported high standards it was an error in judgement and she should apologise.
What’s really disappointing was that Zille’s statement came after an olive branch was extended to opposition parties by President Zuma, offering a new way to work together. Justifiable criticism of Zuma aside, he is the president — and we have to move on and give him a chance. Personal attacks so early after an election are not a good omen.
How does the DA expect Zuma to respond to the inappropriate comments? Why is Zille making such statements, knowing full well these early moves define the tone of future working relationships? In my humble opinion, the DA miscalculated — and spoiled the after-election glow for themselves and the country.
The off-colour “stop Zuma” posters also signalled a worrying change in the DA’s attitude and a return to their old-style aggressive chihuahua style of politicking, which serves to only raise the temperature, rather than level of debate. It’s low-brow and desperate, irritating most of the electorate to gain a few percentage points more. It’s minor short term vote gain for a bigger, longer-lasting loss of political currency. And political currency is critical if you are to be a credible opposing force, as opposed to one nobody really listens to.
A fractious opposition-government relationship is unhealthy and not constructive. Be an opponent, but work together. The acerbic Leon-Mbeki era was bad for the country, the Zille-Mbeki period showed what can be achieved with more constructive engagement.
I’ve run into Zille on two occasions — both on my cellphone. While working at the M&G Online about 2 years ago she had called me and then promptly arrived at the Joburg office to complain in person about a profile we’d done on her. Then about three weeks ago I was jolted out of a quiet, gentle drive along Llandudno’s Victoria road while listening to election news on Cape Talk. The resourceful Zille had somehow got hold of my number again and called me to complain about a “complete work of fiction” on the M&G Online. (She didn’t know that I had long-since left).
Zille is a fiery politician whom I have respect for. She comes across as a hard worker and someone who appears to set high standards. But I think by her own high standards, this debacle has been a setback. She’s emerged the biggest loser in this, and is in an unfortunate situation where she has been chastised and grouped together with the rabble in ANCYL. Ironically, the ruling party has emerged the winner, despite the actions by its own youth wing. It’s also high time that the ANC once-and-for-all reign in its ill-disciplined youth league. Yesterday’s public rebuke was a good start.
South Africa deserves better than this rubbish. There’s lots of work to do.