The country has been wondering with bated breath whether we will be seeing the return to the ANC of a metro named after the ANC’s most celebrated leader.
I know how painful it has been to see the DA in charge of a city you must have thought it would be impossible for you to lose. Now on Thursday we will be deciding on whether Athol Trollip continues to be mayor.
When we first agreed to start the Patriotic Alliance in 2013 I never dreamt we would be the ones deciding the governance fate of a city of more than a million people. But it seems that’s how the cookie has crumbled. So I accept that this is a decision fate has somehow thrust upon us that we’re not about to take lightly or for any casual reasons.
No one has been sure how the PA will vote. After all, we are the ones who lodged the first motion of no confidence in Athol Trollip in November 2016. That motion was supported by the ANC and defeated because the EFF, at the time, protected Trollip.
During that process, our motion proceeded without any racism or racist insults. We raised the motion based on our disagreement with the direction Trollip was taking the metro at that time.
We have now watched the latest developments with interest after the call for the removal of Trollip yet again – this time raised by the DA’s erstwhile protectors, the EFF. We are, however, disappointed with the crude display of racism that has accompanied this, particularly the analogy of cutting the throats of the DA, the threats against white people and the general contemptuous rejection of “whiteness”.
This does not sit well in a country with so many political murders and such a painful history of racism. Such an analogy can easily be misconstrued by the angriest and stupidest among us. It has no place in our body politic.
I am, of course, not surprised by such utterances from the EFF, which has proven itself willing to do just about anything for media headlines and political survival, particularly after their biggest political blunder of having handed power to the DA while professing to be a revolutionary party.
My shock and utter disappointment has been compounded by the complete silence of the leaders of the ANC in the face of all this naked racism: your silence comes from your thirst for power in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. You dare not speak up because Malema will turn on you again and allow Trollip to stay. You have been cowed into submission by the dangerous yapping of this demagogue who is taking this country down a dangerous path. At what point will you decide to find your voice, ANC, and say he has stepped over the line? If you are okay with someone saying they will be cutting people’s throats, how will you react when throats actually do get cut?
You are throwing away everything the ANC stands for. Allow me to illustrate my point with two simple examples, the first because the ANC has been here before.
Those who started the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959 took a similar posture against communist whites and other white freedom fighters, as well as the principles of the Freedom Charter decades ago. The leaders of the ANC back then, though, stood firm against Robert Sobukwe, Potlako Leballo and others despite the fact that these were popular men of strong character, intellect, passion and principle. They lost the support of many members who went on to form and join the PAC, but no one can say the ANC was ultimately genuinely weaker because of it. Instead, the ANC became the broad church that so many have been justifiably proud of over the subsequent years. The ANC didn’t compromise on its clear stance on nonracialism.
You, the ANC of today, have now been made to believe by some high-ranking members in your top structure that you will not get above even 50% in the next election and that Malema is your biggest hope to retain power. And so you are prepared to jettison one of your deepest founding principles, perhaps not realising that in so doing the ANC will cease to be the ANC. You cannot save something by annihilating its founding values. That is how you destroy something.
You were silent when Malema told the country he is now ruling South Africa, and that he is de facto leading the ANC. None of you dared to stand up and say a word in protest.
The DA is now being taught a lesson. You might learn from what Malema is doing to them, as it’s exactly what will happen to you.
Instead you are silent, waiting in anticipation for the removal of Nelson Mandela Bay from DA control, and then the return of Johannesburg and Tshwane. Is being in power really more important than being a powerful example to society? It seems that having raw administrative power trumps the more lasting power of simple, steadfast character.
The second example is more personal to me: my father lived it out. He refused to drive in any of my cars during my heydays as a criminal. He refused to take one cent from me. He told my mum that those benefiting from the proceeds of crime are no different from those cutting the throats of their victims and taking their money. He was only proud of me when I turned my back on crime – and because of that he died a proud father.
The ANC is the leader of society by virtue of having won election after election. It has always prided itself on its nonracialism. But have you now handed your greatest generational mantra to Malema to stomp on and destroy?
Your silence as you wait to benefit from silence suggests exactly that.
If Malema were at least honest in his racism, it would be easier to swallow. If he genuinely hated whites, white monopoly capital and the tyranny of our many economic compromises, then at least we could accept the man for what he is. But the trouble is that he doesn’t stand for anything except what he stands to gain.
Malema threatens white people with his right hand and takes money from them with his left, thinking we don’t know. Whites have been funding the EFF from the very beginning. All sorts of white people have stepped into the breach for Malema and his followers – from our captains of industry to those we might best describe by using the same word he used for me last week: “dodgy” whites.
We know this. You definitely know this. So we cannot even allow Malema the simple concession that his racism is genuine. It’s fake, just like everything else about him.
All the same, the trouble with Malema’s false racism is that the EFFECT of it can very easily become only too genuine. One only needs to ask a Rwandese what the effect of dangerous language can be. We know what happened in Rwanda in 1994, but we haven’t learnt from it, it seems. In that country, friends and neighbours killed each other simply because one happened to be Tutsi and the other Hutu. The language of hatred turned into the sickening sound of machetes hacking at a million defenceless bodies. And above it all, the language of hatred echoed – it was voiced on radio and in many other places by men such as Georges Ruggiu (a white man), Kantano Habimana and others. They wanted the complete annihilation of all Tutsis, along with conscientious Hutus who stood for peace or who had married Tutsis.
In the build-up to that slaughter, many stayed silent. You, too, are silent now, ANC. Too silent.
Make no mistake, I am a proponent of the return of the land without compensation – but not through the vitriol and spit-lined language of racism. This is something I will never agree with. The mini-dictator Malema can talk freely about even expropriating black-owned land without compensation, but I cannot agree.
His call for whites to flee to Australia represents everything we have not been for the past two decades. We have been admired and revered as a nation that talks out its problems. But the ANC has now apparently gifted Malema the power of deciding what should be done with our land.
The Khoisan, the First Nation in SA, is not even around the table discussing what should be happening. But the time for the Khoisan to take their rightful place as a shareholder of this land has arrived.
I know I am not the ideal person to caution South Africa on Malema and his racist talk. Simply because of my crimes of 25 years ago, my views can easily be discarded as those of a crook, no matter how much repentance I have shown and change I have brought in the lives of many young people in SA. But I have no choice but to stand up now for the principles of nonracialism because the voices that matter most in this situation appear to be terrified of Malema.
I don’t want it to be me, or up to me. But if it has to be me, then fine.
I left prison with R12 in my pocket. I had no income. Members of my own community shunned me. My cause was adopted by a white lady called Ria De Villiers. Members of her community warned her against this black boy with a vile past, but she defended me at every turn. She lost friends, but she stood up for second chances and against racism. I am who I am today because Ria stood up for me. Many other white people have been there for me too over the years. I am certainly not ashamed to say that, and why should I be? Why should anyone?
So today I want to stand up not only for white people but for who we should be as South Africans, and who we so nearly have been until this political opportunist was granted power by some in the ANC and the DA to lead us into Sodom and Gomorrah. He and other racists, black, white, Indian and coloured must have their views and demands rejected. It’s not too late for the true leaders of society to show us the path to the land of milk and honey. Mandela opened up the way. Let us enter those gates and fix joblessness and address the land issue without racism and threats.
No one could have known for sure which way the Patriotic Alliance will vote on Thursday. After all, we voted against the DA in Cape Town and it was our solitary vote that kept Patricia de Lille as the mayor there. We are in coalition with the ANC in Ekurhuleni. We have been willing to compromise and side with the DA in Nelson Mandela Bay when Mongameli Bobani was ousted as deputy mayor, just as we have also voted against the DA in the Bay.
So if you said you knew what we would do, that only tells me how little you knew.
But we have made up our minds, and I know it is the right decision. Trollip didn’t become white yesterday. He was born white. Let’s not be fooled by those who were comfortable handing power to the same white Trollip and who are now screaming that he’s too white for their liking and should go. We cannot support a motion of no confidence against a man when the only apparent basis for that motion is that the man in question happens to be white. Let’s be clear: anyone voting against Trollip on Thursday will be engaging in an act of racism, and the PA will not partake in it even if the EFF will try to dress it up as a punishment over differences about land expropriation.
As unlikely a candidate as I am to stop Malema from taking us off the rails, I choose peace, as exemplified by the PA; we choose nonracialism; we choose a shared future with whites; we choose to build on who we have become after apartheid instead of engaging in reverse racism.
So Trollip will be going nowhere on Thursday. Malema and his mad ego might have allowed him to believe he is now leading the ANC. But he doesn’t lead the PA. And he certainly will not be leading Port Elizabeth come Good Friday if the Patriotic Alliance has anything to do with it.
President of the Patriotic Alliance