There has always been speculation that the race issue will ultimately sink the Democratic Alliance and its efforts to gain wide appeal. And it has not taken long for us that to start happening.
Given how badly divided the ANC is and how the issues around president Jacob Zuma are costing the governing party, the DA and political analysts have spoken about the possibility that ANC support could be taken down to less than 50% in the 2019 elections, allowing for an opposition party coalition to take over the reins of the country. But with all that advantage, the DA is seemingly hellbent on undermining itself.
The decision to charge former DA youth leader and current member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, Mbali Ntuli, despite the party’s own federal legal commission advising against that, is simply unfathomable.
Acting Western Cape leader and Helen Zille ally, Bonginkosi Madikizela, laid a complaint against Ntuli for breaching the party’s constitution and social media policy. According to the legal commission’s investigation report, which City Press has seen, Madikizela viewed the liking of the comment on her page as a failure to “protect a colleague of high profile within the party”.
The comment was made on a “re-post” made by the KwaZulu-Natal MPL on December 23 2016. The re-post was allegedly followed up with a post in which Ntuli lamented that Zille had said some “outrageous” things on social media with no consequences and added that: “As a party we should be clear about why some leaders can say whatever they want with impunity and others cannot. A little consistency would be nice.”
According to Madikizela, Ntuli would be violating the party’s social policy, which provides that, as brand ambassadors for the DA, communication by public representatives must not be of an insulting nature, derogatory or insensitive, nor cause unnecessary offence or harm to the party’s brand its electoral prospects.
But the party’s federal legal commission concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that Ntuli’s post was insulting, derogatory, insensitive or unnecessarily offensive in nature.
The commission said while it could be argued that Ntuli’s comments about inconsistent decisions by party structures had the effect of harming the party’s brand, the counter argument was that the party’s decisions were generally a matter of public knowledge and interests. And if inconsistencies in such decisions were pointed out, whether by members of the party or the public, the harm was caused by the party itself and not by the person who pointed it out.
“It is clear from the nature of the debate that followed Ntuli’s posts that no harm was caused to the party’s electoral prospects,” it concluded.
But for obscure reasons, the party’s senior leadership (federal executive) were not convinced by their own structure and decided to press ahead and charge Ntuli.
The DA is supposed to be a liberal party, widely embracing the freedoms outlined in the constitution, and freedom of speech being one of the most paramount. To then pursue a member, not even for posting her own views, but for liking someone else’s status, is really pushing it. It is the most illiberal conduct by the party hierarchy.
The party that the DA accuses of all sorts of wrongdoings, the ANC, handles diversity of views, totally differently, with members free to articulate opposing views in public. The impression given by the DA’s decision is that of an imperative to balance the charging of former leader and Western Cape premier Helen Zille for her despicable comments trying to mitigate colonialism with that of Ntuli.
Ntuli has been a thorn in Zille’s side for a while and clearly someone thought if they could charge Zille, why not Ntuli, despite the cases being substantially different.
The unjustified pursuit of a young black leader of the party in order to make up to Zille’s supporters has not gone down well with the public since City Press published the story, precisely because it is a miscarriage of justice.
Zille, who has become a voice of whites who feel marginalised, represents the DA’s past. Ntuli and party leader Mmusi Maimane represent where the party wants to go.
It is an offence, according to the DA rules, to engage in behaviour that represents harm to the party’s electoral prospects.
The party’s conduct represents a clear and substantial harm to the party’s electoral prospects. Prospective young black voters waiting to decide where to cast their ballots will not be wildly attracted to a party that crushes young black talent in order to hold on to the past.
The decision to charge Ntuli is not just bad for their electoral prospects. It is unjustified and does not make sense.