Korner Talk: Helen and her Zille bros

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In her distinguishably deep voice Helen Zille explained how racist Renaldo Gouws slipped through the cracks of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) vetting process. 

“The DA has established that the execrable excrement espoused by Renaldo Gouws falls foul of the party’s ill feeling towards faecal matter politics,” is how I envisioned Zille to have chastised the newly-minted parliamentarian for spewing racist epithets in an apparent fit of rage. 

Okay, so the party’s federal chairperson did not quite use those words after the suspension of Gouws about three weeks ago when a video, which was apparently recorded in 2009, surfaced of him using racist slurs. The former Nelson Mandela Bay Metro councillor said his message “was distorted”. 

What the Smurfs did say was: “The DA has established that the video, in which Renaldo Gouws uses execrable language, is in fact genuine and not a fake as initially suspected.”

For background, Gouws, like the reincarnation of Afrikaner nationalist Eugène Terre’Blanche, rode on his high horse during the contentious video, where he screamed incoherent expletives, including that “if Africa had to disappear off the face of the Earth, no one would fucking notice”. 

Presumably, he also meant himself — unless he was not living on the continent when he made this enlightened assertion. 

“Kill the fucking kaffirs, kill all the fucking niggers. That’s all I’ve got to say — kill all the fucking kaffirs, kill all the fucking niggers,” he spewed, saying that his words were a retaliation to former president Jacob Zuma singing songs about killing white people. 

Granted, Zuma is known for his love of singing for his supper, among other things, but Gouws provided no proof of when Msholozi serenaded comrades with a prejudicial ditty. 

While the blue party was dealing with Gouws’s racist remarks, images of another of its new MPs — Ian Cameron of “shut up Bheki Cele” fame — surfaced of him in “blackface”, a crude practice dating back to the 19th century in the United States to, primarily, mock black people. 

Ironically, the DA’s youth brigade condemned what it called “racial stereotypes” after Cameron and his band smeared polish on their faces when they participated in an AfriForum Youth protest in 2012 against the University of Pretoria’s affirmative action policies. 

But why would Gouws and Cameron — who publicly stick together like white on rice — find a home in an organisation that prided itself on non-racialism and diversity?

I posit that the two MPs — who have teamed up in their own version of the Wayans brothers’ classic comedy, White Chicks — have been attracted by the rhetoric coming out of the DA after the 2019 general election that has painted black party leaders as “experiments” that were “parachuted” to leadership positions they supposedly did not deserve. 

For example, in April 2021, former DA leader Tony Leon blamed one of his successors, Mmusi Maimane, for the party’s electoral decline when it dropped from 22.23% of the national vote in 2014 to 20.77% in 2019, losing five National Assembly seats in the process. 

“Mmusi was an experiment gone wrong as Mmusi never committed to the party’s ideals before he joined it,” Leon said, as quoted by News24.

In May 2019, shortly after the elections when support for the DA declined, Zille wrote an opinion piece in News24 where she called diversifying her party with more black people in leadership positions her “biggest mistake”. 

As if that was not enough, she doubled down on her views during an April 2023 Newzroom Afrika interview, when she said the DA “learnt that it is wrong to parachute people into top positions”.

“Sometimes, I backed people strongly because I thought that they had all the attributes necessary to do the job, never only for a particular demographic attribute — although that was certainly one of the attributes,” Zille told the broadcaster, alluding to black leaders in her response. 

The party should not be surprised when people with a questionable racist past continue to be drawn to the DA as if it was a Steve Hofmeyr concert.

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