Speaking at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering on Thursday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Robert Mugabe’s downfall in Zimbabwe was a signal of the ANC’s own decline. But Maimane also faced tough questions about his own party. By GREG NICOLSON.
Reflecting on Mugabe’s forced resignation, Mmusi Maimane told the audience in Sandton that liberation movements like the former Zimbabwean president’s Zanu-PF and the ANC have a limited lifespan as they adopt the very values they fought against.
“In truth, the story of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is precisely the same story of Zuma’s ANC. It’s an indicator of the fact that liberation movements often run their course,” said Maimane. “I’d like to argue that Zanu-PF and the ANC – as the young people would say – same WhatsApp group.”
The Gathering has focused on the upcoming ANC election, but three of the party’s presidential candidates withdrew from the event at the last minute. Maimane said it was ironic none of the ANC presidential hopefuls had attended.
The DA leader said the candidates have tried to reinvent themselves as fighters of corruption. “But it’s all a trick, it’s an illusion.” All were complicit in supporting President Jacob Zuma, he said. As former foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma played a key role in Former President Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” policy, which helped Mugabe stay in power.
Maimane would not say which ANC candidate he thought would be better for the party. “(Deputy President Cyril) Ramaphosa has defended Zuma at times so I’m not here to pick him or pick NDZ.”
He said the ANC conference doesn’t matter. “It will be business as usual. It will be someone else’s turn to eat.”
Maimane called on the winning candidate to show they were serious about fighting corruption. He challenged them to immediately recall Zuma, institute the commission of inquiry into State Capture as recommended by the Public Protector, remove NPA boss Shaun Abrahams and halt the nuclear deal.
During question time, Maimane faced tough questions on the perception that the DA is a white party. He said 63% of the DA’s public representatives are black and the party caucus in the National Assembly will be more diverse after the 2019 elections. “You can’t change it midstream.”
On DA members tarnishing the party’s image with racism, he said, “You must recognise that in South Africa we engage in a discussion about race because our history divided us on racial lines… We have to sit down and say when you said that that’s not right, whether you are black or white, that’s not right.” Maimane said he didn’t believe former DA leader Helen Zille was racist. Zille was sanctioned by her party this year for claiming colonialism’s legacy was not exclusively negative.
The DA has been criticised for having a large white supporter base who are absent at marches. “When you organise a march you pull people from different constituencies. You get them there and they arrive,” he said. “What is the threshold of white people that should have been there?” he asked, claiming to have a diverse range of South Africans at DA events.
In his speech, Maimane said conversation should focus on the country’s future rather than the ANC elective conference. “We have to bring a change in this country that’s not simply changing one racial elite with another while the poor continue to exist in a parallel world.”
He touched on education. “If you are poor in South Africa, money, race, or origin of birth should not be a limiting factor for you to go to higher education. We must ensure that the poor South Africans get access to higher education,” he said.
He said there must be an expanded university funding model to help poor South Africans pursue higher education and called for improved access to TVET colleges. “For those who choose not to study, we want to offer a variety of apprentice’s programmes.” DM
Additional reporting by Puseletso Nthate and Orateng Lepodise
Photo: Mmusi Maimane tells attendees at The Gathering that the ANC’s December conference doesn’t matter. “It will be business as usual. It will be someone else’s turn to eat.” Photo: Daniel Born
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