South Africa

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DA will erect its ‘Racist vs Heroes’ posters throughout eThekwini

Democratic Alliance election posters erected on Phoenix Highway in eThekwini have sparked outrage. Thirty-six people were killed in the July unrest. The ANC has accused the DA of promoting racism and violence. (Photo: Mandla Langa)
By Des Erasmus
05 Oct 2021 13

The DA has sparked outrage after erecting posters in Phoenix, eThekwini, calling those who defended their communities during the July unrest ‘heroes’. The ANC has accused the opposition party of promoting racism and violence.

Democratic Alliance (DA) local government election posters that have been erected in Phoenix, eThekwini, and branded “shameful and fascist in nature” by the provincial ANC will be going up all over the metro, DA KZN chairperson and campaign manager Dean Macpherson told Daily Maverick on Tuesday evening. 

Macpherson said the party started erecting the posters in Phoenix because: “You have to start somewhere, and we are going north to south”. 

The two-tier posters are branded with the DA logo, albeit with a darker blue background. The first line reads: “THE ANC CALLED YOU RACISTS”, followed below by: “THE DA CALLS YOU HEROES”. 

The reference is to the violent civil unrest and looting that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and, to a lesser extent, Gauteng, in July. 

The riots started with sporadic incidents just hours after the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma on contempt of court charges (he has since been released on medical parole) and spiralled into an orgy of violence, arson and theft.

In the absence of “overwhelmed” police — and while citizens were awaiting the deployment of the SA National Defence Force — hundreds of neighbourhoods formed community patrol groups to protect themselves, their properties and their shopping centres from looting and destruction. 

Several vigilante groups and trigger-happy individuals also emerged and appeared to have indiscriminately murdered people in the name of “protection”.

Such was the case in Phoenix, where at least 36 people — most of them black — were allegedly killed by Indian residents. Several residents of Indian descent were also killed. Forty-three people were arrested and several cases are before the courts.

Macpherson told Daily Maverick there was “nothing untrue about those posters”.

“For the last three months, the ANC has gone around this province, and more particularly the city [of eThekwini], calling everybody racist for defending their properties, defending their businesses, defending their families and their communities. That is a fact of life. 

“We don’t subscribe to that. We think that the ANC has used the race card to hide the terrible conflict and damage that has been inflicted on the city because the ANC decided to have a family argument on our streets, costing billions of rands and hundreds of lives.

“We think that anyone that actually stood up was the blue line between total anarchy and chaos that we were subjected to, [and] are heroes.”

Macpherson said President Cyril Ramaphosa was himself on record as saying people who defended their communities were heroes. 

Asked if the wording on the posters could not stoke racial tensions in Phoenix, Macpherson claimed that only the ANC and EFF had been stoking racial tension in the area.

As the provincial campaign manager, Macpherson is responsible for the messaging, but eThekwini municipality’s administration had approved the wording, he said. “They didn’t have a problem with the message, and they are an ANC administration.”

Several DA councillors told Daily Maverick that they were unhappy with the messaging, and wanted the posters removed. Asked how he would respond to detractors within the party, Macpherson replied: “They can phone me.” 

He reiterated that the posters would be going up in various constituencies, not only in Indian areas. “They are going up in my constituency of Umhlanga, Durban North, Newlands, I can assure you of that.”

As for the outrage brewing on social media by some about the posters, Macpherson said: “They probably don’t live in Durban, so they don’t know what they are talking about. It’s easy to sit in your home around the province and not know what the ANC subjected us to, and what the ANC continued to subject us to. 

“Quite frankly, voters and residents in eThekwini are tired of it. They are tired of being pawns in the ANC’s political games that cost people their lives and their livelihoods.”

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal released a statement on Tuesday afternoon in which it said that the posters indicated, “[T]he DA promotes and supports the heinous murders committed by [a] few racists in Phoenix during the violent protests in July. 

“The disgusting act of the DA to pit people against each other using its election posters erected in the Phoenix area on the north of Durban shows that this party has no respect for human life.

“It shows the true colour of the DA that is desperate to an extent of spreading lies to gain votes. Their actions reveal that they are a party that will do anything as they thrive through creating division and perpetuating racism.”

The statement further said that the ANC was a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic government that “doesn’t perpetuate any divisions among citizens of the country”.

According to 2016 election data, the DA has four fairly safe seats in Phoenix; however, there are also three marginal seats in the surrounding wards in traditional Indian population areas that the party could snatch from the ANC if it mobilises its voters. 

The ANC currently holds the seat in Mt Edgecombe (Ward 102), having obtained 46% of the vote in 2016 to the DA’s 39% on a 66% turnout in that election. With a 30% Indian population in that area, getting those residents out to vote is key to taking the seat.

In Westham (Ward 52) it is even tighter, with the ANC holding the seat by the tiniest of margins, having secured 44% to the DA’s 42%. There is another equally tight race in Glen Anil/Redhill (Ward 110), currently held by the ANC with 42% against the DA’s 41%.

The DA’s campaign will probably be similar in other areas with large Indian populations. 

Nationwide, 359 people died as a result of the unrest in July — the vast majority of these in KZN — and as a result of fighting between looters, or looters being crushed and suffocated as they scrambled for stolen goods. 

A clutch of alleged “instigators” have been arrested for stoking the violence. All have been released on bail.

The looting and destruction cost KZN more than R20-billion, with investors, the public and political parties and civil society expressing deep dissatisfaction at the government’s response to the unrest.  

During an appearance before the National Council of Provinces in August, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that the riots had led to 200 malls being looted and damaged, and 100 damaged by fire.

Extensive damage was recorded at 161 shopping centres, 11 warehouses, eight factories and 161 liquor outlets, said Cele. Three hundred banks and post office branches were vandalised and 1,119 retail stores damaged. Hundreds of schools in KwaZulu-Natal were also vandalised or torched. DM

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All Comments 13

  • A handful of racist vigilantes committed some of the most gruesome acts imaginable under the guise of self-defence, yet some politicians, apparently from the RET faction of the ANC and EFF, sought to paint all of us South Africans of Indian descent with the same brush – not without a touch of hatred. These politicians certainly have not done their parties any favours.

    By failing to unequivocally condemn the vigilante violence, the DA has not done itself any favours either. The party may claim to be honouring those selfless citizens who risked life and limb with the sole aim of protecting others. This equivocation is political opportunism at its worst. I live in this community. I don’t know anybody who wants the murderous bigots in our midst. They diminish not only our self-respect but also our humanity

    • Agreed. The world will only heal when politicians realise that they’re servants of the people, not power mongers. Political fighting and point-scoring do nothing to improve the lives of constituents.

    • “By failing to unequivocally condemn the vigilante violence, the DA has not done itself any favours either.”

      I personally don’t mind that the DA didn’t condemn the violence. Things got to the point where regular folk had to stand up and say “no, you’re not going to take what I have, and I will hurt you if I have to”. Were there some trouble makers and possibly even racists in these groups, as well as unnecessary loss of life? Sure, but the majority involved were just regular good people protecting themselves and their livelihoods.

      My parents were in one of the hardest hit areas in PMB, and to be honest, it’s the “vigilantes” that stopped things from getting worse. If there had been no vigilantes to stop the spread, the damage would have been even greater! Thankfully these groups said “enough is enough” and protected their friends and families. Considering I was not able to be there to help my parents, I am grateful to the people who stood and protected my parents home and neighbourhood in my stead.

      The fact that the DA has taken advantage of this… well, it’s politics. I overall agree with the DA viewing these groups as heroes.

      At the end of the day, it’s an ANC govt that failed us. It’s also that the ANC govt was telling people to not defend themselves and that the community policing was a problem, and that ANC members were going around saying it was racism! The EFF jumped on the same racist bandwagon as they always do.

  • The ANC and EFF has obviously forgotten the two heinous acts of violence perpetrated against the Indian population by Black Africans in the past. This time around, the Indian population in Phoenix were ready to defend themselves. Can’t blame them for that.
    All citizens ( no matter their race) who defended their communities during the insurrection due to the lack of police protection deserve to be recognized as heroes! And we are all entitled to our opinions – EFF hate speech is an example of that!

  • Its hard to win when you’re in the minority….
    No doubt many community members who stood up against rampant criminality & looting in the complete absence of any semblance of state resources to uphold law and order -across South Africa. I want to believe that the vast majority of them acted lawfully, but based on independent assessments there were those that didn’t those that didn’t. I wander what would’ve happened if NO ONE sought to protect their neighbourhoods and waited for police or the army. No doubt the desired anarchy would’ve been achieved by the ANC’s RET arm. So frankly, on balance, I’m thankful those community members who came out to protect their communities’ and consider them heroes. To those who behaved wholly unlawfully, may they be prosecuted as harshly as those who were behind the mayhem.

  • So the DA thought they’d just go ahead and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – stoking racial disharmony –
    What nutters.

  • And why not? This is what our politics have become. Exactly how do we expect the DA to play a clean game when the ANC and EFF consistently use dirty tactics and testing the boundaries of racialism to win not by merit, but by stoking narratives of anger?

    It’s all well and good to sit on our comfortable positions and cast a shadow on the DA. But can someone tell me what their alternative is? Clean meritocratic politics doesn’t work. It’s not winning votes. Instead, it perpetually sets the DA up for a beating by the media and other parties whenever it strays from its high ideals. Talk is cheap, so political parties and media commentators always go for the bargain basement.

    The fight for South Africa’s soul has become dirty. And we are entering the twilight of our chance to save SA. Between unemployment climate change and an increasingly dysfunctional state, we are running out of options. If the DA can’t take the fight to the ANC and EFF’s (and Afriforum) level now, when should it? Shall we wait until SA is officially a failed state? Or will we then blame the DA for not doing enough?

    Sh** or get off the pot, people. We don’t have much time left.

  • As a supporter of the DA I am particularly disappointed by this “tactic”. Stop shooting yourselves (and us) in the foot! Steenhuisen’s shrill defence (on SAFM) of this divisive stupidity came across, to me at least, as disingenuous; as if he’d been caught in an embarrassing gaff, and indeed he had. We all know that the worst violence was committed in Phoenix, and the majority of those murdered were black. This is primarily what was being called racist. The protection of property, not so much. So these posters, erected in Phoenix, referring to the “racists” as heroes seems to have been a deliberate provocation, predictably interpreted to mean that the DA regards the murderers as heroes. And, surprise, that’s exactly how it has been interpreted. N0 wonder the outrage, and I share it. This is racism, and I expect much better from the DA. Steenhuisen needs to recognise this for what it is, and have the courage to own it and apologise. Nothing short of that will restore my faith in the DA.

  • @DM – was Tony Leon not available to comment on this latest experiment by the DA? To be fair, asking Helen Zille to write election posters after a whole bottle of beaujolais, instead of tweeting will clearly add to the wealth of scientific data on SA politics, but it would be interesting to hear his opinion, as opposed to just unnamed councillors who probably fear for their mortgages if they are named.

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