Maverick Life

SATIRICALLY SPEAKING

Mr Steenhuisen is the boss South Africa needs

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen addresses the Cape Town Press Club on 'The path to building a new majority' on 1 December 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

In a world of performative politics, Mr Steenhuisen’s authenticity and disregard for optics are truly refreshing.

Dear Boss Leader Mr John Henry Steenhuisen, Sir

I trust this email finds you seen, affirmed and respected like the boss that you are. I have watched your inspiring rise to the position most adjacent to the most powerful position in your party with awe and admiration. Not to mention your party’s spectacular victory in the most recent local elections. To think that this year you took the Democratic Alliance (DA) from Mr Leon’s 16.3% victory in 2006 to 21.65% in 2021. You have a lot to be proud of, Sir, for realsies. Bloody well done!!! If “against all mathematical odds” was a person!

When I think of your political journey, words such as underrated, underappreciated, and or maybe just plain under, come to mind. I have no doubt that your leadership will save this country from the darkness. I am currently visiting family in the Eastern Cape and, even as I am sitting here writing you this email by candlelight and powerbank, the rest of the municipality stretching tens of kilometres around me, which voted 75% you(A) know(N) who(C), is in total darkness. By ballot choice. Truly, the South African tragicomedy writes itself. Enough already! Cometh the dark hours, cometh the man! Post-election Stage 4 has awakened the activist in me and I am finally ready to join the Struggle; we cannot let these people drag us down with them!

Which brings me to the reason for my email.

As a result of poor career guidance in my school days and, consequently, even poorer career choices, I have spent the past decade working as a journalist. Being a glass-half-full kinda guy, I’ve tried to make the best of it. At the peak of my career, I — like many other fortunate journos — dabbled in communications and public relations (PR) work in service of capitalism. Alas, all good things must come to an end, so I now find myself once again in the dark-sided hinterland known as journalisming, where, week after week, my ceaselessly melancholic colleagues open every meeting in Shakespearean fashion: “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

My inherently sunny soul aches for the glory days of PR work and, having watched you from a distance since you took the almost-top position, I feel I can be of great service to you and the party. Words are my thing; happy, positive, success-oriented words. After watching some of your most recent interviews, and some of your older ones; actually, just about all your interviews, I’ve come to realise that a man as great and passionate as you should not have to sweat and break his brain figuring out how to put words together effectively. Let me do that for you and much more.

There really is so much work to be done to Capetownise South Africa. Charisma, likeability, eloquent speech and an actual personality; all these can be such unnecessary distractions. Let me take that off your busy hands, Sir John. I’ll even tell you the exact politically correct moment to smile and shout “service delivery” during a Gareth Cliff interview, which is probably not during a heated debate on racism. Understandably, you’re just way too real and authentic to bother with optics and stuff. Fret not, I got you. Jy is die groot bass nou and everybody must listen, and I will make sure they do and that they don’t bother you with their anecdotes of racist experiences. Service delivery!!!

I’ve also got some great ideas for election posters by the way. Perhaps, most importantly, I believe I can make a great contribution as your very own dedicated person of candour. In these times of identity politics, it has become increasingly important for organisations that wish to remain relevant and in touch to have a good representation of people of candour in their top leadership ranks; POCs, if you will.

As I’m sure you and reformed tweeter Ms Mazzone have discussed among yourselves at some point, good loyal people of candour are hard to come by. You think you’ve got one in the bag and suddenly they have a mind of their own, they want you to care about issues beyond the party script. It would seem that these people confuse the positions they were hired for, as POCs, with POV, point of view.

Sometimes I think they overestimate the value of their candour. I’m grateful to see that since you took your position at the back of the main saddle, you’ve made it clear that POCs who don’t stick to the script have no place in the organisation that you’re now definitely the big man leader boss of. Good for you, well done, good boy. You’ve really done all you can, these people also sommer now need to come to the party and stop thinking they can host their own parties. Your organisation has gone to great lengths to make a home for POCs, and for that I take out my gratitude journal night after night and jot down at least three reasons why I am grateful for your organisation’s existence. The ANC calls you racists, I call you heroes!

Meneer, as your very own POC, your loyal respectful person of candour, trust that I will know my place, I will keep my POV to myself and my candour will be always in service to the party, as intended. As your very own culturally palatable POC, I will be the Candace Owens to your Tucker Carlson. And you can be sure that, unlike some of the party’s former people of candour, I won’t run to Twitter to drag your good name in the brown mud. And, most importantly, I’ll never vacate my position without telling you first. I’ll never hurt your feelings like that. Okay? Okay? There there. You’re the boss, you’re the man; you’re the leader. I know it and 21.65% of South Africa knows it.

I hope you won’t think me too forward but I’ve taken the liberty of CC-ing Ms Helen Zille on this email, just so you don’t have to still forward it to her to get her go-ahead, should you be keen on granting me an interview. I so look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. I also have a number of Skillshare certificates, so we’ll never have to worry about nosy journos digging into my qualifications.

Palatably yours, a professional person of candour, who is definitely not like the others. M

DM/ML

Please note this article uses satire.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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All Comments 58

  • If this is an example of satire, I suggest the Daily Maverick should avoid publishing the works of satirist Mr Tyilo in future. It is not funny; in fact, it seemed to me to be a rather pathetic and failed attempt at satire. If you wish to satirise John Steenhuisen, by all means do so but I suggest you should employ a more skilled satirist than this gentleman.

    • No, it’s excellent satire. It exposes the mess the DA is in because of its collective fawning over old lady Zille and Steenhuisen’s thin skin (which nevertheless remains remarkably ‘out of touch’). Your misunderstanding of satire speaks to you, not the very capable writer of this piece. Maybe you should go work for Baas Steenhuisen?

    • If you really do not find Malibongwe’s satire funny, you either seriously lack a sense of humour, or do not understand satire. Or both (probably both).

  • My response: Ho hum….

    Here’s the strawman narrative that underlies the so-called satire: The DA in general, and Steenhuisen in particular, are under the spell of Zille who, in turn, has adopted the views of rightwing US think-tanks and the SAIRR. Consequently, the DA has abandoned efforts to win large numbers of Black voters. Instead, they have decided sideline transformation efforts, but, to save face, appoint a few docile token Blacks into the lower and middle echelons. Thus they hope to capture sufficient votes on the right to keep the ANC at bay in the urban power centres.

    And so the piece weakly attempts to saterise “People of candour” (POC — ha ha) who supposedly have to parrot these rightwing views to avoid the ire of their leader.

    When the commentariat decides to engage with the true DA agenda, I will take them seriously.

    • Well stated. That’s exactly the narrative the DA is presenting to the country. Should you feel the DA has another, more useful, agenda to offer our country, please offer it up. And perhaps also offer Zille, Steenhuisen and Co. some help marketing that agenda. The voters are clearly not impressed with the one currently on display.

      • My reading of the DA thinking is roughly as follows:
        1. SA’s political future tends towards coalition politics rather than majority government. The DA aspires to being a major player in such a context.
        2. The rural SA vote (40%+) is largely determined by village chiefs. The DA stands very little chance there.
        3. Increasingly urban Black youth are distancing themselves from the parents’ political views, do not feel as entitled as their parents did, are well educated, and want to be employed and promoted on their own merits. Capturing at least some of their vote will be important.
        4. Voters know that cadre deployment under the guise of BEE has been the cause of most of SA’s woes. Talented people want to be recognised for who they are, not patronised for their skin colour.
        5. The most effective pathway out of poverty is freeing up the economy. I do not think the DA is as extreme as say, the USA Republicans. Rather, it tends towards democratic socialism in Europe.
        6. Race relations in SA are by and large quite cordial. The anti-White EFF has (hopefully) more or less peaked. The FF+ seem more pro-Afrikaner than anti-Black. Of course, a proportion citizens (not just Whites) carry deep racial prejudices. But the long-term drift is towards the non-racial centre (to the credit of moderate ANC personalities).

        There is no space to say much more. No doubt, the woke-brigade will accuse me of racism or naivete. So be it.

        • Yes, this is very much your reading of the ‘DA thinking’. I’m not sure it’s a reflection of the reality of the way the DA governs itself or markets itself. And while your analysis may not be racist, per se, it does present a very white-centric view and is unnecessarily pessimistic.
          The DA was, at a stage, realistically optimistic about capturing a much larger section of the non-white vote. Even the party itself was starting to look more representative at leadership level. This was a necessary turn away from identity politics and more likely to capture the vote you speak of above. However, Zille and Steenhuisen reversed this direction and it’s proving to be a fatal error. That coalition politics is inevitable is a reflection of the fact that voters no longer trust either of the top two parties. In SA, coalition governance is fraught with power struggles and other problems – if the DA is aspiring to be a coalition partner, rather than a major political force, then it shows their resignation, not political prowess.
          They’ve made countless mistakes and they’re paying the price for those mistakes. And Baas Steenhuis’s contribution to them has been beautifully satirised in this piece.

    • A strawman that the DA has tirelessly worked to bring to life by dismissing anyone who isn’t in their “perfect DA demographic” – as the ever tin-eared Mazzone fawned over Jerm Nell on his loony right wing conspiracy podcast show

  • I hold no candle for John Steenhuisen – in fact have withdrawn my support for the DA because of him and Helen Zille – but this is not satire. It is cheap and nasty journalism at its worst and belongs in a tabloid

    • I must agree that this is not Mr Tyilo’s best work but his earlier pieces are certainly worth reading. His style is reminiscent of that of the late Alan Coren whose book, “The Sanity Inspector”, still reduces me to helpless giggles.

      I vote we give him another chance, dear readers. What do you say?

      • Well, to me he is the epitome of Trevor Noah. Except Trevor says it standing up with live sounds, whilst Malibongwe is doing it sitting down and with his pen. But I enjoy both, as it gives me a bit of a break from the serious and mostly depressing TV and radio news delivered by the spoken word or printed news articles in newspapers and online media

        • and will look for that book of Alan Coren when next I visit a good book store, of which there are not many in my area of residence. Also need to giggle a bit just to keep my sanity in this rather dark place (not all Eskom’s fault) our country is in.

    • I can’t feel for you.
      Imagine being a die hard member of ANC or EFF and seeing your country going down the drain after living through the indignity of apartheid. All your taxes being used to enable their leadership to loot and live in luxury with cavalcades of large black German 4×4’s to whizz them around town.
      I feel for those folks.

  • I think it’s wonderful satire.

    Is it not the job of all black folks to despise the DA -after all its a predominantly white party, so you just can’t like them, no matter who the leader is. Oh and because all Whites were complicit in apartheid.
    Its just fantastic how this so-called Satirist plays to the exact narrative that our ANC, EFF and race bating, highly woke folks thrive on – play the colour not the ball! Identity politics freshly imported from the US of A.
    Kinda reminds me of a cartoon of the Zimbabwean couple – husband turns to wife and says “honey, the electricity’s back on, so it the water – and I saw that they’ve filled the potholes in the road……quick, get the panga out, the whites must be back in power!”
    Now ain’t that the perfect mix of satire and candour?

    • Brilliant D.R. W.
      These shallow Social Warriors who keep focusing on so called safe targets, while the kleptomanics who run the government keep stealing from the dying and the poor, The utter incompetence of the ANC government. The KZN riots. The covid response. The rocketing energy prices….. yet the ANC gets a pass……or have I missed something.
      As much as I enjoyed the article it was so predictable in its content.

  • Satirise as much as you will Tsiyo. When you wake up tomorrow morning, the DA municipalities will still be cleaner managed than the others, and the ANC will still be locked into employing and deploying crooks within their ranks, and the people, including lower order DA token blacks, will be worse off than they were today.

    • Thank you Macleod. This ‘satirical’ piece certainly flushed out the usual bunch of anti-DA commenters. They probably wet themselves with excitement when they read the above piece.

        • Coen Gous – humour and satire are not the same thing, though each may contain elements of the other. An important element of humour is an element of surprise. Comedians will tell you this. If you found elements of surprise (i.e. unpredictable outcomes) in this story, I feel sorry for you. Maybe you’re the one that does not understand satire and humour, and the difference between them?

          • Once again, as per all your other direct communication with me via DM, is….well, so complementary and educational. Thank you for my pointing out, once again, how stupid I am. I will work so much harder in trying to improve my level of schooling. Please do not feel sorry for me, I am most comfortable with myself, but release I am in desperate need of better education so I can match your standards.

  • hahaha, very funny! Thanks for the chuckle Malibongwe!
    If we don’t find a way to laugh, all we can do is cry….
    Can’t believe these people missed their opportunity to be a great opposition. They get a lot right, but ohmigosh, they got this race thing SO WRONG! Frustrating.

  • After reading virtually all the articles in today’s issue of DM, I find it rather amusing that this piece of satire evoke such a barrage of response from DM readers, significantly more than any other article. Perhaps DM should consider another website, with satire as the prime driver. But it being a piece of satire addressed to a political party leader (In this case the DA leader), it received the expected criticism from those staunch DA supporters, failing to see the satire in the piece. What to me however will be interesting to know is what Steenhuisen or Zille will think. Will they bring themselves to have a faint smile, or will they storm around like an enraged bull in the streets of Madrid, ready to trample those humans to broken bones and worse? Interesting country this, where people find it very difficult to burst into spontaneous laughter, or have a good giggle at themselves.

    • Yes, such interesting insights. Having read this column before, that same DM demographic praised Mr Tyilo’s satire for its incisive wit. Wit aimed at the ANC and EFF, of course. When he turns his pen on the DA, there’s suddenly a sense of humour failure. This polarisation of opinion is, of course, not exclusive to SA.

      • Totally agree. It’s a good piece, and just because it’s aimed at the DA doesn’t make it bad writing. Satirists should treat all politicians the same. They deserve to be. I voted DA met lang tande because I live in Cape Town and want it to continue to improve. But I think the DA is messing up badly with their message.

  • I want to commend the DA and John Steenhuizen for the excellent work they do on a daily basis. The party for all South Africans. I must say i am quite surprised of the the negative rhetoric around the DA and their overall performance. I would love for those of you that have such a negative disposition to draw up a score card of the successes of the DA versus the other parties. Once you have done that you will agree the DA needs more credit than criticism but hey that’s just my perspective. God bless this beautiful country and the DA.

  • Please dont go back to the glory days of PR, stick with us at DM – we really appreciate your noble sacrifice! Also, I now feel a strong urge to see the minutes of your Shakespearean staff meetings…

  • Lets be outcome based – less potholes and more service delivery is the cornerstone of proper economic activity in any area. Business decline is directly linked to failed public service. That is where the focus should be and where the DA does deserve credit. Problem is, its not truly multi-racial.
    I would prefer to support a significant truly multi-racial party that effectively prevents corruption and service delivery – that does not exist at the moment, unfortunately. Maybe one arises in future, one can hope.

    • I agree. The fact that so few African origin names are engaging in this discussion illustrates how far the DA have removed themselves from many black supporters. Herman Mashaba and Mmusi Maimane had very good reasons to move on. I can only hope that the DA come to their senses soon. WE are a majority African origin country and our representatives need to reflect that.

  • Satire? Dunno! Finding myself drowning in a cesspit of self indulgent verbal diarrhea I gave up before I got to being able to tel whatever the point was going to be…

    Sheesh DM. K. I. S. S

  • A pretty disappointing read! Clearly, many commentators on this suppose’d satire have also not read the DA Policy Statements, as led by DA Head of Policy Gwen Ngwenya.

    And how disappointing to read the comments – no wonder the national opposition is unsettled. A general lack of capacity to understand is so evident.
    Which one of the commentators is or has been personally active at counting votes, playing party agent, calling on voters, attending municipal council meetings, helping reap the stats which so often drive decision-making etc etc.

    Get active, join a party and participate, get in touch with an electorate personally, and listen! This will broaden the scope of insight, which, as evidenced in the accompanying opinions, suggests not much participation by their authors takes place.

    We need to encourage all that colour is not the issue – true values of the truth and hard work, driven by energetic kindness and focus, are!

    • Our individual and group stories need acknowledgement which include colour. The pain of racist and xenophobic interactions including apartheid and even English arrogance and boer war concentration camps etc. may need to be acknowledged before we can move forward with a common purpose. John Steenhuisen would have done better to accept the feelings of pain from past racism expressed in an interview and even now apologise for not supporting her.

    • I agree with “Get active, join a party and participate” I just wish the party I use to support hadn’t turned into a right wing parody with the headmistress publishing unhinged books on how “SA won’t survive wokeness” and their chief whip appearing on Jerm’s Alex Jones knockoff podcast grovelling about he is the “perfect DA demographic”

      Maybe one day the DA it has to appeal to the majority of the SA electorate and not the scared minority of minorities if they have any desire to become a governing party.

    • Nice lecture on civics!

      One shouldn’t have to READ the policy statements – the DA’s actions should make reading them unneccessary.

      It is time for the DA to become more representative and to recognise the need for some form of inclusive social democracy. If it ever hopes for greater support from the broader electorate it is also time to ask Helen Zille to fade quietly into the sunset.

      Looking backwards, in the sense of “Make South Africa Great Again”, and praising the DA’s achievements in Cape Town achieves nothing for the party across the country.

      I

  • It seems to me that there are a lot of people in SA who are very good at being armchair critics. Much like the plethora of so called “political commentators”. I wonder who of the “circus of critics” has actually put his or her toe in the “water of politics” and achieved anything worthwhile or significant in this field?
    I suggest they “put their money where their mouth is”. Criticising without actually doing something worthwhile is to me very cowardly, so perhaps these critics will show us all some achievements in the field of active politics.

    • There are many comments here which could make the ANC whoop for joy. By the time the ‘Perfect’ political party envisaged by some comes into being the country will have been demolished brick by brick (literally if one looks at our railways) by the ANC.

      • Yes,
        Can any of the “satirists” and their supporters point out any part of the country’s assets run by government which are not falling apart – once again I say get off your armchairs and put your money where your mouth is.

  • Well after reading the article and all the comments I told my wife about it and them. Her remark: “Who is Steenhuisen?” When I reminded her she said she thought it was familiar! This from a family that campaigned for the Progs and mostly votes for its successors. The DA has a way to go to get out of this mess