‘Roadkill’ snap poll – Most readers scold Steenhuisen, but split on whether he should quit
Responding to a snap poll, Daily Maverick readers roasted DA leader John Steenhuisen for his ‘roadkill’ comment, but are divided on whether he should step down.
DA leader John Steenhuisen’s description of his ex-wife as roadkill has drawn opprobrium from Daily Maverick readers. But those who responded to a snap question on Friday, 9 September, are divided on whether he should step down.
The historian RW Johnson wrote an essay critiquing Steenhuisen’s style, and party veteran Douglas Gibson responded. Read Suné Payne’s account here.
We wanted only to ask whether he should step down; the consensus is not on this account. But what is clear is that the “roadkill” comment was against norms.
We had 210 responses to a quick question, with 50.5% of readers saying Steenhuisen should step down and 49.5% saying he shouldn’t.
“It is a shockingly sexist statement and is one more illustration that John Steenhuisen is not the right leader for the official opposition,” said one reader. “… he did not acknowledge the mistake but rather tried to explain it away and make it OK. At such a senior DA leadership level, this reflects badly on him and the DA.”
Most of the readers who said Steenhuisen should step down were alarmed by the gendered insouciance. “It feeds into the narrative of women abuse,” said one. A woman politician said: “I’ve been a woman in politics and know it’s a tough hustle. But Steenhuisen’s ‘quip’ revealed what was at the forefront of his mind when he was caught off-guard.” Two readers said the remark was “misogynist”.
Most responses said the remark revealed a poor set of political values, including “respect, judgement and discernment”, that he was “tone-deaf”, and that, like most politicians, he lacked a “moral standard”.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “‘Roadkill’ rage: Steenhuisen says his remark was just a ‘bad joke’, but activists accuse him of ‘misogyny’ and ‘hypocrisy’”
On the other hand
The readers who felt Steenhuisen should not stand down said that while the statement showed poor judgement, it was not a dismissable offence.
“There would be no more politicians if they all stood down at a gaffe,” said one. Another said: “I do not believe an ill-considered remark in a podcast chat show should mean this career politician’s end.”
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Yet another said it was “ludicrous” to suggest that he resign. “It was seriously poor taste, and he should issue an apology. One comment cannot negate all of his good work. It was stupid to say, no doubt about that. Pointless to make him step down. He is doing an efficient job. But he must make a public apology to his ex-wife first and then to all the women of South Africa, making it clear that he understands that what he said was unbefitting of a political leader, no matter how light-hearted the occasion. And he should be made to do some gender-sensitivity course,” said another reader.
One reader was so irritated that they used capital letters: “IT WAS A JOKE. JUST LIKE THE ANC IS A JOKE. NO ONE HAS ASKED THEM TO STEP DOWN FOR BEING A JOKE.” Another said the issue is “making a mountain of a molehill”.
The theme that emerged from readers’ comments is the guidance that governance should be the yardstick. “People should stop voting based on superficial criteria and rather on ability to govern.”
A final comment was that the DA-run Western Cape was much better to live in than Johannesburg, Pretoria, the Eastern Cape and Durban. DM