Defend Truth


DA’s flag flambé: A horrible no-good ad for horrible no-good times

DA’s flag flambé: A horrible no-good ad for horrible no-good times
Illustrative image: Screen capture from the DA's ‘Unite to rescue SA’ advert.

The Democratic Alliance advert depicting our national flag burning and then reassembled, was clearly designed to inspire intense emotions. In that, it succeeded. But a much bigger question may be why this advert was published in the first place and whether it will succeed in winning more votes for the party, which three weeks before the elections should be the primary reason for its existence. This follows a tradition of the DA using incendiary adverts in its attempts to define the driving issues of the election.

To view an image of our flag burning, no matter how it is depicted, inspires intense emotions. It hurts. Deeply, even if the burning process is reversed and the flag is seen as untouched at the end.

It provokes important questions, as in, why would someone want to do this, and could someone who would conceive of using such an advert for political gain really respect the idea, the concept, the aim, of South Africa at all?

President Cyril Ramaphosa suggested that it was “treasonous” to do this, while Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa said he would take action because he had a duty to protect South Africa’s national flags and symbols.

There is some evidence that a majority agrees with him. But not everyone.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024

Over the past few days, callers into SAfm have gone in many directions – this has not been a debate where you can guess the view from the name of the person speaking.

Qobi in Polokwane suggested the flag in flames represented the problems causing our country to burn, and that, “Who doesn’t know that all the things the DA says (are wrong with the country) are true?”

Teksio in Maluti-a-Phofung asked an important question, “Imagine if the EFF is the one who burnt the flag”.

Many others agreed with Kodwa that the flag should be protected.

Kodwa chose his words carefully, suggesting the action he would take would be to ask the Electoral Commission if this advert did cross the line. But he also appeared to advocate for some kind of legal protection for the flag.

Many countries in Europe, such as Spain, France and Germany all have laws punishing people for desecrating their flags. Britain does not, while in the US the issue of whether there should be a ban on burning that country’s flag has energised the right-wing since the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately, no matter the intentions of those who want legal protection for a flag, down this road lies absurdity.

Where does the offence to the flag start? With the burning of it? With burning an image of it? With using it in a satirical film? Using it in an advert? With Faf de Klerk’s underwear?

In Zimbabwe, when an activist took to displaying the flag as a sign of protest, displaying the flag was briefly made illegal.

And if burning our flag as a form of protest is wrong, would it be wrong for an American to burn their flag in protest against Donald Trump’s possible re-election?

All of this may spark hope in the DA that its advert provokes a series of debates that puts the ANC on the wrong side of the argument, that the party somehow oversteps.

No accident

The history of DA campaigns during previous elections shows that this advert is no accident.

As long ago as 2016, the leading opposition party released an advert that used the voice of Nelson Mandela. This caused outrage at the time, led by the ANC MP, Madiba’s grandson Mandla Madiba.

In 2021, just months after the violence that claimed at least 342 lives in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the party again courted controversy.

It put up posters in Phoenix, the centre of the violence, that told residents “The ANC calls you racists. The DA calls you heroes”.

As Daily Maverick pointed out at the time, the intention of the DA was to stoke controversy. And the way to do this was through increasing divisions, not reducing them.

Unfortunately, this is often the point of modern politics.

Perhaps the best public description of politics as it is practised in strategic terms by the DA has come from the former DA strategist, Gareth van Onselen.

As he put in Business Live while responding to the launch of Rise Mzansi, “A good sign of an impactful political party, in terms of current affairs, is when other parties are forced to respond to you. That is how you lead debate”.

In other words, an election can be won or lost not by what is actually said on the campaign trail, but by what the election is about.

Our elections in the past have often been dominated by racial identity. Given that our society is defined by racialised inequality, this should be expected.

If the DA believes this election, too, will be dominated by race, then it may well have wanted to start that debate on its terms. And this advert may be part of that.

It should not be forgotten how often politicians have deliberately tried to change the story in the past.

In 2011 then ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema led a march from Johannesburg to the city then known as Pretoria. In the process, he almost forced our society to debate what he called “Economic Justice”.

It was an inspired move (even as he bailed in Midrand and re-appeared in Pretoria, and then left the country the next morning) in that it changed the story at a stroke. – and without anyone claiming to be offended.

But, much of his career has been defined by comments deemed offensive to many people. This was all deliberate, he stirred up debates. He was taken to court, to the SA Human Rights Commission, to other authorities. And this is one of the roots of his success.

Chair of the DA’s Federal Council Helen Zille has now confirmed this is the DA strategy, writing: “We want to go to war against those who are destroying the dream that once united our nation. We want to save our Flag. Controversy helps drive our message.”

This then is the major point, the aim of this is surely to drive turnout.

Tight election

And, as offensive as this advert may be, the situation ahead of this election could be so tight in some places that just a small percentage one way or another could make a difference.

Consider, for example, the situation in KwaZulu-Natal.

Polling there suggests that four parties could each get around 20% of the vote (the ANC, the IFP, MK and the DA). At the same time, in the suburbs of Ethekwini, residents have displayed intense anger at the quality of services they are receiving.

Whether these people turn out to vote for the DA could literally tip the balance between whether or not that party is in government in KZN after the elections.

This is designed to remind them that their country is burning. And, crucially, that it can be fixed.

The obvious message is that “only the DA” can fix it.

None of this means the DA’s actions here are moral. It is surely offensive and immoral to depict our flag as burning. And to be deliberately offensive, to deliberately cause people emotional pain is always going to be difficult to justify.

However, other parties too have indulged in immoral behaviour.

The EFF has continually baited people with racial divisions, PA leader Gayton McKenzie regularly professes his hatred for foreigners, others support an uninterrupted gusher of lies.

Even Ramaphosa has some history here.

In 2013 he was reported to have said, “If all South Africans don’t vote, we will regress. The Boers will come back to control us.”

More recently, he has suggested that people should vote for the ANC to protect their social grants. This is simply untrue as several other parties, including the EFF,  Action SA, the DA and others all propose protecting, or even increasing, social grants.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said in 2015 that the media is a “continuation of the apartheid regime” while “The DA will bring back apartheid”.

All of this shows that while the DA’s advert is offensive, it is also part of a particular type of politics. A politics that thrives on deliberate division and offence, and never more so than during an election.

Or, as Van Onselen put it in his description, “Nice guys tend to finish last … SA is a street fight”. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Steven how do you deduct that the flag “burning ” is a racial thing. Does it say black versus white on it? And when and how do you say the DA says “only” the DA can fix it. It is not true the reason the DA want other parties to join in in fixing the country. This is just your usual suggestion nonsense cooked together to make people understand the way you want them to. You should do better

    • D Rod says:

      Spot on

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Well said. And to stretch your point a little further, it tends to show how racist a lot of the other parties are. But of course, we’d never be allowed to say that, would we. ‘Hypocrites ‘r them’ for sure!

    • Bob Dubery says:

      My reaction to that advert was not to be offended, it was to be puzzled. I can’t for the life of me see how that advert is going to attract votes or even retain votes.

      The DA do have good stories to tell. The example I have used repeatedly is Chris Pappas. OK… they’ve nominated his as Premier of KZN (presumably he will still be expected to take instruction from MacPherson), but anybody who has followed what he has achieved as mayor in a few years will know what a good story that would be if it were told properly and loudly. There’s a DA difference that people can acknowledge and get behind.

      Instead the DA are always spoiling for a fight. Pappas shows how good they can be where they govern. But mostly they show what a clueless, belligerent, and, let’s face it, touchy opposition they are.

      • Miss Jellybean says:

        Their leaders suffer from chronic foot in mouth disease. Worldwide politicians should have a mandatory retirement age.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    The useless, corrupt, criminal, parasitic and thieving anc are the last people who could ever point a finger and criticize anyone for treasonous behaviour as they have betrayed this country to the fullest. They have stolen it blind, destroyed and broken just about everything that their grubby and rapacious hands grab. Self and party interest rule supreme and they leave poverty, misery, failure and a wasteland in their wake. Go to hell, anc, masters of hypocrisy and double standards!!

  • Coen Gous says:

    It is the silly period before the election and the political parties will do anything possible to try and gain a few extra votes. However to burn our flag, the symbol of our democracy and unity, to me was despicable, regardless of the reasons. It simply smack of racism, and everyone in the country will know too well that racism is still alive a well. It certainly does not inspire unity, 30 years after democracy. A lifetime to many

  • Nick Griffon says:

    Stephen, you missed the plot completely on this one.

  • drew barrimore says:

    The bandwagon is in action and Grootes has leapt on it. On the one hand those reacting hysterically to this advert by the DA are the very ones complicit in the BURNING of the country. They claim to hold and believe in so much symbolism in the flag, yet when the flag is SYMBOLICALLY burnt, they see only something literal?? It’s all a pantomime of hypocrisy.

    • Anthony Sturges says:

      Drew, you have hit the proverbial ‘nail on the head’. While a national symbol of unity, a rallying point for a nation if you will, it is not Stephen who has desecrated this iconic symbol of unity but 30 years of despicable self-seeking greed and mis-rule – Stephen is just highlighting this lamentable situation using allegory!

    • Denise Smit says:

      The journalist must earn a living

  • Peter Vos says:

    A brilliant and timely advertisement!

    The only immorality here is what the electorate has allowed the ANC to perpetrate over the past 30 years.

  • Gary De Sousa says:

    Its just like the underpants,so why the outcry ?Its not as if it was actually burnt, what the Da says is true and its not the first time Im sure that the flag has been really burnt and I know its after the event but pandors comments about inflaming racial hatred at universities just proves the point.

    • virginia crawford says:

      The real question is, did it attract new voters? Probably not, therefore a fail.

      • Ben Harper says:

        And you have evidence to support this?

        • virginia crawford says:

          We’ll see at the elections, Mr Harper. Notice the word probably!

          • Ben Harper says:

            You’ve concluded already it’s “a fail”, did you notice that? Again I ask what evidence do you have to make the statement that it’s already “a fail”.

      • Lordwick Mamadi says:

        What metric did you use to conclude that the ad didn’t attract new voters? I will be voting DA for the first time partly because of their now much talked about ad. So your ‘prophecy’ is incorrect.

        • virginia crawford says:

          Both of you: do you understand the notion of probably- not a prophecy not a fact – and an opinion, which I am entitled to. Why the belligerence? Or is that the DA style?

          • Ben Harper says:

            And there’s the truth in the last line. The bias in your posts is clear as day. I feel sorry for those you supposedly teach

  • Agf Agf says:

    The point is: ITS NOT OFFENSIVE.
    Well certainly not to most thinking people. It’s just a symbolic creation to show what the ANC has done to this country. I’m surprised at Stephen for continuing to make a fuss about it. Nobody actually burnt the flag. It was an AI creation. A very clever one at that. And now there is a meme which follows up on the theme. Are you going to criticize Kiffness for doing it? Come on Stephen. We expect this sort of thing from Feriel and Rebecca, but not from you.

    • District Six says:

      The real question is, will it attract new voters? There’s no other question.

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        There is one even more important question. Will it lose the DA any voters. This is more important. I don’t think it will. People who vote for the DA know they are voting for the only party with a very good proven track record. I am willing to bet that if a survey was done, people who generally vote for the DA have either experienced DA service delivery, or are better educated than those who vote for the ANC since no properly educated person would vote for tyrants. Obviously the trough beneficiaries excluded as they have every reason to continue to vote for the ANC.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Agreed: the flag is a bit of cloth; anyone who’s willing to die for it, or worse, kill for it – is a straitjacketed sentimentalist who really needs to get out more, and learn to think. Our flag is the result of a competition and some imaginative use of colour and design. It does NOT hold any significance in terms of history, and makes for really good underpants/Speedos. Its cynical exploitation by the DA is just good politicking – which has succeeded in baiting the thoughtlessly reactive, and might even help others THINK.

  • Cachunk Cachunk says:

    zizi kodwa is being investigated for bribery and money laundering (just one example of the anc scum burning our Country) and grootes chooses him to quote as a demonstration of the “public’s” outrage, with not a mention of this?! Pathetic.

  • JDW 2023 says:

    “To view an image of our flag burning, no matter how it is depicted, inspires intense emotions. It hurts. Deeply, even if the burning process is reversed and the flag is seen as untouched at the end.”

    Does it? I am not so sure. I feel very little emotion for our flag; it’s a symbol for sure but for what? Hope? The governing party did an excellent job of ruining that. Unity? Well we can talk about the ANC again there. I am a white male who went to grade one in the first year that the schooling system was integrated for all races. I believe fully in a fair and democratic society for all. But when I see our flag all I can think about is a policeman’s comments back in the mid-1990’s that it looked like a suggestive item of clothing. That’s all I can see in our flag because the party ‘governing’ this beautiful, scarred country has effectively stolen the hopes and dreams of millions of people. Yes, the DA’s ads are as tonedeaf as their leaders’ utterances but the advert has a point IN CONTEXT. And I think this is what many people are missing. There is a context as to why the DA is choosing this messaging. The house is burning and citizens need to wake up and use their voting power for change. There is no greater symbol of the rot we are experiencing than the burning down of parliament. Even our national flag cannot compete with that.

    • District Six says:

      You know, correct. When the house is burning, a) no one has to go about telling you that the house is burning, b) starting a fire in the basement isn’t going to help when the house is already burning, c) telling people they are stupid for playing with matches when the house is burning is pretty pointless, d) when the house is burning, telling people how your room in the house is tidy and you made your bed, is also pretty useless, e) making an “advert” where you show a burning house, isn’t an advert for anything, but shows you have come to fetishise burning.

      • JDW 2023 says:

        I am not sure what you are driving at. But if keeping people in a state of ignorance is your end goal then good luck with that. As stated, the ad is lacking in subtly but it has a point whether or not you or I like it.

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        You forgot f.) The house was not real. The flag was not real and the fire was not real. And then these g.) The flag got unburnt, showing that further flag burning could be avoided by putting your cross next to the right party at the elections. Same as the theoretical house and colorful characters.

    • drew barrimore says:

      Well put. Totally agree.

    • Brandon VE says:

      Yeah South African’s have ZERO patriotism. This is not America. Noone willingly displays the flag anywhere on their car, house or body except at sporting events. The flag is just a symbol for a sporting team because that’s the only thing we have been able to be proud of.

      Truth is that we are ASHAMED of our flag.

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    If our flag is, as our president puts, ‘sacred’ and that the burning of it is ‘despicable’ and perhaps even ‘treasonous’, should we not insist that the only flags that can legally be displayed MUST be manufactured in South Africa? Ditto the Springbok regalia worn by supporters and the posters and t-shirts Recall that in 2014 holding up a multimillion-rand consignment of ANC campaign T-shirts before the April elections was one of the factors that fed into the leadership purge of the South African Revenue Service (Sars). Just make sure we don’t burn China’s flag.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Flat-footed and tone deaf, as usual. If their previous antics had increased their share of the vote, it would make sense, but it didn’t. How do you not win against a party as corrupt and incompetent as the ANC? By being so smug and arrogant that your policies are ignored.

    • Tony Reilly says:

      Disagree……just too many ANC voters who will continue to vote ANC regardless. Very similar to the Zanu-PF disaster 😒

    • Anthony Krijger says:

      I do agree with you. I doubt that the masses seeing a burning flag actually watched the ad until the end. The message was lost and the event gave the skuzzballs in the ANC ammo with which to defend themsleves. And then came in the DA big guns in defence with all their justifications. Not one of them said that “OK, we might have got the message wrong in the way it was conveyed”. Instead they took the moral high ground to preach to the converted. Essentially this is where the DA has missed the boat completely. They always have the holier than thou approach, citing their successes in the Western Cape. What happens in the Cape is of no consequence to voters elsewhere. They need to rather plead and beg voters to “give them a chance to prove themselves” but the DA doesnt know how to do this.

      • Malcolm McManus says:

        That’s the problem with our voters. They don’t know any better. In a normal democracy, no party would need to beg for votes. Educated Voters would know better.

        • virginia crawford says:

          Oh please – like the educated voters who bite for a liar like Trump or a Marie Le Pen etc? Is this code for race. Lime the “educated ” who kept the Nats in for 46 years?

    • Lordwick Mamadi says:

      You should also ask yourself why the corrupt and incompetent always wins the election. It’s because the voting masses are gullible and less literate. And also ask yourself why the best run province and municipalities in sewerage-swamp-SA are run none other than the DA.

  • Andrew Donaldson says:

    Confected outrage.

  • Thomas Risi says:

    What is the point of the advert. It doesn’t show unity at all in fact it designed to devide as the National party did in 48 onwards. We as members of the PFP, DP, and earlier DA fought this division with Hellen Susman and its a shame, to what cheap tactics are being used. Just a reminder thats our flag you are burning not theres we fought very hard for this unity and we never thought we were superior.

  • Anton beeskraal says:

    Lekker Steven – Please just grow a pair man!!!!!!!!
    I will vote for the most correct party for ME.
    The country is Literally burning and you are worried about a flag burning in a add – and actually suitable for what’s happening in the country.
    You are trying ti instigate a matter thats already burning deep within us –
    The ANC has caused all this heart ache and not this burning flag.
    It feels like you are tryong to speak “on behalf” of a grieving country.
    But I dont need your Empathy or you Sympathy.
    Please grow a set man and see whats realy happening.
    Stop defending your rights to journalism but in actual fact it sucks B@lls.
    You are speaking on YOUR behalf and NOT the majority of the Folk.
    I saw the add and it did not cause ANY harm or bad feelings towards a race – More towards a Party.

  • TP Mudau says:

    Hellen Zille made it clear on her interview on 702 that those who are offended are those that won’t vote for the DA anyway. If you are offended by the ad, I guess its best you vote for another party, the DA doesn’t need you. I have chosen to take their advice and take my vote for another party.

  • District Six says:

    Thanks for reminding us how offensive the DA’s campaigning has been, from the “Fart Back” of Leon The Chihuahua to the lunatic rantings about colonialism being good for us. And yes, Phoenix. The question is how does such negative campaigning invite new voters to the party? Obviously, they are appealing to people who already vote DA. Which is why they are going backwards. Thus, rather than “controlling the debates” they simply reveal they are stuck in racist tropes mode. This is exactly why the advert fails: one is left with “the flag-burning DA.”
    Ah well, let the [“stupid”] voters speak. It is hard to see how the DA cannot but go shrinking backwards, given that the last true liberal democrat was Van Zyl Slabbert.

    • Ben Harper says:

      The only “racist tropes” are yours, over and over again

    • Alan Watkins says:

      “lunatic rantings about colonialism being good for us”
      As usual you have it completely wrong. The message in fact was that colonialism was not ALL bad. Which is self evident before you even read Helen Zille’s multi hundred word article on the subject. And which is a long cry, even 180 degrees twisted, from “colonialism being good for us”. Reading Helen Zille’s article and even understanding the sentence “colonialism was not ALL bad.” requires what is called reading for meaning. Yes you can read, but you dont understand what you have read, and even when presented with a multi hundred word explanatory article that explains the concept in great detail, you still dont get it. Shame

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    A really good (and timely) perspective Stephen. I applaud DM for the many angles they have explored this story. I also applaud you for ‘ignoring the noise’ and continuing to ‘stir the pot’ as it were.
    What I find interesting is the DA’s strategy of being deliberately provocative (which is a whole bunch different to being unintentionally provocative) and to ‘lead the debate’
    Two things strike me in this regard. Firstly, how we characterise a situation is how we approach that situation. Put another way, if we see everything as a fight it becomes a fight. My second observation is that ‘this approach’ is straight out of the Helen Zille playbook. Helen is incredibly smart but equally adversarial in her approach. The election results will tell us some kind of story as to the success of this kind of strategy but (and its a personal belief) I think trying to motivate people through fear has very short legs.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      ‘Grumpy’? Nope. Rather, ‘Gormless’.

      Or maybe ‘GOMtor’ as they’d call you in the Free State.

      Maybe we should take a vote.

      • Grumpy Old Man says:

        Steve, I have this mental picture, I just can’t shake. It involves a whole bunch of people in DA t-shirts, in a support group setting, sitting around a whitescreen board. On that whitescreen board is written (in blue) ‘Suspected Enemies of the DA’ and below you it you have pictures of Stephen and Ferial and Heather together with a list of other names you consider to be some kind of threat to the DA image. There is of course a gilded, framed high definition picture of Helen hanging on the wall wearing a superimposed crown. You are all chanting her name!
        Steve, I vote for the DA. I am supportive and appreciative of the good work they do. My support of them does not prevent me from having an opinion of them and strangely enough, in this democracy of ours, I am permitted to express it

  • Craig Gordon Nain says:

    Stephen Grootes is one of my favourite journalists but I find myself on the other side of the fence to him on this article.
    I am not a fan of John Steenhuisen, largely because his style of protest reminds me of the irritating kid on the playground having to shoot off his/her (or, as a more PC society would have us consider,”non-binary”) at everything everyone else on the playground does that doesn’t square with his/her/non-binary viewpoint, and causes a lot of other kids on the playground to block their ears and issue nonsensical noises in an effort to create a force field that shields them from such offending codswallop!
    To me, the advert simply highlights the effective, yet figurative, “burning” of our symbol of national pride by the disastrous actions of the ruling party.
    The reactions of President Cyril Ramaphosa and other government spokespersons/”spokes-its” is, in my opinion, simply political rhetoric aimed at retaining the backing of ANC supporters rather than reasonable or rational reaction. (More kids in the playground!)
    We all need to get over ourselves and humbly seek to love and care for all our fellow human beings!

    • MT Wessels says:

      “It is surely offensive and immoral to depict our flag as burning.”
      No it is not. Red-herring offence yes; morality does not even come into the picture. Down that way lies self-censored facism cloaked in jingoism and fake patriotism. It is exactly the kind of censorship that first shuts down cartoon artists, then any uncontrollable symbolism, then critical journalists, then any kind of protest that is not curated by the ruling party.

  • Gideon Groenewald says:

    Have we as a nation become so sensitive that everything we see, offends us?
    It is an advert…it should be taken as such.
    I am not a DA supporter, but I do feel like the media, especially DM has double standards when it comes to how we see and treat political parties. I have seen a DM online interview, where a DM interviewer attacked the mayor of Cape Town.
    So much for objective news

  • Karl Sittlinger says:

    “Our elections in the past have often been dominated by racial identity. . .And this advert may be part of that.”
    How the burning of this flag is supposed to be a racial statement is beyond me. Unless our flag only represents a certain race, or the ANC, MK and EFF are parties that only care about a certain race, this seems to be a personal assumption you are making.
    Considering the actual destruction of much of the country caused by the ANC, the actual race based hate speech tirades by the EFF or the threats to the entire democratic process by the MK, the mere assumption that the DA has published an animation of a burning peace of paper as racist and deeply hurtful seems a little absurd.
    I liked this comment from another:
    “If you look very closely, like in very closely, you will note it’s a piece of paper and not a municipal building or a train.”

  • Lordwick Mamadi says:

    Stephen Grootes isn’t a genuine journalist at all and the fact that he works for a state broadcaster says everything about him. When it comes to the DA, Stephen always waits for the X mob to manufacture fake outrage and then jump on the bandwagon of bashing the DA. Him working for an ANC controlled broadcaster has to be seen not siding with the DA in whatever it does, otherwise he’ll lose fat salary funded by the tax payer. In a nutshell, he’ll rather protect his interests than be a credible and objective journalist.

  • Dellarose Bassa says:

    Given that Steven works for the SABC, could he be singing for his supper in this hopeless attempt at deriding the symbolism of what the ad intends? Please stop including all South Africans in your manufactured outrage, Steven. Speak for yourself. As for all those suggesting that the majority of South Africans don’t understand the metaphorical symbolism of the virtual burning of the flag, you betray your smug arrogance. And not all of us are pained by the image of the flag burning- we are far more pained by the wholly avoidable devastation of our beautiful country by the very hypocrites – the ANC- jumping on the ‘moral outrage’ bandwagon to rubbish the truth of what this ad depicts. The house is burning, Steven. Stop complaining about the colour of the flames and get a damn bucket to douse the inferno. What is it with DM journalists of late? There seems to be a deliberate attempt to rubbish the DA- our one chance of rescuing SA. They’re not perfect- but they’re certainly the best of an imperfect bunch. What’s wrong with giving them a chance? All those accusing the DA of arrogance, smugness, being ‘tone-deaf’, etc: Why should the DA hide their efficiencies to make the mediocre feel comfortable? The ANC has had 30 years – and they’ve proved themselves USELESS. It’s time for a drastic change- for the better. And it’s time for the DM to interrogate the ‘independence’ of their journalists. This shoddy, desperate writing to rubbish the DA just doesn’t cut it. BTW, I’m Black.

  • Paul Zille says:

    Every time the DA dares to take on a defining issue robustly it is met with the same manufactured outrage, led by large sections of the media that are hostile to it. Recall the response to the DA’s ‘Stop Zuma’ campaign, its stance on BEE elite enrichment, cadre deployment etc etc. All were met with howls of rage: ‘Divisive’, ‘insensitive’, ‘hysterical’, ‘negative’, ‘unpatriotic’, ‘racist’. The list of perjoratives is a long one.

    When reality eventually vindicates the DA, the topic seamlessly becomes ‘how did this happen?’, ‘how did we get here?’, ‘how do we prevent this happening again?’ (SG being a defining example of this).

    Exactly the same with the Flag advert. The truth of its message – that SA will burn to a cinder under the doomsday coalition – is lost. No coincidence here. It is what happens when the DA dares talk truth to the powers that be – without first doffing its cap and politely asking for permission to criticise.

  • Roann Roberts says:

    You know what really hurts Stephen?
    Our murder rate.
    Our conviction rate.
    Our rape statistics.
    Our low quality education.
    The lack of consequences for corruption and state capture.
    The lack of effective policing and unsafe environment.
    The hollowing out of the state and state entities.
    A video doesn’t hurt, Stephen. The truth does.
    And no one is more offended, than “our people” that are directly implicated in the narrative of that ad.

    • Philip Armstrong says:

      Absolutely spot on. While I have been a fan and subscriber to DM, there are times that I do wonder about its editorial position which seems to hammer the DA at every turn – and, yes, they have made (plenty) of mistakes but what I look at as a voter is their record of governance vs having just returned from a road trip through large parts of the country run by the ANC and see so many places laid to waste through gross incompetence and corruption. Do not give credit where it is NOT due, least of all quoting of all the scumbags but none other than Zizi Kodwa.

    • Gbone . says:

      Our economic growth rate?

  • Dov de Jong says:

    Hi Stephen, you missed Zuma and his mashiniwam

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    I read the article and contrary to the heading it is a balanced piece reflecting on the dynamics involved, as well as how other parties have used similar tactics. It remains a storm in a teacup that elicits a lot of faux -rage for political gain. Any thinking person can see the burning is symbolic of the country metaphorically going up in flames at the hands of the corrupt ANC and populist EFF/MK.

  • Lyle Ferrett says:

    “There is some evidence that a majority agrees with him. But not everyone.”

    The overwhelming MAJORITY of comments I’ve read online have been supportive of the DA. What is up with this obsession with trying to paint the DA in a negative light? Our media outlets should be backing the DA and other capitalist parties to unseat the ANC.

    • Grumpy Old Man says:

      Do you honestly believe that is the role media should play? To take a particular position, or give support to a particular party? I would be interested to know how many other people agree with your view

      • Carl Nielsen says:

        Agee Grumps. Lyle you’re talking twaddle.

      • Lyle Ferrett says:

        Yes, I didn’t mince my words. The media needs to take a strong stance against the ANC by supporting opposition parties that are Constitutionally aligned. The media keeps reinforcing the false narrative that the DA is a “racist, white party”.

        We would still have apartheid if the media didn’t challenge apartheid…

  • Geoff Coles says:

    It’s hardly treasonous, though I wouldn’t have done it. However, if the Flag represents SA and how the Government of the away acts, then maybe it is fair enough.
    Is it too not pretty awful to see hats, clothes, whatever as representation of the Flag.

    • Lyle Ferrett says:

      To this day, I’m still outraged that our PARLIAMENT went up in flames. A burning flag is the perfect metaphor for the current state of things.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    In the late 70’s and the 80’s I was ashamed of being South African and pretended to be an Aussie while staying in London. I had an outbreak of pride in the 90’s and early 2000’s which ratcheted back to embarrassed as the ANC worked to mould us into the banana basket case we’ve become. I’ve now come full circle and I’m ashamed again and have as much regard for the treatment of our current flag as I did for the previous one.

  • Philemon Solomon says:

    Sorry DM but which part of my comment exactly, deemed it too offensive to post?

  • Casey Ryder says:

    This is what is what hurts – deeply – the ANC has morphed from a liberation party into a massive organised crime syndicate, masquerading as a government. If the ad’s allegory depicting what that government is doing to the country hurts, then try processing the pain of the reality.

  • Talha Kazi says:

    I wonder if we burn the Israeli flag showcasing that it is in the hands of the zionist regime and not true Jews – will we see white closet racists reacting in the same way

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I think they, like I, will struggle to figure out what you’re on about. White folk, especially the closet racist variety, aren’t nearly as smart as you may think.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    I’m not sure why people get so worked up about a piece of cloth, that looks more like it belongs at a Rastafarian concert or a Palestinian protest than it does symbolizing South Africa. The burning wasn’t an actual burning, but just symbolism. Who would have thought that people would get more worked up more over this advert than what the ANC is actually doing to the country. People starving, kids still dying in pit latrines, a weekly murder rate higher than any death toll in a year, as a direct result of apartheid killings at the height of apartheid. Not to mention the Esedemeni tradegy, the riots a few years ago and the list goes on. People are less offended by real life trauma than they are about an advert that truly tells it like it is. We are a society that is numb and accepting as a norm real pain and havoc. So much so that we no longer think rationally. The DA advert is spot on and is only symbolism. Not meant to disrespect the flag, but to show what the ANC is doing to the flag and far more importantly to the country. Also symbolizing the the correction of this by reversing the burning if the DA was to take over power.

  • Coen Gous says:

    This election certainly has become a street fight. I just find it exceptional sad that the main opposition party will go down to this level with an ad. featuring the burning of the national flag, regardless of the reasons.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Coen, the flag burning was allegorical not real. The DA did it as a visual digital exercise to show what the ANC and EFF are doing to this country. The DA’s allegorical refutation of the burning lies in their restoration of it should the ANC be toppled from their nest of corruption. Is that too difficult to understand?

  • Tim Bester says:

    Not an unexpected response by Grootes and DM. Villify the DA at all costs.
    As the aphorism goes; “it is an honour to be villified by the opposition (or biased) medium.”
    If it does offend Grootes et al it is a sure sign that it is working!

  • Karl le Roux says:

    Stephen, I have great respect for you on many fronts, but this article is quite simply intellectually dishonest, virtue-signalling drivel. To call the symbolic burning of a piece of paper with the South African flag on it -to illustrate the genuine catastrophic danger of a coalition of the ANC and EFF/MK- “immoral” and to compare it to the EFF/ANC/PA’s race baiting, xenophobia blatant lies about social grants would quite frankly be laughable, if the situation in SA wasn’t so serious. What IS immoral is that 80% of children in South Africa in grade 4 cannot read for meaning, AND that the greed in the ANC has rendered ESKOM an entity in constant crisis and our economy on a fiscal cliff, AND that unemployment and poverty have increased dramatically over the last 15 years under damaging BEE laws, and, and… Why not direct your moral outrage at these 3 weeks out from the election?!

    Trying to distract the public from the reality of the ANCs failure, and the genuine harms EFF and MK policies would foist on our county – by bad-mouthing the DA – THAT seems to me to be genuinely immoral!

    And I imagine you & the Daily Maverick will use this smokescreen of manufactured outrage to avoid endorsing the DA for this election – the only endorsement anyone with even an ounce of intellectual integrity would make when looking honestly at our political landscape.

    DM- really??! Three articles and a cartoon about this tired topic? Stop doing the ANC’s campaigning for them and DEFEND TRUTH!

    • Kelly Holland says:

      Excellent comment, Karl! All this faux-outrage and hysteria over a CGI ad. As another reader commented, we should all be far more outraged by the burning of our parliament than the representation of our flag burning. I’m not sure that the sight of the SA flag evokes any patriotic pride in me anymore; the ANC and their disastrous 30 years of mis-management have seen to that, sadly.

      • Karl le Roux says:

        Thank you, Kelly. I personally love the South African flag and the unity and hope that it symbolises and have worn it with pride at many an international sports game, but I wasn’t in the least offended by the DA’s advert.

        Stephen is of course is free to feel offended by it. What offends me on the other hand is his breathtaking hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty, arrogant superiority and in calling the advert “immoral” on the basis that it might have hurt some people’s feelings. If this really were the basis for “morality” the world would collapse on itself in no time.

  • Dan Ver says:

    Daily Maverick – defend truth….. Yet today ive read two cleary left biased articles.
    Even in the face of evidence contrary.
    I am all for freedom of speech but surely articles should be unbiased and factual.

  • G. Strauss says:

    If the cANCer had any notion of shame, this would be the time to hang their head in shame at this pathetic fabricated outrage (‘treasonous’ no less by one of probably the most corrupt in the country). They have been trampling, soiling and bringing to disrepute for the past 30 years not only the SA flag, but our name and the goodwill the world was ready to offer us after the momentous transition 30 years ago. Everything is broken or stolen, the only thing that works is the ongoing and rampant corruption, and now they want to cry wolf over a political ad depicting a burning SA flag with the really stark message that image carries. Unbelievable.

  • R S says:

    “It is surely offensive and immoral to depict our flag as burning.”

    Who really cares about a METAPHORICAL flag burning when the country is literally going down the tubes due to violence, corruption, and incompetence?

  • R S says:

    “It is surely offensive and immoral to depict our flag as burning.”

    Who really cares about a METAPHORICAL flag burning when the country is literally going down the tubes due to violence, corruption, and incompetence?

  • Bob Dubery says:

    My reaction to that advert was not to be offended, it was to be puzzled. I can’t for the life of me see how that advert is going to attract votes or even retain votes.

    The DA do have good stories to tell. The example I have used repeatedly is Chris Pappas. OK… they’ve nominated his as Premier of KZN (presumably he will still be expected to take instruction from MacPherson), but anybody who has followed what he has achieved as mayor in a few years will know what a good story that would be if it were told properly and loudly. There’s a DA difference that people can acknowledge and get behind.

    Instead the DA are always spoiling for a fight. Pappas shows how good they can be where they govern. But mostly they show what a clueless, belligerent, and, let’s face it, touchy opposition they are.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    What strikes me is the howling every time the DA is mentioned in less than sycophantic terms. I thought Grootes’ piece here was pretty balanced, and he does lay out his thinking and picks some DA brains in doing so.

    A proble, with the DA is the bunch of easily offended snowflakes amongst them, and amongst their supporters who seem a rather easily offended bunch, particularly touchy about anything to do with race.

    But it could be worse. They could be WOKE snowflakes. Clearly they aren’t. They are just common or garden snowflakes.

    • Karl le Roux says:

      Dear Bob, I appreciate your humour though I find your logic somewhat suspect. I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would call Helen Zille a snowflake, whether that be garden or common 🙂

  • Hans Wendt says:

    Like a person standing amongst the ruins, created by the ANC, one can only shake your head at the level of those woke and rightwing persons who take offence at a symbolic concept or don’t grasp the function of a metaphor of what’s happened to this country. Applaud the DA for making such a statement. The ANC has burnt the symbolic flag to ashes.
    Those who also introduce the argument about the DA followers being sensitive to criticism, are usually those who would criticize the firefighters who are dealing with trying to put out the fire, while Rome burns. And what has been mentioned, Stephen, being a SABC employee, means having to “gatkruip”, to your masters. Grow a pair…..and to DM…your bias is showing.

  • ST ST says:

    There were a lot of assumptions made in the making of this ad. Most probably ill conceived and ill advised. In the west, advertisers do believe that it doesn’t matter if the ad is annoying or offensive. As long as it keeps people talking about the brand. The DA is a political party in a country facing the second most sensitive and emotive elections. Taking wisdom from commercial advertisers to burn a national symbol of unity was ill advised. The DA restored the flag. They want us to believe they’re the party that can take us back to the first day of liberation when the flag was conceived. Their track record engagement with the general public says otherwise. The DA assumes SA people don’t know we are in serious trouble. SA people outside suburbs probably know better than the DA leadership and DM readership about our desperate state of affairs. If they don’t vote DA. it’ll be because they don’t feel it represents them in what matters to them. They’re more prone to assessing like for like in their areas v western Cape. One thing for sure, we need to draw a line to what instruments can be used for political gain. Yes at this point that imaginary line in most ethical and suffering peoples minds has long been crossed. But surely, we must draw a line on our national flag. Is wearing underwear made of our flag patriotic and done with respect? Yes…is burning of a flag patriotic? Very debatable. The DA doesn’t have time to settle this debate in their favour before election. Ill advised. A country’s flag is often burnt by OTHERS as a sign of disrespect. Or anarchist seeking regime distraction. There may be many reasons why some SA people think it’s acceptable to burn YOUR OWN national flag..e.g., Have they thought deeply about the concept of a national flag? Do they have allegiance with that flag? This debate we need too. As far as the DA is concerned, focus more on why after all these years with the western Cape as your poster child and the rest of SA deteriorating, why you haven’t gained the hearts and minds of the majority of SA. This ad and the July 21 ads may give you a clue.

  • Henk Terblanche says:

    No actual flags have been burned, and the flag in the ad is restored to its original state at the end.

    Pretty much any aspect affected by governance has gone backwards over the past 15 years. Clearly there is truth in the ANC “burning” the flag as an allegory for the state of the country.

    The ANC governing in coalition with either / both the EFF / MK (based on past utterances by Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma plus their latest policy documents) concerns me a lot.

  • Christian Pirk says:

    It is great ad and it shows what is wrong if the wrong parties get into power. Where is the outcry when KZN burned down, when Zuma instigated violent unrest. When state capture is taking us all hostage and as the DM labelled it terrorism by the means of state capture?

  • Brandon VE says:

    What the actual heck. Is the concept too advanced to understand. The burning flag symbolizes what the ANC has been doing to SA. Pretty easy to understand if you can grasp some of the advanced concepts in a Nando’s ad.

  • Ryckard Blake says:

    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

  • Robert Mckay says:

    The ad is the truth. We are beyond semantic debates.

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