On March 16, the DA made its candidate lists for the May 8 general elections public, boldly declaring that they “represent the country’s beautiful diversity and are testament to our commitment to Build One South Africa for All”.
It even went so far as to say that “this day further shows the DA to be the only party that remembers and practises the late president Nelson Mandela’s vision for One South Africa for All”.
But there is a disturbing story behind the party’s lists that suggests it does not truly subscribe to this vision.
While it remains a fairly nebulous catch phrase, despite being littered across all DA statements and speeches, the notion of building “One South Africa for All” implies a number of things.
It implies building a society based on an unwavering commitment to the rule of law and principles of fairness.
In its election manifesto, the DA provides that “all South Africans deserve a level playing field where opportunities are not concentrated in the hands of the few”.
Whatever meaning you give this notion, the DA believes that “only the DA can bring change that builds One South Africa for All”.
However, when one closely examines the process followed by the DA in removing Siphesihle Dube from its lists for the National Assembly (a matter currently before the Western Cape High Court), the DA’s assertions that it is the custodian and lone champion of a fair society ring hollow and smack of dishonesty.
Dube was removed from the DA’s candidate list ostensibly on the basis that he “publicly or maliciously damaged the party or the campaign”.
In a March 7 letter, the DA advised Dube that this decision had been “actuated by political considerations in order to minimise the risk to the party”.
The decision to remove Dube was taken in response to a complaint made against him on February 19 by the DA’s chief whip in the National Assembly, John Steenhuisen.
In reaching its decision, the DA appears to have relied on the following to support its finding on Dube:
Dube had posted an Instagram story video on February 17 featuring himself and former DA Cape Town mayor and current leader of the Good Party, Patricia de Lille. The video was captioned “Happy birthday, Patricia”; and Dube had retweeted four posts made by other Twitter users that the DA considers are critical of it.
These retweets dated back to 2014, 2016 and 2018, prior to Dube’s application to stand as a candidate for the upcoming election, and were made without any endorsement of the content of the posts concerned.
Two of the retweeted posts documented the DA’s unsuccessful attempts to pass a motion of no confidence in De Lille during her tenure as Cape Town mayor; one related to the DA’s claim that “Mandela’s dream can only be achieved by the DA”; and the other was a satirical tweet by Chester Missing, poking fun at the notion that the DA engages in “window-dressing” to ensure that it is seen to have black leadership.
No other evidence appears to have been relied on by the DA in making its decision to remove Dube from its list of candidates.
It is worth noting that neither Dube’s Instagram story nor his retweets were ever the subject of any public controversy, nor have they been attributed to any noticeable decline in the DA’s reputation or support.
Furthermore, neither Dube’s Instagram story nor his retweets were ever raised as concerns during the DA’s rigorous selection, screening and appeals process before he was placed in highly electable positions on the DA’s lists.
Looking at the DA’s candidate lists, it is astonishing and disturbing that the party appears to have taken no issue with the inclusion of Dianne Kohler Barnard, Mike Waters and Archibold Figlan.
Kohler Barnard and Waters are notorious for their controversial social media posts that smacked of racism and caused substantial damage to the DA and its reputation.
Kohler Barnard courted public controversy in 2015, when she shared a Facebook post praising apartheid-era prime minister PW Botha, while Waters was publicly criticised in 2014 for a tweet in which he posted a picture of dogs lining up to urinate on a poster of then president Jacob Zuma with the caption “Voting Day. Make your mark”.
Figlan was found guilty of sexual harassment by the DA in 2015.
Surely, if the DA was consistent with the reasoning it applied in the Dube matter and true to its commitment to building “One South Africa for All”, the three should also be excluded from the list for publicly damaging the DA or its election campaign?
The way in which an organisation treats its people says a lot about its values.
And when that organisation intends to govern the provinces or country, those values become significant to us voters and must be scrutinised before we decide to vote in its favour.
When the DA says only it can build “One South Africa for All”, it is hard to believe the party means this sincerely or at all – particularly when we consider how inconsistently it applies its own rules to its own members, and how it supports members who have damaged its image at the expense of its stated values over members who are loyal to the DA’s cause and aligned to its stated values, but who have cross-party ties that are internally feared and denigrated.
In fact, it is hard to know whether one can trust the DA with one’s vote at all. You be the judge.
Geldenhuys is a former DA member and is based in