Members of the opposition Democratic Alliance are reportedly squabbling over a casual remark by the head of the party, Mmusi Maimane, who observed that White privilege and Black poverty were critical issues that needed to be addressed.
“I firmly stand by comments I made on Freedom Day,” Maimane tweeted on Sunday. “South Africa remains deeply unequal, with Black South Africans locked out of opportunities. We must focus on solving the problem. Liberation of one race is not the enslaving of another – all of us, Black & White, must come together to build one South Africa for all.”
Freedom Day is a public holiday that commemorates the first post-apartheid elections in 1994.
The fight over the terms “White privilege” and “Black poverty” took place at a closed executive meeting of senior party officials, according to a report in the City Press. The party officials worried that comments about ‘White privilege’ would scare off White voters, just as the party prepares for a general election next year.
While claiming to be a non-racial party, the parliamentary seats and leadership positions of the Democratic Alliance are overwhelmingly White – a condition that Maimane wants to correct.
The dispute has embarrassed some of the white members of the Democratic Alliance who claim that a large majority of their members are Black. But, according to one observer, if you look down from the public gallery in Parliament, you see a huge slab of White faces in the DA benches.”
Several of the White DA officers rushed to show support for Maimane.
“I stand 100% with my Leader Mmusi Maimane,” wrote Natasha Mazzone, a White party officer. “I too will not pander to racists. Our mission is to create a South Africa for ALL who live here. Divided we are weak; united, we are unstoppable. South Africa first, ALWAYS.”
She then tweeted that White immigrants also struggled during apartheid. “My father, a migrant from Italy, built himself up from nothing to make a good life for his family. I honor and thank my father.”
“What Mazzone is not admitting,” said Jabu Mahlangu of the South African National Civic Organization, is that her migrant father and all other colonizers had the backing of racist apartheid laws as well as the evil system of White supremacy that among others guaranteed Whites jobs, higher salaries, protection, better education, land, housing including access to exclusive recreational facilities.”
Mahlangu said these White privileges translated to prosperity and success for beneficiaries of decades of apartheid and now their dependents were boasting that the wealth they inherited was a result of hard work.
Coverage of the dispute has prompted an avalanche of public comments, most of them negative. Writing on Twitter, “Jerry” complained: “I am constantly made to feel obliged to apologize for having been born with a White skin because it appears to give so many an inferiority complex.”
Maimane clarified: “We are not a Black or White party, we are inclusive. We need to deal with injustices accordingly without feeling that we are offending others.”