DA? My brother has lost it – Mayihlome Tshwete

Mayihlome Tshwete
Mayihlome Tshwete


Why my brother was wrong to join the DA — a party of white supremacy

‘At comrade Steve Tshwete’s nucleus was this unflinching commitment to the struggle of black people for liberation’

Last week the RDM published an article by Lindela Tshwete, son of struggle veteran Steve Tshwete, explaining why he had left the ANC for the DA. This is the response of his brother, Mayihlome Tshwete, who writes in his personal capacity:


South Africa loves a good scandal, such that the excitement of simplistic irony and unexpected exposure are accorded more ink than the seemingly boring details of progress.

Of recent scandals is one about the son of an ANC stalwart finding some home in the DA. The excitement appears to be in the irony that comrade Steve Tshwete, the most vocal critic of the minority agenda, has a son that has joined the DA.

On face value, and from a “liberal” perspective, this may create an impression that freedom of association, as enshrined in our Constitution, is a living reality.

When I was offered the opportunity to respond to his article I was reluctant, or at least cautious of feeding the scandal machine. But when it is employed as another tale of a loyal cadre who is disillusioned with the ANC, I am compelled indeed to respond to Lindela’s assertions.

I claim neither monopoly on comrade Steve Tshwete’s legacy nor absolute authority on his legacy. My response is meant really to poke the political bubble, the convenient falsehoods purported as fact, or principle, but in reality, truly about self-enrichment of the highest order.

I will not be offensive, I will merely be honest.

If there is one consistent characteristic about comrade Steve, beyond his love for the ANC, everyone would concur he was painfully honest.

If what Lindela calls a ‘defection’ is going to be deployed to feed the “ANC ayisafani” narrative, then we should at least be honest about a number of things.

As painfully honest as comrade Steve was, let’s first be honest about how Lindela claims the DA attracted him, and then be honest about how he claims the ANC repelled him.

I will speak to’:

1) the attraction of the DA to people who claim to have once been ANC activists and

2) the purported disillusionment with the ANC and whether it has lost its way.

I must restate though that I enter this debate on the basis of intellectual probing and do not seek to discredit Lindela Tshwete. That would be too easy and would make Christmas dinners rather awkward.

On the surface, the ideas of freedom of association are the ideas the ANC had fought for. I would commend such a move if it was on the basis of genuine attraction to the DA’s policy. If he is going to make such a claim he must then state the obvious divergence between the ideas he claims he was in the struggle for and the ideas of white economic dominance that remains unchallenged by the DA, put gently.

Though the ANC is a “broad-church” there is unanimity among its supporters pursuing “enjoying equal rights and opportunities.” This is how it’s stated in the  Freedom Charter.

At comrade Steve Tshwete’s nucleus was this unflinching commitment to the struggle of black people for liberation, and the creation of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. Lindela cannot at any intellectual level claim to be continuing comrade Steve’s principles within the very party which defends, unashamedly, minority white privilege. It’s disingenuous, and, at the very least, politically ignorant.

The clash between South Africa’s past realities and the new democratic dispensation produces a complexity that requires constant, critical consciousness around these matters, or else one could unwittingly become a willing tool for the entrenchment of white minority privilege.

For instance, the notion, clad in democratic regalia, of merely competing on “merit” would sound fair if South African history began only in 1994. The notion that we are competing fairly is in itself the denialism of what Apartheid was.

Without an understanding of the past why BEE and affirmative action, one could unwittingly entrench the white supremacy of the past. The Western Cape Province presents an empirical example of this. Its labelling of transformation policy as reverse racism has resulted in an unyielding continuation of white supremacy.

Allow me to illustrate with statistics how I think the DA, which Lindela has now come to embrace, continues unabatedly to entrench the very evils of white supremacy his father had fought so hard to dismantle.

One merely has to look at the Employment Equity statistics around skills, in senior and top management. Western Cape reflects the highest percentage of white males in top management at 63%, with “African” counterparts at 2.8%. Senior management isn’t any better with 4.4% being“Africans” and 59% white. A similar trend exists on property ownership and incomes in Cape Town. Technical skill per province along race lines has “blacks” in Western Cape as the lowest.

A study by UCT’s Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing speaks to the practical non-existence of the black middle class in Cape Town. I single-out the Western Cape because it’s the only real representation of their views and policies.

In the survey Professor John Simpson praises the “meteoric rise” of the black middle class, from 1.7 million in 2004 to 4.2 million in 2013, but goes further to say “numbers in the Western Cape remained low.”

To be specific, Western Cape made up a mere 3% of the black middle class, whereas Gauteng was at 46%. This is the province the DA claims is superb in their ‘DA delivers’ campaigns — the party that Lindela claims attracted him due to its “policies”.

One could be lenient to say the status quo is historical and the DA doesn’t control the private sector. So then let’s gauge their commitment to “equality” and “change” in areas they do solely control. Its top management is 68% White, 16% Black, 10% Indian and 2% Coloured. If this is what really attracted Lindela, how then can he truly claim to have been in the struggle to end white domination?

These are statistics, not a myth “black South Africans” are “misled to believe” as he put it.

Again how does one claim to be committed to the ideas of equality and transformation and be attracted to policies that do exactly the opposite?

How does one claim to be an activist of the struggle and then join a party that tiptoes around racism, conjuring that racism is created by the victims and not those with the economic power to inflict it?

At their last congress the DA burdensomely wrestled with the idea of black economic empowerment, specifically the “black” part. Was it at this point that DA policies pulled Lindela?

Does he believe that policies which produce the anomaly of white domination in a majority black country are “taking South Africa forward?”

To the rest of us that would appear to be white domination, exactly what his father fought against.

Rather than question the credentials Lindela claims, perhaps we should attempt to understand the phenomena of political schizophrenia through the writings of Jacob Dlamini in his book titled Askari.

In the book, Mr Dlamini lists various examples of committed cadres of MK and Apla who defected to be become diligent servants of Apartheid. He opens his book with the case of Mr Glory Lefoshie Sedibe, “a very good comrade,” who also bragged “struggle family” credentials.

Of course I’m not simplistically comparing Apartheid to the democratic dispensation. I’m merely providing some analysis into the inconsistency that brings about such an about-turn in political goals.

There is one similarity shared by Askari and those who DO have the democratic right to defect — the same disillusionment that the “ANC has lost its way.” Many among the DA, or ‘the disillusioned,’ claim they supported the ANC under Mandela or under Mbeki. Strangely, we hear more about being against the current ANC than when they supported the ANC.

Our society, as per design of the frightened outnumbered  economically dominant race and class, has always rewarded divisions among Africans. Not much has changed; the new concept is “independent minded,” just as I was patted on the back at school and told “I was different from other blacks.”

If you detach yourself from the “will of the people,” undermine their collective “uneducated votes,” surely you will find a home among the media and the DA.

The “black liberals”, the “different blacks,” the “independent minded,” like Askari, improve their livelihoods and stature when they begin to work against the unity of the disenfranchised Africans. Disillusionment, in this form, is less respectable when it’s incentivised.

I have spoken to why it can’t be sincere that any person who claims to truly have been committed to the virtues of equality and transformation can wake up one day supporting the continuation of a more subtle, and therefore more vicious, form of Apartheid.

Alas, power, like white supremacy, will not commit suicide. It will bargain, barter and purchase it’s continuation through the division of the people.

I will speak to the disillusionment with the ANC and whether defection is justified.

Has the ANC changed ? Simply, yes.

It is said ‘if you don’t tell the truth about yourself you should tell it about other people.’

Show me a comrade who has been happy about everything the ANC has done and I will show you a liar or someone who’s just not paying attention. I will speak honestly about the ANC, as a supporter and as someone who has committed himself to the work of ANC branches.

At times I think the ANC mishandled the transition into democracy with its overtures to white capital at the expense of the painful crimes suffered by the black masses. I think the ANC government should have never privatised its steel interests.

At times I think the ANC has humbled itself too much to white minority owners of the economy, and that the movement tiptoes around radical change for fear of upsetting others.

I think the ANC wasted 2/3rds, on the question of land reform, and that it is yet to fully drive the industrialisation process.

I think leaders of the ANC can at sometimes allow the factionalism to persist for their benefit. I believe there can be an exploitation of voting that hasn’t always resulted in “choosing the best cadres” as stated in the document: Through The Eye Of The Needle.

These are some of the challenges I think the ANC faces. However, it would seem Lindela has a limited comprehension of our history if he believes its challenges to be a phenomena of the post democratic ANC. Lindela’s father experienced greater challenges and continued in a tougher environment.

The ANC with its 104 history has not been the strong glorious movement some choose to remember it as, it has had severe epochs of weakness.

The new found romantic historical revisionism has produced naive cadres and convenient comparisons to a perfect past that exists only to condemn today’s leaders.

Current black power is to be feared and even hated, thus the DA has been exceptional in its appreciation of former black leaders and passed epochs they didn’t even support.

While disillusion can happen, I believe utopian imaginations of the ANC are either deliberate to shame current leaders or just plain ignorance of current challenges.

With that being said, what has always pushed the movement of the people through difficult periods has always been loyal cadres. Comrade Steve Tshwete’s life is a testament to the spirit that survived the real grave dangers of activism, painfully, slowly and loyally.

Disillusion, especially incentivised disillusion, must be encouraged to reach it natural conclusion of defection.

The ANC has always been as good as its loyal cadres, those who have committed themselves to a harmonious, equal and prosperous society.

The younger generations, black and white, are speaking the language of the future, they understand that the affirmation of the black masses is the obvious step in a greater journey towards a developed and thriving SA economy.

The progressive younger generation has long accepted what the DA grappled with at its policy, that there will be no reconciliation without economic emancipation of the masses. The progressive people of South Africa are not talking about DA vs ANC, they are working towards an equitable society, without the stark contrasts of income. The real debates are around how the state with effectively restructure the economy to create a real absorptive middle class as a conductor of upward social mobility.

This is no time to be disillusioned, this is a time to work.

We will be fine.

This article was written in Mayihlome Tshwete’s personal capacity


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