Can the DA represent South Africans in the 2020s?

DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille celebrates at the National Results Operations Centre (ROC). File Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspaper

DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille celebrates at the National Results Operations Centre (ROC). File Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspaper

Published Jun 7, 2024


This week, I was reading my students’ essays for marking and saw many brilliant comments on colonisation. However, one of them reminded me of then-DA leader Helen Zille’s tweet on colonialism in 2022.

Zille stated that “the legacy of colonialism was not only negative”, which is an extremely similar to colonialist view in history.

The student wrote: “Colonialism was a fashion at that time.

“It can’t be criticised today because nowadays being vegan is a fashion.

“Tomorrow, vegan people might be criticised for being vegan.”

This reads more like a philosophical defence than a response to a historical question.

Therefore, the approach is not accurate in terms of historical dimension.

This is because the results of colonisation can be seen in the British Museum or even the queen’s crown, whereas veganism only affects individuals.

In fact, when I read my students’ essays, I was curious about what people talk about at home regarding history.

A first-year student’s thoughts are acceptable if you compare them with a senior politician’s statements in the country.

The statement reminds me of colonial propaganda in newspapers 100 years ago.

In May 1916, Lloyd George asked for more soldiers from British colonies and said in South Africa: “In Africa, we have saved them from exploitation as no other European nation has done.” This can be only a joke or sarcasm today.

The ideology of racial superiority justified colonisation and led to systemic racism and discrimination, which had enduring effects on African societies.

Colonisers often attempted to assimilate African populations into European cultures, languages and religions.

Traditional African cultural practices, languages and religions were suppressed or marginalised.

Western education systems were introduced, which often promoted European histories, languages and values while neglecting or denigrating African cultures and knowledge systems.

General Jan Smuts talked at Oxford in 1929 and stated: “DeAfricanise the African and turn him either into a beast of the field or into a pseudo-European.

“African was good as a potential European; his social and political culture was bad, barbaric and only deserving to be stamped out root and branch.”

The legacies of colonisation, such as economic disparity, political instability and ethnic conflict, continue to present ethical challenges for African societies.

The European colonial powers imposed harsh regimes that prioritised their economic gains over the well-being of local populations, and this ended only in 1994 in South Africa.

In 2014, when people criticised the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Zille tweeted: “What about thousands of Muslims killed by other Muslims in the Middle East? Many more than Gaza.” Essentially, she tried to legitimise the guilt of Israeli crimes.

Leaders’ statements often reflect and address the positions, policies and values of their political parties. As a member of the DA, Zille uses her statements to promote her party’s policies and agenda.

One must then ask: How can such a politician in South Africa really intend to rule a province in a country where many freedom fighters fought against colonial exploitation and Israeli occupation?

I wonder what people like Zille really talk about when it comes to history at home.

* Halim Gençoğlu.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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