Clowns, as most of us who have attended a circus know, are a side-show. They, with their tricks, simply fill the gaps in the casting programme. They amuse us while the real actors and the animals prepare themselves for their items. Clowns, literally and figuratively, tumble in and then out again when the real cast is ready.
Such it is, we have come to discover, in the Democratic Alliance Circus. Mmusi Maimane is simply a clown. He was never the real deal. He was simply a side-show and will simply tumble out of office as he suddenly appeared on the scene in the first place. Maimane, like no other politician in these elections, faces the real threat that by the end of this year, at the age of 39, will be out of a job. His usefulness, like a clown, would have come to an end while the real actors and animals in the DA Circus come out to perform once again.
Even worst still, as South Africans, we have come to realise what we have expected all along, that the Black caucus in the DA was as much as a side show as Maimane was. Under Lindiwe Mazibuko, it had not developed to the extent that it did under Maimane; but then again, Mazibuko was never the Leader of DA Circus. Instead, the charade of portraying leaders of colour in the DA as ring-masters was always going to serve as a set-up to display Black failure. Maimane will join the ranks of Mazibuko, de Lille, Max, Mvenya, Nkohla, Balindlela, among so many others.
But Maimane was used by the actual circus protagonists in the DA. Backed by props such as the Black caucus, Maimane became a pawn for actors such as John Steenhuisen, Michael Waters and Natasha Mazzone. They used him to further their own careers in the DA and fight off other actors and animals such as Gareth van Onselen, Gavin Davis, Gwen Ngwenya and Michael Cardo. The more liberal crew.
Remember South Africa was not supposed to see the Maimane show until Helen Zille stood down as federal leader in 2018. But then in 2015 already Maimane was propped up by his anti-liberal faction to challenge Zille and stage a circus coup. The formidable ring master that she has proven to be in DA Circus, Zille would have whipped Maimane’s cast but did not want to embarrass the DA with yet another fallen leader of colour. She staged managed the fall-out and bowed out till after interval.
Needless to say, she was kept in the circus troupe, made sure everyone still remembered she was around and was whisked in again for a performance recently to save the show. But seeing through the DA’s farce of a show, it was refreshing that recently a number of academics had stepped forward to point out to South Africans what a side show Maimane really is and how he will soon be out of a job.
Desperate times call for desperate deceptions and so discarding reality, Maimane attempted to blame the ANC for community protests against DA city and provincial administration. The truth is that the DA is die-hard in its deflection, division and deception. When the DA fails, it blames the ANC. When the ANC succeeds, the DA claims the credit. Maimane suggests that “the violent ANC-orchestrated protests in the DA-run metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Cape Town just weeks before the election stem from the ANC’s failure to transition from [a] liberation movement to [an] effective governing party.”
Yet University of Johannesburg academic, Professor Steven Friedman, responded to this propaganda purported by the DA when he wrote that Maimane’s analysis was so shallow and narrow that he forgot to mention places such as Klerksdorp, Potchefstroom and Steynrus which were all gripped with protests but which were under ANC run municipalities.
The truth is that the DA, and Mmusi Maimane in particular, remains green with envy because of the role that the ANC, as a liberation movement, played in liberating South Africa and continues to play in ensuring the advancement of the lives of previously disadvantaged communities. As a result, he quotes the former General-Secretary of the South African Communist Party, the late Comrade Chris Hani.
Might we mention that the SACP is supposed to be the antithesis to the DA, yet the DA federal leader, no less, thinks it wise to quote a former Communist Party leader. But, as Professor Friedman points out, those familiar with life in our townships, something that the DA and the majority of their membership are not, would know that one does not need much to organise or persuade people to protest. Why? Because people are angry. They are angry because the DA refuses to change their lives and even worst still, as Professor Friedman states, the DA refuses to listen to their plea. Their only answer: protest.
Professor Marius Pieterse in his piece, “We need to talk about Joburg’s rising tide of filth”, laments the fact that the ANC’s more capable and visionary Parks Tau was replaced by the Johnny-come-lately Herman Mashaba in Johannesburg. Pieterse goes on to acknowledge that despite the challenges, the municipal leadership under Tau had “a sense of dedication, know-how and ever-increasing control” over a city that was once regarded as being “near-ungovernable”.
Pieterse points out the clean audits, credit-agency ratings that “outperformed those of national government”, the regeneration of urban areas and the roll-out of infrastructure projects, including international accolades received for the Corridors of Freedom policy, an up-turn in tourist numbers and general positivity among the citizens of Joburg. The headline to his article speaks for itself. Joburg has now turned the other way: literally, a rising tide of filth.
As the DA did in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape, where crime fighting projects such as Bambanani and 24/7 crime line were stopped, they also ended successful projects such as the Jozi@Work scheme. The greatest success of Mayor Mashaba, according to Professor Pietrse, and probably his only success is managing the coalition with the EFF. Yet it is the DA which posts posters reading: Stop ANC+EFF. How blatantly deceptive.
Pieterse though also contradicts Maimane when he suggests that the protests in Alexandra were actually sparked by Mayor Mashaba’s lack of response to the EFF’s orchestrated land invasions. Even more so the academic points out what the real cause of the protests could be: a depleted fire engine fleet, sewage spills, blocked stormwater drains, traffic management that is in a shambles, streetlights that don’t work, weed-infested sidewalks, rubbish collection and waste management that is near non-existent and low-income and working-class areas deteriorating drastically. Crime, especially violent crime, has escalated because the metro police has been reduced while many poorer areas have become no-go zones for people.
Sadly, we can assure Professor Pieterse that he could well be writing about Cape Town as well. Our city, under the DA, tells the same sad story, that is if you do not live in the shadow of the mountain or by the sea. The DA, where it governs, has been a failure in delivery of basic services to our people. For a decade and a half, it has governed Cape Town and been the architects of the biggest water crisis Cape Town has faced in generations. After two years in power in Johannesburg and Tshwane, it shows little to no interest in delivery services to communities where they are most needed. After a decade of disastrous DA governance in the province, our communities are divided and destruction is evident.
We are worst off than we were in 2009!
Yet this is also the legacy of Mmusi Maimane. He has proven to be ineffective as a leader and he has been unable to transform the DA. If anything, Maimane has simply proven to be a side-show. By this time next year, Mmusi Maimane will almost certainly be history. He would have served his purpose but even worst still he would have done the fight for justice, redress and equality great harm. He will join the ranks of those DA leaders who would have been discarded by the DA.
Yet he must remember that the ANC will always be open to him. The policies which he tried to implement in the DA are close, if not identical, to that of the ANC. He will join the organisation of his hereos: Chris Hani, whom he quotes, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa. We will treat him as an equal and not as a clown. Even more so, he will feel at home because he knows that it is only together, under the leadership of the ANC, that we can make South Africa grow!
Khalid Sayed is the Provincial Chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape.