The nays have it, the nays have it!

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Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo:Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA).

“The Nays Have It, the Nays Have It!” How often have we heard the shrill voice of John Bercow shout out this phrase in the mother-of-all-parliaments?

Nay-saying has now fallen like snow on the Democratic Alliance.  I remember the curse that the wicked white witch cast on Narnia – it was always winter, and never Christmas. Recent events suggest that the DA will always be a white enclave.  Perpetually predestined to be a regional party on the West coast, as the IFP has become on the east coast. No matter how hard the citizens of Narnia tried to force a Spring Thaw, it came not.  It is not “one South Africa for all” but “part of South Africa for whites”.

Certainly the West is a bit different.  It always has been.  Whites started by occupying Capetown.  And that was the last extremity to be reached by Bantus, migrating down from the north-east.  So the dry West was the last safe-haven for the Ba Baroa, caught in a vice between whites coming up from the South-west and blacks coming down from the North-east.  They have ended up no-where, without even a Khoi or San language among our eleven national languages.

So when the Natives Land Act was enacted in 1913, non-whites could only own land in a few patches along the north-east border (in the Transvaal) and along the east coast.  The whole West was allocated entirely to white farmers.  None of the 7 percent of land that was allocated to 80 percent of the population (non-whites) was in the West, or even near the West.

It has been a white century for the West, but now the chickens have come home to roost.  For without blacks, the DA will never become a national contender. The DA seems to be more pre-occupied with losing votes to the Freedom Front Plus, than intrigued by the possibilities of gaining urban black votes in the north-east heartland, mostly from the ANC.

Joburg is the hub of a wheel.  Spokes go north to Tswana, Ndebeles and Pedis, east to Vendas, Xangans and Swazis, south-east to Zulus, Sothos and Xhosas…But there is no spoke that goes out to the West!

The journals of Johannes van der Kemp are instructive.  He was a missionary-doctor in the 18th century – a hundred years before the better-known missionary-doctor David Livingstone.  He was a kind of Slavery Observatory, directing his intel to William Wilberforce in the mother-of-all-parliaments.  This was because Wilberforce was the driving force at that time behind the Anti-Slavery Bill, which eventually outlawed this scourge.  During that century, Capetown was ruled alternately by the Dutch and the British, depending on who was winning dominion of the high seas at any given time.

Van der Kemp testified to the atrocities committed by Boer settlers against the Khoi.  His intel was very popular reading in the media at the time of the Anti-Slavery movement.  He spoke the Khoi language fluently, so he could debrief victims and relate their stories to Wilberforce. What he witnessed was not really Slavery, it was Genocide.  For the settlers voted Nay to a future of co-habitation.  Just as the Sand-lopers had been crushed by the Dutch around Capetown, so it went – until “the West was won”.

And so it continues.  God help the DA to see the folly of its latest shenanigans.  It has relegated itself to the margins of history.  It has just voted “Nay” to a future of equality and inclusion.  This seems to be in the DNA of whites from the West.

The Nays have it, the Nays have it!


Chuck Stephens is the Executive Director for the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership and writes in his personal capacity.