DEMOCRATIC Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille on Sunday criticised white perpetrators of racist attacks, and distanced her party from actions of “such individuals”.
Ms Zille’s statement comes after a slew of highly publicised racial attacks, some of which she mentioned in her weekly newsletter, SA Today. She focused on white racists because the “they are all too often associated with the DA”.
In October, a white male swimming coach attacked a black female domestic worker in Cape Town, claiming he believed the domestic worker was a prostitute. Last week two white men attacked a black petrol attendant at a petrol station in Witbank, Mpumalanga.
In September, a group of white spectators at the Newlands rugby Test match between the Springboks and Australia began loudly shouting the “k-word” every time a black player touched the ball. When some white people around them objected, they were verbally abused for the rest of the game.
In March, two black women left a bar in Richards Bay to fetch a friend. When they returned, they were blocked from entering by a group of white men who told them it was “not a bar for blacks”.
When they protested, a scuffle ensued and they were assaulted by the men.
“Our party has no place for people like these. We are disgusted by them. While our constitution guarantees them the right to free speech, even when they are vile and offensive, they do not have a right to associate, or be associated with, the DA,” Ms Zille said.
The statement coincides with the weekend commemorating one year since former president Nelson Mandela died. Ms Zille blamed the “sudden surge of racist incidents” on complacency by white South Africans who were not racist and the emergence of new “right-wing leaders” in the form of Afrikaans pop singer Steve Hofmeyr and literary critic Dan Roodt.
“Gone are the khaki-clad, gun-toting, horse-riding para-militaries of old. They have now been replaced by one pop star and one self-proclaimed intellectual, in Steve Hofmeyr and Dan Roodt. I often wonder what happened in Steve Hofmeyr’s life to turn him into the man he has become.
“Cloaked in flowery prose and intellectual bluster, their racism has emboldened some of their followers. I doubt it is a coincidence that the increase in racist incidents across the country has run parallel to the increase in their public profiles,” the DA leader said.
Last year, the opposition party expelled Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Stanford Slabbert after it was found that he had sent a racist e-mail to fellow councillors insulting President Jacob Zuma.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said Ms Zille was not overreacting in distancing the party from recent acts of racial attacks. “I think she’s right to be concerned about race relations in SA and their impact on the DA. There are incidences and they are often associated with white SA and racial violence is associated with apartheid. I think it’s important for her to make that statement and distance her party from these and of course it’s obvious that the DA is not the Red October or anything.”
Political leaders in SA have not yet made a concerted effort to confront the tense race relations in society after the constitutional reform, Mr Friedman said.