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Zille’s praise for Motshekga met with cheers and jeers

23 July 2013

Helen Zille became the target of much indignation and appreciation when she defended Angie Motshekga’s performance as basic education minister.

via Zille’s praise for Motshekga met with cheers and jeers | News | National | Mail & Guardian.

The Democratic Alliance is one of my least favourite political parties on the South African scene, and neither Helen Zille nor Angie Motshekga are among my favourite politicians, but I am one of those who cheered rather than jeered Helen Zille’s praise for Angie Motshekga.

I think that’s because I’m sick of the way the media tend to treat politics as a matter of personalities rather than policies. It’s always easier to find a scapegoat than a solution, and none excel more at that than the South African media.

Angie Motshekha has been made the media scapegoat for such things as the failure to deliver textbooks to schools in Limpopo Province, and, as Helen Zille points out, that is the constitutional responsibility of the provincial education departments rather than of the central government.

So I welcome Helen Zille’s defence of Angie Motshekga.

Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education

Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education

You can read Helen Zille’s original article here: Zille goes in to bat for Motshekga – Cape Argus |

Helen Zille’s article is not perfect, however. It would have been better if she had stuck to the point of defending Angie Motshekga’s performance as Minister of Basic Education and leaving it at that. She spoilt it a bit by going on to do a bit of scapegoating of her own, and blaming the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) for the country’s education woes.

But I think that generally the article is good, and perhaps has a wider significance than the education portfolio. Perhaps it is an indication that the Democratic Alliance is at last beginning to grow up, and be willing to shed its image as the spoilt brat of South African politics.

I can still remember how the alliance came into being. It was an alliance between the former Democratic Party and the National Party (remember, the people who gave us apartheid?). In the 1999 General Election the Democratic Party made an all-out bid to become the leader and representative of the white right, and entered into head on competition with the National Party for that role, and it won. As a result, it absorbed the rump of the National Party.

The DA recently had a publicity campaign in which they emphasised that they fought against apartheid. But that was only half the truth. One of the components that went to make up the alliance, the Progressive Party, fought against apartheid. Another component, however, the National Party, gave us apartheid in the first place. And the Democratic Party (which had incorporated the Progressive Party) fought the election campaign of 1999 on the basis of two slogans: “Fight back” and “Gatvol” (fed up). Fight back against what? The end of apartheid, that’s what. That was the whole point of their wooing of the white right. Gatvol with what? The end of apartheid, that’s what.

The Democratic Party refused to take part in the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 1994. It was the “opposition” so it had to oppose everything the government did, on principle. At the time, it was rather silly. If ever the country needed a government of consensus, to tackle the task of rebuilding the country, it was then.

But Helen Zille’s defence of Angie Motshekga is the first sign that the DA may be willing to give credit where credit is due, and to take on a more cooperative rather than a confrontational style — about 20 years too late.

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