DA leader Mmusi Maimane says racism in the party is an inherited problem which he is working on.
“I inherited a party and I’m working to change that,” he told The Citizen regarding continued complaints of racism, especially between white and black members of the party.
His comments come amid recent and highly publicised incidences of racism on social media, as well as between members of the party.
A DA councillor in the Eastern Cape was recently fined R10 000 for calling a colleague a “bobejaan”. This was just one case in slew of fines and suspensions of DA members for racism over the past year.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard was fired last year after she shared a Facebook post calling for the return of apartheid-era president PW Botha. She pleaded guilty to all charges including that of bringing the party into disrepute and was subsequently expelled.
She appealed against her expulsion and was reinstated as an MP. But Maimane insisted they were making strides in dealing with the race issue in the party.
“Go to any of our provinces – everything is changing. I’m not saying we are perfect. I’m saying everything is changing.”
Asked whether his party was using black faces to win black votes, Maimane accused the ANC of using propaganda to create that impression.
“I think the message that people are putting forward is a racist message, it’s fundamentally racist – it’s an ANC message. They are trying to split us on the basis of race. I don’t build a party for black people, I don’t build a party for white people, I build a party for all South Africans. Why would I front to a level where we say all of our potential candidates are black?” he asked.
Former DA councillor in Nelson Mandela Bay, Knight Mali, made a dramatic exit from the party in April after he said he got a wakeup call about the depth of racism in the organisation. He was in a group of black councillors who wrote to the organisation’s Eastern Cape chairperson complaining about the racism in the party.
“I spoke to him [Mmusi] all the time, telling him about the problems we were having in the party with people making racist statements and then all they do is slap them with a R10 000 fine and they’re still in the party.
“He had been promising to come down to the Eastern Cape to address the issue personally, but that never happened.”
Mali also said that white senior members of the DA were the “brain trust” behind Maimane, echoing the sources of a Mail and Guardian report in which this group which made decisions for Maimane was alluded to.
Mali said he left after he realised that the party was and always would be a “racist white party with a black face”.
“I joined the DA as a student, believing that things could change. I was there when Daso (DA Students Organisation) was formed. There are many like me in the party who are black and educated and want real change for this country, and are also facing the same problem of racism in that organisation.”
Before he left the party, Mali was facing suspension for canvassing for a rival party, among other charges. This was close to the time he complained about the party harbouring racists.