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South Africa: Freedom day, “Good man, bad party” and an angry Helen Zille

South Africa: Freedom day, “Good man, bad party” and an angry Helen Zille
  • PublishedApril 28, 2019

On Saturday – 27 April, South Africa commemorated ‘Freedom Day’ – 25 years since the end of apartheid. Reactions to the anniversary of the non-racial voting that ushered in black majority rule, have been mixed. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa – whom the Economist Magazine has this week “endorsed” as the best man for the job in South Africa, to the chagrin of opposition politician Helen Zille – marked the Freedom Day at a rally with guarded fervour.

“On this day we founded a new country defined by the principles of equality, unity, non-racialism and non-sexism…, it is a day we remember vividly – the exhilaration of seeing nearly 20 million South Africans of all races waiting patiently at polling stations around the country to cast their ballots…” he told a rally of the ruling ANC supporters in in Makhanda  – Eastern Cape.

But, he went further: “There are great divisions between rich and poor, between urban and rural, between men and women, between those with jobs and those who are unemployed, between those who own land and those who were deprived of it…As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, we need to focus all our attention and efforts on ensuring that all South Africans can equally experience the economic and social benefits of freedom, ”

The issues he raised are pointedly captured in this analysis which discusses the lack of ‘freedom from want ” experienced by the black majority and proposes that perhaps “Freedom Day” should  serve as a reminder of such unfinished business.

Meanwhile, opposition Democratic Alliance Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille is not happy with the Economist magazine, whose Cover story this week openly supports President Ramaphosa –  as next week’s general elections approach. 

“South Africa’s Best Bet – How Cyril Ramaphosa Can Clean Up The Rainbow Nation” is its coverline .Inside the cover feature, the magazine goes one further:

“Good man, bad party- To stop the rot in South Africa, back Cyril Ramaphosa. The liberal opposition cannot win an election on May 8th. So it is up to the president to clean up his own party’s mess.”  Before concluding the piece with: “Having overcome apartheid without a civil war, [SouthAfrica] has long been an inspiration to the world. All this is now in jeopardy, but Mr Ramaphosa, the man Mandela originally wanted to succeed him, has a chance to save his legacy. He must not blow it.”

The magazine later promoted the cover on twitter with a caption that read: Cyril Ramaphosa is the rainbow nation’s best bet, despite his rotten party. South Africans should back him. 

And Zille – was not having any of it, tweeting a reply:

“You clearly have no idea how the patronage network (that is the ANC) functions. This article will come back to haunt you.” 

 Jonathan Rosenthal  the magazine’s Africa Editor tweeted her back:  “We would far rather have endorsed the DA because of what it stands for and for its record of governance. But it has no chance of winning this time (partly because of its own goals). The pragmatic choice then becomes one of trying to avoid really bad outcomes.”

“Your logic is deeply flawed. To vote for a party for the sole reasons that it is likely to win, is to undermine the most fundamental tenet of electoral politics. The worst outcome for SA is a continuation of the current patronage network milking SA dry,” Zille fired back, ignited a twitter outburst.

And as the social media ping pong continued, report of a potential DA split were also mounting, including one from Bloomberg which reports that several senior members of  the DA, which is South Africa’s official opposition, “have considered breaking away to form a new party because of disputes about its policy direction, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Throwback. April 1994. Election day. (Credit AFP Photos)

Written By
Regina Jane Jere

reGina Jane Jere is a Zambian-born London-based journalist and founding Editor of the New African Woman magazine the sister-publication of the New African magazine of which she was the Deputy Editor for over a decade. The mother of two juggles a wide-range of editorial and managerial duties, but she has particular passion on women’s health, education, rights and empowerment. She is also a former Zambian correspondent for Agence France Presse, and a former Africa Researcher at Index on Censorship. She writes extensively on a wide range of issues, from politics to women’s rights, media and free speech to beauty and fashion.

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