News / Opinion

Shelley Loe and Russel Crystal
7 minute read
10 Oct 2021
4:52 pm

Alternative opinion: Steenhuisen must put back those posters!

Shelley Loe and Russel Crystal

To backtrack and beg for forgiveness is the ultimate faux pas, which will not be forgotten on election day, say two former senior DA members.

The DA election posters in Phoenix that read 'The ANC called you racists' and 'The DA calls you heroes'. Picture: Twitter/@SihleSamketi

We had a taste last week of the disruption needed to trigger South Africans into talking and fighting back about the real South Africa.

Then, faster than Fauci could invent a new Covid scare, that disruption was removed, following instruction from the party’s highest authority, the Federal Executive, with a meek apology by the fall guy, Dean McPherson MP. Which goes to prove that the ANC is the only party setting the political agenda and running the show, with the help and collaboration of the wokerati.

The DA’s capitulation in the face of this propaganda war is a crippling about-face just three weeks ahead of the local elections. The posters (The ANC Called You Racists / The DA Calls You Heroes) erected in Phoenix told the truth, and the subsequent taking down of those posters is an indictment of a party, which, for a short, sweet time, was saying what many were thinking:  that the ANC is inherently racist and the people who defended their communities when the police would not, are heroes.

What’s worse, all those supporters, members, and independent political commentators who stood by the DA during the public storm that burst, have been betrayed by the same DA, which has since surrendered to the will of the ANC and their scumbag minions in the media.

Also Read: Elections 2021: Will SA politicians feel the wrath of ‘bored’ and ‘gatvol’ citizens?

But even worse was the DA’s Federal Executive’s decision to overrule DA Leader, John Steenhuisen, and insist on the removal of the “offending” posters, stabbing a knife in his back in an ‘Et tu’ moment right after he’d fought back hard against the tirade and refused to apologise or take them down.

This tragedy then turned into a comedy when Steenhuisen twisted the knife in his own back by publicly criticising the posters, calling them an “unfortunate distraction”.

How crushingly disappointing. How politically naïve. How absolutely brain dead. To backtrack and beg for forgiveness is the ultimate faux pas and one which will not be forgotten on election day by BOTH sides – those who disagreed with the posters and those who agreed and have seen their party fold.

Disruption is key to any campaign – political or commercial. You have to get your customer (voter) to sit up and take notice. You do NOT want more of the same or business as usual. You want ATTENTION.

The DA achieved that by telling the hardcore truth of the situation as it was in Phoenix and other areas around the country a few months ago, when ordinary people decided to defend their own communities because their public representatives and police service retreated from the danger.

In the light of a bored, contemptuous, fed-up electorate, we were delighted to see the party have the balls to take on the ANC by the throat. Because the ANC is obsessed with race and showed that when it refused to assist Phoenix residents under grave threat during the looting and violence raining down on them. There was no care for the safety of these citizens, no sense of urgency from government to protect their lives. And when the mostly Indian community stood up for themselves, their own government called them racists.

The inevitable kneejerk hysterical reaction to these posters, proves the content of the posters to be 100% correct – anything highlighting the racism of the ANC, irrespective of the truth of the matter, is immediately labelled racist.

Those are the facts of the matter and that is the moral high ground the DA took by standing up for these heroes by way of putting up the posters which said it all. To have climbed down from that place, the DA has only succeeded in showing how weak it is in the face of the real racists and betrayed the very people they called heroes.  

For the official opposition to sing and dance to the ANC’s tune is not only pathetic, it is unprincipled, and, unfortunately, typical of too many South Africans.

Also Read: ‘I won’t apologise’: Defiant Steenhuisen maintains DA’s Phoenix election posters have been ‘misinterpreted’

It proves that the only political agenda at play in South Africa is set by the ANC alone. All the rest respond, react, and mirror that agenda. Not one other party – or large corporation, for that matter – operate in their own space, at their own pace. Everything is allowed to be dictated by the ANC.  

Agenda setting describes the ability to influence the importance placed on the topics of the public agenda. The agenda setter determines the game play and ensures he is centre field all the time. It is only when a player launches a counter-offensive and his team play ball, that the game changes.

South Africa’s opposition parties merely shadow the ANC. Indeed, they even call their portfolio spokespersons “shadow ministers”. It’s bizarre.

For example, in an instance where there should not be a Ministry at all, such as the Department of Sports and Recreation, every political party has an official spokesperson, including the DA.

Parties that ostensibly oppose the ANC’s statist ideology should be seen to be determining the overall political agenda, in opposition to the ANC’s hegemony.  To use the above example, when an unnecessary Ministry or department issues a statement, the DA and others should simply react by pointing out that the issue raised is irrelevant because the state has no reason to exist in that arena.

It is the only way to starkly show the difference between themselves and the ANC. Ideologically and in its policies, there is a wide blue ocean between the DA and ANC, yet what is presented and perceived by voters is no more than a thin blue line.

But an even better example of influencing the agenda, would have been for Steenhuisen to stick by his guns and instruct the party not only to re-erect the posters in Phoenix, but across the country too, where ordinary people need to hear that they’re heroes for defending themselves and their families.

The posters belong in the many areas in South Africa where individuals have had to step up to the plate because the government has failed them in its most fundamental obligation to protect life and property. These would include all points where unbridled looting, farm attacks, victimisation of businesses, etc, have taken place.

As Martin van Staden, legal and policy commentator, put it: “The ANC and EFF are incendiary and they never have factions being outraged over it. The DA has learned that being incendiary is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a good lesson. The politics of politeness have no place in a country on the brink of social and political collapse. But there are those in the DA who will struggle to let go of the perception that they find themselves in Western Europe. This is why there’s outrage in the party itself. The DA should be unequivocal that it stands by this messaging. Being nice hasn’t worked for it in the past and the DA was always at its strongest when it was poking the bear … please stick to it.”

Also Read: John Steenhuisen who? The DA has an identity crisis

The DA needs to jolt its own memory. Back in the day, the party’s then Leader, Tony Leon, faced huge outrage, both inside and outside the party, against the Fight Back posters. Winnie Mandela labelled them “Fight Black” in a deliberate plan to paint the then DP as racist.

No different to the manufactured outrage over the DA Phoenix posters. But in 1999, Leon didn’t budge and the Fight Back campaign turned a tiny 1,73% party into the official opposition. Steenhuisen needs to take courage from historic victories of the predecessors of the party he now leads.

Take back control. Set the agenda. Put back those posters, Mr Steenhuisen.  

  • Between them Russel Crystal and Shelley Loe worked for the DA and its predecessor, the DP, in various capacities, for a combined total of over 30 years. Crystal served in Tony Leon’s office as national Deputy Executive Director. Loe has fulfilled a number of senior campaign roles and served as a public rep in all spheres of government. Both now work at Crystal’s communications company, Brand Physicians, in Johannesburg.
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