The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it is in the process of taking down its controversial local government election posters put up in Phoenix recently, after the party was accused of stirring racial tension in the area.
The posters read: “The ANC called you racists” and “The DA calls you heroes”.
Phoenix has been a hotbed of racial tension since the looting and riots in July. More than 30 people died and over 50 were injured in the area during violent unrest and looting that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, ostensibly triggered by the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma.
On Thursday, DA KwaZulu-Natal chairperson Dean Macpherson apologised for the posters which “inadvertently caused offence”.
“In my sincere effort to honour the bravery and heroism of law-abiding citizens who were left to fend for themselves during the July riots and insurrections, the posters have regretfully caused hurt to some people. I am deeply sorry and apologise for this,” Macpherson said.
Macpherson added that the posters were unsanctioned by the DA leader John Steenhuisen, party structures and campaign leadership.
On Tuesday, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said the posters were “shameful and fascist in nature”. It even accused the DA of promoting and supporting the “heinous murders committed by a few racists in Phoenix during the violent protests in July”.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said although it was a “good thing” that the DA was taking the posters down, her party will go ahead with its Human Rights Commission complaint.
On Wednesday, Steenhuisen refused to apologise for the election posters. He was adamant that his party was merely defending South Africans who stood up for the rule of law.
“The people are heroes. The people that are heroes are the South Africans that, when government retreated and Saps [South African Police Service] retreated, stood up and defended the rule of law, defended the Constitution, and defended their lives and livelihoods. Those are heroes.”
“I will call them heroes and I’ll continue to call them heroes because they did not retreat in the face of danger, they did not hide away like the Saps and [Police Minister] Bheki Cele’s people.”
Cele responded by labelling Steenhuisen a “brainless political thug” with “no conscience”.
Referring to the people that were killed in Phoenix, Cele said Steenhuisen had “put extra salt of racism on this matter”.
“I have always had doubts about Steenhuisen. I don’t have a doubt now, I am flabbergasted. To me he is a thug, he is a political criminal that the nation must deal with him as such, he has no conscious [sic], he has no brains whatsoever.
Additional reporting by Siyanda Ndlovu