I am putting my head on the block. From a reputation and credibility point of view, Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance will never survive the crime Helen Zille committed.
On Tuesday Mmusi and Helen addressed a joint media briefing where she again half-apologised for her tweets that excused and justified colonialism and Mmusi announced her censure.
Except the censure was anything but. Helen was dropped from all the structures of the organisation but she remains premier of the Western Cape. I will leave that to political analysts.
In his defence on why the party saved Helen’s skin Mmusi chose two narratives: reconciliation and how they were not willing to allow a protracted legal battle (that would result if the party fired Helen) that would divide the party.
In short, Mmusi and the DA put the party ahead of black tears.
In one of their defences why they did not get rid of her, the DA makes a nonsensical comparison between Helen’s utterances and the corruption that is associated with the governing African National Congress.
There are two things with this comparison. First, you cannot slap your wife and call that a lesser crime just because your neighbour stabbed his wife multiple times. That is odious.
Secondly, racism is corruption. It is no less hurtful. If corruption steals economic opportunities for the poor, racism steals the moral dignity of a people.
The DA has been growing as a party in the past few years certainly under the leadership of Helen and lately Mmnusi.
My gut feel is that the black middle class has warmed up to the governance credentials of the DA but not necessarily its appreciation of matters or race and racism.
Helen’s utterances, getting away with it, the continued attempts to belittle her insults and hurt by comparing that to corruption and of course her lucky break to remain premier in the Western Cape, will hurt even those blacks that were brave enough to publicly admit that they voted for the DA.
I do not know whether this will hurt the party politically. Actually I doubt it. Its core membership and financial support remains white with a growing core of the black working class.
My friend Nhlanhla Ngubane argues on Fcebook that the DA’s gamble (of not getting rid of Helen) is “riding on the ‘benefit of the doubt space’ which they currently occupy in the media and ‘rational people’.”
Nhlanhla goes on to say the ANC used to occupy the same space 20 years ago but “that space has its shelf life”. Therefore, he concludes, the DA and Mmusi will survive this because the ANC has no credibility at the moment.
I could not have said it better myself.
But from a reputation point of view I say Mmusi lost credibility.
Helen did not do what has not been done in her party before. We have had Dianne Kohler-Barnard, Penny Sparrow and many others insulting black people or praising apartheid and oppression of black people.
Years ago, when she realised that all she was left with was her reputation and that she could not leave that in Helen’s hands, then DA’s parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko chose to walk than to be forever be remembered as a black woman without pride.
Today Lindiwe enjoys some form of respect from the black middle class, even it is ever so muted. They respect her because she refused to be insulted and by doing so, took one for black people.
I am not suggesting Mmusi, like Lindiwe should resign. But by not prevailing on Helen or the DA to ask her to stand down, he has lost reputational credibility and will battle to regain that black respect, even if muted.
[Follow me on twitter @ramsbythehorns)