Monday, March 22, 2004

As Andrew has noted, its become fashionable to express dislike of Tony Leon. Leon, it is said, is too combative, critical, aggressive and opportunistic. He opposes just for the sake of it, and would do better to press his criticisms more constructively, in the spirit of the African tradition of consensus politics. I agree with this up to a point; it would be nice if our politicians were always balanced and fair. But why do we think that Leon alone is guilty of conducting himself in this way? I refer you to recent press statements from the ANC and ANC Youth.

On 24 February 2002, the ANC Youth released a press statement claiming:

The truth is that Leon's is an arch-racist, neo-liberal and pro-imperialist organisation that supports the maiming of the Palestinian as well as the Iraqi people.

Hmmm, that's constructive, balanced and fair. The ANC itself is not much better. The following statement was released on 17 March 2004:

If DA supporters are indoctrinated with Tony Leon's politics of racial intolerance, it is hardly surprising that right wing bigots in DA strongholds would resort to these desperate and uncivilised displays of criminal behaviour to "Keep the ANC out."

An example of African consensus politics? And on 23 February 2004:

The ANC requests the DA Fuhrer to make an unequivocal statement on this [that he should resign].

McIntosh [placed relatively low on the DA list] will remember that during the last DA caucus meeting when the Fuhrer made a joke, McIntosh did not laugh loud enough. Those DA members who laughed their lungs out are on top of the DA national and provincial lists.

Apart from being ad hominem, there's something more sinister going on here. Referring to a Jew as the "Fuhrer" is crass and insensitive. Lest anyone think this is a careless oversight, I remind you that in the past the ANC has referred to Leon's wife as "Israel."

Finally, lest anyone think that the DA has somehow provoked this, and has therefore been singled out for special treatment, I quote Thabo Mbeki's recent, and rather outrageous, statement on the ACDP:

He [Mbeki] said if ever his sister was to arrive home and tell him that she was in love with ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, he would have to beat her.

Nevertheless, none of this should surprise us (excepting perhaps Mbeki's advice to beat supporters of other parties). This is politics, after all, and politics is a rough and tumble affair, often unfair and frequently personal. What worries me, however, is that the ANC has succeeded in developing the idea of consensus politics in such a way that it applies to its chief opponent but not to itself. And people, very intelligient people, buy this! There might be good reasons not to vote DA and also not to like Leon personally (I'm not going to go into these here). But objecting to his rhetoric, and not to that of the ANC, amounts to a double standard.


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