Today the world celebrates a remarkable champion of human rights and human dignity.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been a moral beacon to South Africa and the world. To
honour him we need to do more to achieve the non-racial and truly democratic country that
Sadly, the recent electioneering by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Phoenix in KwaZulu-
Natal is an indicator of just how much more work needs to be done to ensure that non-
racialism is firmly rooted in our society. The DA’s election poster, as many have already
said, depicts crass racism and misrepresents the tragic events that occurred in July this year in
Phoenix. It is aimed to suit narrow political gains rather than unite communities and build
social cohesion on a non-racial basis.
The poster incorrectly ascribes hero and presumably villain status to whole groups of people.
Simply put its poster can be read to say that all Africans were looters and all Indians were
heroes. This is far from the truth as subsequent reports have already indicated.
The DA would do well to listen to some of its leaders such as its Johannesburg Mayoral
candidate, take down the posters and admit that it was wrong.
The underlying message of the poster also weakens the tremendous work undertaken since
July by the various local communities to work towards better social relations, solidarity and
common actions to improve the wellbeing of all who live in the areas in and around Phoenix.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation hopes that their efforts will not be derailed by this, and
other, cheap electioneering designed to exploit the July violence for narrow electoral gains.
We reiterate the Foundation’s response to the July insurrection, which stated:
“That communities needed to defend themselves in light of the state’s failure to do so is
understandable, but should not have come at the cost of violating the human rights of others.
There certainly were individuals and security companies among the ‘Phoenix defenders’ who
would need to account for their violent actions, which resulted in the loss of life, injury and
assault to the dignity and rights of others. They appear to have gone beyond the need to
defend the community and this must be strongly condemned. Such individuals should be
identified, investigated and charged. There is a difference between defending communities
and vigilantism, racial profiling and stereotyping. The latter should never be tolerated.
Tackling deep-rooted divisions, racial prejudices and inequality will require consistent work
over generations. It requires leadership that can bridge divides and build on the common
dreams and aspirations of people from all sides. Despite the deep-rooted racial divisions of
South Africa, most people yearn for a united country. The missing ingredient in making this
happen is consistent and committed leadership to get the work done.
While the country will grapple possibly over many years to come to grips with the social and
economic impact of events in July, we should however not lose sight of the fact that the
attempted insurrection did not enjoy broader public support and therefore, failed. In the midst
of all that has gone wrong, we must recognise and appreciate that ordinary people – in
various instances across racial, class and other divisions – stood up together in defence our
The Kathrada Foundation calls on all political parties who are now on the campaign trail to
act responsibly as they try and garner votes for the upcoming local elections. They all need to
affirm the democratic values espoused by our constitution. Nothing should be done to impair
our democracy as we move towards another milestone in our democratic life – the elections
on the 1 st November 2021.