How not to woo the bLack voter

Election time is an emotionally draining period - especially for voters. They have to sift through the avalanche of information churned out by politicians on the campaign trail.

Election time is an emotionally draining period - especially for voters. They have to sift through the avalanche of information churned out by politicians on the campaign trail.

There is the added complication of fibbing politicians trying to woo voters.

During a recent interview with Sowetan, DA leader Helen Zille, pictured, was asked about the continuing racial inequalities in Cape Town - a city which her party wants to project as a Mecca of racial harmony.

In response, she argued that she lived in Rosebank "a suburb which is more racially integrated than any other suburb in Johannesburg".

"Johannesburg is much more segregated than Cape Town. I live in a black majority suburb - coloured and black majority suburb, and I have never found a place in Johannesburg which is as integrated," she said.

Either Zille does not know Johannesburg and has a parochial view about it; or she ascribes to the dictum by a former Mpumalanga premier that it is okay for politicians to lie. I suspect the latter is the case. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I live in Winchester Hills and it is a majority black suburb - with a sprinkling of white residents. This is a microcosm of South African society where black people are in majority. The last time I checked my suburb was in Johannesburg.

The reason why Zille wants to project Cape Town as the most racially integrated city in South Africa is simple. The city is led by a white DA mayor - who is not a racist; unlike Johannesburg - which is headed by a black ANC mayor who "is obsessed with race".

Zille and her party members are very glib when it comes to issues of race. They are very quick to point out that race does not matter to them. The issue, they say, is about skills and leadership qualities.

If one follows this logic then it means the DA has some of the most unskilled black members of any political party - otherwise how do you explain the fact that the majority of people on its parliamentary list are white?

In fact, to show that when it is convenient the DA does acknowledge the importance of race, the party has put the faces of the few black candidates at the tail end of their list on election posters - together with Zille's face.

This is obviously to circumvent a situation whereby people would see only a white face on the election posters.

Zille's response about racially integrated suburbs is a manifestation of the DA's even worse flaw - its superficial, and therefore racist, approach to non-racialism.

For Zille, having a previously white suburb where there are more blacks than whites is a sign of how integrated the city she heads is.

She refuses to acknowledge that those blacks who have now become neighbours are beneficiaries of affirmative action and black economic empowerment - policies that she describes as being race-obsessed.

In an article titled "Inside Cape Town" author Joshua Hammer deals with the issue of racial integration in the city.

"The ANC's black economic empowerment initiatives have elevated thousands of previously disadvantaged Africans to the middle class and created a new generation of black and mixed-race millionaires and even billionaires," he wrote.

He goes on to say: "Yet there were regular reminders of the legacy of apartheid. When I drove my son down the mountain to the American International School each morning, I passed a parade of black workers from the townships on the Cape Flats trudging uphill to manicure the gardens and clean the houses of my white neighbours."

This, madam, is the reality that South Africa continues to face and needs to deal with. Unlike what you and your party wants us to believe. Unlike what the DA wants to project of itself - no South African is race blind.

The DA must realise that trying to be race blind only leads to half-baked solutions which drive most voters - who remain black and poor - away.

The DA's major problem is its denial of how apartheid has impacted on South Africans of all races. It is that impact which determines how they react when it comes to issues of race.

In her book White Power and the Rise and Fall of the National Party, author Christi van der Westhuizen argues that a refusal by whites to acknowledge the impact of apartheid on black South Africans is largely responsible for current racial tensions.

"White denial is for me the real problem because they refuse to acknowledge the effect of apartheid and colonialism in denying black people opportunities."

Those opportunities, Madam Zille, are created by policies such as affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment.