We – all South Africans – have as much right to slate the pathetic performance of the Democratic Alliance as South Africa’s ‘Official Opposition’ as we have of dismissing the even worse governing party, the ANC.
In fact, we have every right to spew bile at both parties – at the same time.
The story of both in recent times has revolved around racism, arrogance, hunting down the homeless and spatial apartheid, among others, in the case of the DA – and never-ending corruption, theft and maladministration, in the case of the ANC.
But today I want to centre on the mercifully, soon-to-be-gone Debbie Schäfer.
Some who have welcomed her resignation as the MEC for Education in the Western Cape have been sharply criticised, mainly by (the looks of things) white residents of this province.
Criticise the DA or someone from the DA and the chances are you will be lashed with a sjambok’s-worth of whataboutism.
But I tend to ignore anyone whose experience of township life (and a recipe for expertise in their minds) is handing out peanut butter and apricot jam sandwiches on a well-protected nearby open field.
Late last year, I put it – very mildly – that Schäfer should not oversee education in a province in which most pupils are poor and black.
And it doesn’t matter how many non-fee-paying schools emerged during her watch.
What all of us, other than the privileged, are looking for is quality in the poor schools. It’s about caring. It’s about putting in a good motivation for doing away with spatial apartheid.
We did not get this from Debbie Schäfer.
I said then that it was concerning that she was appointed as MEC for Education by Helen Zille – and worse that she was and still is an admirer of Zille’s style of bluster and arrogance.
She was what Zille wanted – and found: a mini-me.
A Zille mini-me is a person who is right-leaning – and who is brimming with bravado and egotism.
This is the person parents in the Western Cape were given to take charge of their children’s education.
It is for this reason that I knew the principal of Heathfield High, Wesley Neumann, would be met with an iron fist following his dispute with the Western Cape Education Department over his decision to defy an order by the Department to open his school, even though the COVID-19 pandemic was raging unabated.
They threw the book at him – very much like they did with Brian Isaacs, the former principal of South Peninsula High.
Both Isaacs and Neumann were sacked.
In some ways, Schäfer and Co were even worse than the old NP, which sent teachers and principals it didn’t like to some one-horse rural dorpie.
To me, the story of Schäfer, as an MEC, is one of a smirking, arrogant, disrespectful person, who should not have been running any department, let alone a department whose job it was to mould young minds.
Few will forget her contemptuous treatment of members of the Equal Education (EE) organisation in 2017.
In an article in GroundUp, she and Zille were accused of displaying a ‘sense of disgust and contempt for the rights of working-class black people to hold elected officials accountable’.
Their behaviour followed the publication of a well-researched and comprehensive social audit compiled by the EE, and which centred on the state of education in the province.
Schäfer refused to accept the document – not even when representatives of the EE brought it to her door.
Instead, she disparagingly referred to it as a ‘so-called’ social audit, a description repeated by her boss, the Premier at the time, Zille.
Schäfer refused to engage with students seated outside her home. She chose to Tweet, chiding them for participating in what she described as an ‘illegal’ march, of having unknown ‘motives and of being ‘pathetic’.
She then called in a line of police officers to ‘protect’ her as she walked to her car.
Later, when accused of ignoring the learners, while driving off, she sent what the GroundUp reporter described as a ‘smirking’ Tweet, reminiscent of Marie Antoinette….
‘I waved,’ she said.
I will wave too when she goes. And my wave will be based on the hope that the next MEC for Education, David Maynier, will be a substantial improvement.
But, hey, to me, he’s a conservative, and I’ve been wrong before….,