South African Candidate Rewrites Her Party's Race Story

Lindiwe Mazibuko was chosen as parliamentary leader of the nation's leading historically white political party. Is this a breakthrough, or a ploy to attract Black voters?

Posted: 10/28/2011 02:51 PM EDT
Lindiwe Mazibuko

South Africa's historically white opposition party recently chose a Black woman to represent the group in Parliament. However, public opinion is split on whether her nomination should be hailed as a triumph of race relations or simply a crafty political maneuver to capture more Black and minority votes.

 

Lindiwe Mazibuko, 31, was elected parliamentary caucus leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), and she is already causing a stir for everything from her short two-year record with the party to her British accent.

 

Her supporters hope that her intelligence and foreign-educated sensibilities will draw middle class black voters away from the increasingly embattled African National Congress (ANC) to the overwhelmingly white political party. The ANC has held on to a crucial majority of the country’s votes since the end of apartheid in 1994, when Blacks were free to vote.

 

Until now, the DA has gained most of its support from the country’s minorities which, in South Africa, include whites, Indians and people of mixed race (called colored). But despite drawing support from a modest size of the population, the DA has made significant gains within the last few decades, raising votership from just 2 percent of the vote in 1994 to 24 percent in May 2011.

 

But some say Mazibuko's golden-child status within the DA may be assuming a little too much too soon. There is concern that she will need more than shared skin color to connect with South Africa’s Black majority, many of whom are unemployed and suffering economic hardships.

 

"The party itself has treated this as a defining issue with regard to the ability to pull Black middle class voters but I suspect voters will not be swayed," independent political analyst Nic Borain said, according to Reuters.

 

In addition to predictions that Mazibuko may, in fact, alienate some Black voters, others within the ANC say that the young leader is being used by the DA as a political pawn, to gain more votes and control.

 

"They want to use her, in our view, like bait, like when you want to catch fish," Mathole Motshekga, the ANC's chief whip in Parliament told the Wall Street Journal. "It's actually undermining the intelligence of black people."

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Dawikicommonsaccount)

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