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DA expected to withdraw controversial Phoenix posters

06 October 2021 - 19:35
A DA poster in Phoenix ahead of local government elections. The community there came under fire in July after 36 people were killed in unrest in the area.
A DA poster in Phoenix ahead of local government elections. The community there came under fire in July after 36 people were killed in unrest in the area.
Image: Supplied

Sources in the DA say the party’s senior leaders in KwaZulu-Natal are pushing for their  national leaders to concede that controversial election posters in Phoenix,  north of Durban, send the wrong message to voters about race and should be taken down. 

This follows a meeting by the DA's top leaders in KwaZulu-Natal, where the posters declaring “The ANC called you racist. The DA calls you heroes” were discussed on Wednesday. They ignited a political firestorm when they were put up.

The message in the DA posters was in reference to murders in Phoenix during the July unrest when 36 people were killed.

TimesLIVE can reveal that DA provincial leader Francois Rogers did not sign off on the posters, and apparently only found out about them with the rest of SA. 

“The provincial management committee, which would ordinarily sign off on campaign messaging did not know, in fact out of the six of us only Dean [Macpherson]  knew hence we had an emergency meeting this morning [Wednesday] to ask him to explain. 

“At the meeting today, Dean said the party has to be realistic, we can afford to lose 50% of black DA voters but we cannot afford to lose 50% of the Indian vote who will vote for the DA - whatever that means,” said an insider who was at the meeting. 

When contacted by TimesLIVE, Rogers referred all questions to Macpherson, who is the provincial chair of the DA in the province. Macpherson indicated via text message that he was in a meeting and could not take calls. 

He had not responded to texts at the time of publication and his comment will be added to the story as soon as it is obtained.

Another provincial executive committee member who spoke to TimesLIVE on condition of anonymity said DA activists were seething with anger over the posters and the furore they had provoked.  

“Since no-one in the top leadership knew we also did not know, this whole thing is discouraging because it is erasing our hard work on the ground. 

“I have been on the campaign trail today and that is all people want to talk about, not the message that we are bringing but these bloody posters. We await to see what the party will do because they cannot ignore this,” a PEC member said. 

Sources in the provincial management committee told TimesLIVE that it appeared that Macpherson took the decision alone.

TimesLIVE could not establish if Macpherson had the blessing of national leaders to go ahead with the posters. However, some party members like the party's mayoral candidate in Johannesburg, Dr Mpho Phalatse, acknowledged that the party may not have intended to cause harm but “should apologise, take the posters down and move on”.

Another DA activist who spoke to TimesLIVE said they wished that the DA had included activists in the decision-making. “Had we at least debated this and lost, we would be able to explain to voters and SA but now we are as confused as everyone and probably angrier than everyone else because we will feel the consequences.”

This is a developing story.