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Renaldo Gouws’ racist rant rips cloak off the DA

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Democratic Alliance MP Renaldo Gouws at the first sitting of the 7th administration of Parliament in Cape Town last week. This incident not only exposes Gouws as a white supremacist but also rips the cloak off the DA, revealing the deep-seated racist ethos that underpins the party, says the writer. – Picture: Henk Kruger / Independent Newspapers

By Gillian Schutte

The recent revelation of a video featuring DA Member of Parliament Renaldo Gouws spewing explicit hate speech is both deplorable and alarming. In the video, Gouws makes abhorrent racist comments, passionately calling for the killing of black people using the most offensive slurs.

This incident not only exposes Gouws as a white supremacist but also rips the cloak off the DA, revealing the deep-seated racist ethos that underpins the party.

The DA has a history of repugnant racist statements and attendant social media counter-attacks. This video is yet another re-run of the same theme.

Helen Zille, a senior DA figure, previously lit the match of outrage by praising colonialism in South Africa. Zille’s comments were widely condemned but she suffered little backlash from the party, says the writer. – Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Helen Zille, a senior DA figure, previously lit the match of outrage by praising colonialism, a period marked by vicious exploitation and brutality against indigenous populations.

Zille’s comments were widely condemned for their insensitivity and disregard for the suffering caused by colonialism. Despite the backlash, Zille faced limited consequences within the party, which only attested to the DA’s stance on racism and its faux commitment to being a truly non-racial party.

Although Gouws’ video was made 16 years ago, it reflects a mindset that is terrifyingly consistent with the party’s previous controversies. His remarks are not just a personal failing but reveal deep-seated race prejudices that the DA has failed to adequately address.

In addition, the fact that such a video exists and was once part of Gouws’ public persona indicates a broader problem within the party regarding race and tolerance.

A petition calling for Gouws’ removal has, it is reported, compelled the DA to enforce his immediate suspension from all party activities and assure the nation that he will face disciplinary charges. But whether Gouws is removed or not is unlikely to make any difference to the deeply entrenched systematic racism that festers in the cracks of the party.

As Phakamile Hlubi-Majola tweeted on social media platform X: “I don’t think they must remove Renaldo Gouws cos we need daily reminders of just how vile and racist the DA actually is. Renaldo shatters the illusion created by liberals that they are tolerant, they are not. They use nice words but they still think black ppl (people) are k*****s.”

Hlubi-Majola’s sentiments point to the crux of the problem. From the perspective of radical critical race theory, it is clear that the violence embedded in Gouws’ words mirrors Zille’s equally violent remarks about colonialism – just one example of her litany of covert and overt racist statements made over the years.

Both instances, while differing in their delivery, stem from a similar wish-fulfilment fantasy rooted in the historical and the continuing desire of white settlers to dominate and eliminate “the other”.

Frantz Fanon’s analysis in The Wretched of the Earth provides a crucial framework for understanding these expressions as part of a broader colonial and post/neocolonial dynamic, where violence – both physical and ideological – is used to assert control and perpetuate oppression.

Gouws’ explicit call for the killing of black people using dehumanising slurs is a direct and overt manifestation of violent racism. It reflects a desire to literally eradicate those deemed inferior or threatening to white supremacy.

This fantasy of annihilation is not just a product of individual prejudice. It is a continuation of the colonial mindset that seeks to maintain power through the suppression and extermination of the colonised.

Fanon describes this as a form of catharsis for the coloniser, a brutal assertion of dominance that attempts to erase the presence of the colonised people altogether.

Zille’s comments, while seemingly less overtly violent, are equally violent nonetheless and rooted in the same ideology. By suggesting that colonialism had beneficial aspects, Zille engages in a form of historical revisionism that both sanitises and legitimises the violence and exploitation inherent in colonial rule.

This narrative downplays the dire suffering and systemic oppression faced by colonised peoples, effectively erasing their experiences and justifying the colonial project. In Fanon’s framework, this is a more sophisticated form of violence that operates on a psychological and cultural level, reinforcing the colonial order.

These expressions of violence – whether overt or covert – are deeply tied into colonial history and the psyche of the coloniser. They reveal the ongoing struggle to maintain a hierarchical order that privileges the settler and eviscerates the native. In the end, both Gouws’ hateful

rhetoric and Zille’s revisionist history are attempts to sustain this order by different means, reflecting the persistent white supremacist fantasy of a world cleansed of the other.

Despite the petition and the disciplinary hearing, Gouws’ likely continued existence within the party as an MP will indeed serve as a daily reminder of the systemic racism and prejudice that black South Africans continue to face.

If Zille’s vile systematic racism was not enough to prompt significant change, removing Gouws alone will not resolve the underlying problems.

Instead, Gouws’ comments should serve as a catalyst for a broader societal reckoning. His hate speech, much like Zille’s comments, must be recognised as part of a larger pattern of racial insensitivity and systemic racism within the DA.

These attitudes should, instead, ignite a sustained and widespread movement for radical change, addressing not just the symptoms but the root causes of racial inequality in South Africa.

This incident should serve as a call to revolutionary protest action, pushing for the African-centred societal transformation that South Africa so desperately needs.

■ Editor’s note: Following the exposé of Gouws’ racist conduct by IOL on Wednesday, the DA’s Federal Executive announced his “immediate suspension” pending a disciplinary hearing.

On Thursday, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) announced that the Commission was instituting proceedings at the Equality Court against Gouws. The SAHRC said that the alleged utterances by Gouws “constituted hate speech and/or harassment”.

Gillian Schutte is a social and race-justice activist