If Helen Zille, the newly elected premier of the Western Cape, is the face of liberalism in South Africa then liberalism is in some deep trouble.
Now I am not about to get twisted and lament the state of liberalism and liberals. I do, however, think it important to note that liberalism has made important contributions, particularly of the political kind between citizen and state.
One such prominent contribution is the emphasis on equality and inclusivity of all citizens as a marker of progress.
Liberalism has, in no small part, influenced the manner in which anti-racist struggle has been conceived and applied. The same can be said of the important and ongoing struggle to rid society and politics of its persistent patriachal frame(s).
In general, liberalism has evolved to reduce structural and other inequality whether it be drawn on race, gender, class, religion, ethnicity, origin, or any combination of these.
What then, if anything, should one make of the decision by the leading white liberal, and woman no less, to appoint an all-male and dominantly white cabinet in the Western Cape?
Is this her manner of building on Obama's nonesensical 'post-race' liberalism by adding a 'post-feminist' blindness and idiocy?
I think it mostly a waste of time to interrogate Zille's understanding or commitment to the grand 'narratives' of liberalism. It is a waste of time because her liberalism is contained by an overarching apartheid consciousness that significantly stunts her reach and grasp of the post-apartheid moment.
In short, she is out of touch, to put it mildly.
And she is not alone. The hoards of folks (of all colours) who brought her party to office in the Western Cape are similarly afflicted.
I find it quite odd that there is hardly a voice among the supporters of Zille, or other liberals outside the African National Congress (ANC), who have not pointed out how ridiculous it is for her to have ignored the need for equal gender and racial representation in her cabinet.
Her argument that she is not enjoined by a "gender quota" is absolute nonesense because she has merely replicated the power structure of male dominance which is a quota system of long standing, and oppressively so too.
For Zille, like the majority of white liberals and their 'non'-white agents, the matter of equality is predicated on notions of hard workers and committed individuals over an appreciation how those same folk hardly understand the standing inequities that make it necessary to be adamant about equality and inclusivity.
On this score the ANC is right to say that her cabinet does not represent South Africa. In fact, her cabinet does not represent any nation-state anywhere.
It is for this reason that Helen Zille cannot seriously be the face of liberalism, the same ideology that pioneered Affirmative Action and drew so many a committed soul to the struggle for equality.
So who then are the real liberals in South Africa?
Well who else broer? The ANC of course. Their commitment to equality and a non-racial/non-sexist society and state stands out prominently even as it is fraught with heavy-handed engineering that worringly seems to redeploy patriachal power.
But still, at this 'juncture' and moment, the ANC has again proved that their brand of borrowed and hybrid liberalism is more robust and nuanced than the old school apartheid-style sh*t that drives Helen Zille and her Democratic Alliance.