South Africa’s DA party suspends lawmaker over racist rant in old video

Centre-right party says newly elected MP Renaldo Gouws used ‘execrable language’ in an old video that resurfaced recently.

Man waves DA flag
Supporters of the Democratic Alliance, the second-largest political party in South Africa, attend an election rally in Benoni on May 26, 2024 [File: Ihsaan Haffejee/Reuters]

South Africa’s centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) party has suspended one of its lawmakers after an old video of the legislator using explicitly racist language resurfaced online.

The suspension of the recently sworn-in member of parliament, Renaldo Gouws, on Thursday highlights the uneasy alliance between the DA and its governing coalition partner the African National Congress (ANC), the former liberation movement that spearheaded the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

“The DA has established that the video, in which Renaldo Gouws uses execrable language, is in fact genuine and not a fake as initially suspected,” the party said.

“The DA federal executive has therefore suspended Mr Gouws with immediate effect.”

In the now-deleted video, posted in 2010, Gouws uses racist slurs against Black people in South Africa.

Gouws appears to call for killing Black people before saying that his statement is intended to make an analogy with Black activists singing a decades-old anti-apartheid chant that has stirred controversy in recent years.

South Africa’s human rights watchdog said on Thursday that it would “institute proceedings” against Gouws for “hate speech and/or harassment”, saying that the video contained “extremely offensive and derogatory language”.

“Given Mr Gouws’s position as a Member of Parliament, his alleged actions carry even greater weight and responsibility,” the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said.

Gouws, a prolific online poster, had been a sharp critic of the ANC over the years. The lawmaker sparked anger earlier this week after another expletives-laden video of him re-emerged, where he claims that white people in South Africa are enduring “reverse apartheid”.

“If Africa had to disappear off the face of the earth, no one would f***ing notice,” he says in the video.

Gouws apologised “unreservedly” for that rant but refuted allegations of racism in a social media post on Monday.

“Before this and before these snippets were used publicly against me, I posted a lengthy Facebook post from 2013 in which I apologized for how I delivered my message in my videos (angry, hostile, confrontational and crass),” he wrote.

The DA emerged as the second-largest party in South Africa’s May elections, in which the ANC lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since 1994, when it swept into power under the leadership of Nelson Mandela after the fall of the apartheid regime.

After the elections last month, the ANC remained the largest party, but it needed to court other parties in order to form a government.

Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for a national unity government spanning the entire political spectrum to address the country’s challenges, including the high cost of living, unemployment and corruption.

But the left-leaning Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and former President Jacob Zuma’s MK Party refused to join the coalition, leaving the DA as the ANC’s main governing partner.

The DA and ANC have deep differences on the economy. While the ANC calls for a social democracy with policies to uplift all South Africans, “especially the poor”, the DA emphasises the free market economy and the ability to “earn a living and accumulate wealth”.

Ramaphosa was sworn in on Thursday after being re-elected by the parliament for a second term with the DA’s backing last week.

“The formation of a government of national unity is a moment of profound significance. It is the beginning of a new era,” the South African president said at his inauguration ceremony.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies