Steenhuisen dismissed allegations of a smirk during his Cliff Central appearance, saying he was preoccupied with signing documents.
Published The Citizen | 25 October
The fallout is still reverberating from the controversial interview on Cliff Central last week – and there are no winners, with the Democratic Alliance (DA), Nando’s and Gareth Cliff all tarnishing their reputations.
In a clip that’s gone viral, DA leader John Steenhuisen looked on while Cliff annihilated One SA movement’s Mudzuli Rakhivhane during a debate on identity politics and the upcoming municipal elections.
Less than 72 hours later, Nando’s ended its sponsorship of the segment, Steenhuisen defended his alleged smirk during the interview and the online world is still going wild.
Since the start of the debacle, the DA has seen positive online Meltwater sentiment decline by 3% and negativity rocket by nine points to 30%. At the same time, the beneficiary of this rapid shift in sentiment could well be Action SA, which gained traction among the online community, with positivity growing to 14% and negative sentiment lowering by nine points to 11%.
“The DA is quickly being aligned with racism in South African politics,” said digital analyst Carmen Murray.
She said that Nando’s had not escaped the wrath of social media either with the brand taking too long to intervene.
ActionSA’s Michael Beaumont said the party “is not surprised by the backlash” against the DA.
“The DA continues to alienate all South Africans with its conduct and, in the process, continues its info regression to a small opposition party that cannot challenge the ANC,” he said.
Marketing and brand strategist Clive Simpson said: “This is a three-way loss, for different reasons. Cliff and Steenhuisen are both recognised loose cannons.”
He added that Cliff confirmed his long-held misogynistic and juvenile behaviour, upsetting black women. He said that Steenhuisen’s smirk “confirmed his 100% agreement with and approval of Gareth Cliff’s behaviour”.
In an interview on 702 yesterday, Steenhuisen dismissed allegations of a smirk during the fracas, saying he was preoccupied with signing documents in a busy office.
He accused critics of being “facial expression police” and said he was more like “a passenger in a taxi, with no influence on the driver’s (Cliff) behaviour”.
Murray said online communities agree and it will be difficult for the DA and its leadership to shrug it off.
Founder of Champion South Africa and conversation strategist Ashraf Garda said from a reputational point of view “the DA are not just shooting themselves in the foot, they have just shot their own heads off”.
He added: “The DA are on an intentional path to woo white voters that started with the return of Helen Zille to the DA leadership and the exit of Lindiwe Mazibuko, Herman Mashaba, Mmusi Maimane and Phumzile van Damme.”
Political analyst Russel Crystal disagreed, saying the DA leader did well not to participate in the debate. He said he had doubts the social media furore would cost the DA any votes at the poll because those people targeting the DA in this instance were most likely not voting DA in the first place.
Crystal called Nando’s’ termination of its deal with Cliff Central “spineless”. He said the brand is known for its controversy but in this instance possibly feared that the EFF would “do a Clicks” on them. “It’s peri-peri chicken gone tasteless,” he said.
Cliff did not comment on the matter. A spokesperson said he will respond on his show.