Helen Zille8 May 2024 | 3:48

HELEN ZILLE: Are you a burner or a builder?

We want to go to war against those who are destroying the dream that once united our nation. We want to save our Flag, writes Helen Zille.

HELEN ZILLE: Are you a burner or a builder?

A screengrab of the DA's election advert depicting a burning SA flag. Picture: @Our_DA/X

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”, said Eric Arthur Blair, otherwise known as George Orwell, the most insightful political analyst of the 20th Century.

This aphorism has accompanied me through decades of politics.

Every time the Democratic Alliance (DA) has had the guts to tell a hard, inconvenient truth, the commentariat has howled with outrage. Think back to our predictions on cadre deployment, BEE, State capture, the impact of our labour laws, and, of course, “Stop Zuma”.

We were vilified every time. We also turned out to be right.

When the analysts eventually “get it”, they repeat what we said a decade earlier as if it is a new insight.

And so, it will be again when they have to acknowledge the truth of our stark warning that South Africa’s democratic institutions, as well as our economy, will burn to ash under an African National Congress (ANC)/Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)/ uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party/Patriotic Alliance (PA) coalition.

The DA’s role is to do everything possible to prevent this from happening. The only people who have the power to do this are the voters. We have three more weeks to drive this point home.

So, what would you do if you had to convey this stark truth with the greatest possible impact in a 30-second television broadcast?

That was the question the DA faced when we conceived our burning flag advert.

We picked the flag as the clearest symbol of the dream we shared 30 years ago, at the dawn of democracy under President Nelson Mandela. The flames show how his vision has been ravaged by 30 years of ANC rule. And we warn that under an ANC/EFF/MK/PA coalition, it will be obliterated entirely.

The 30 seconds ends with our flag restored to its erstwhile glory with a call to action for every adult South African: “Rescue SA, vote DA!”

This powerful symbolism elicited the predicted response.

So, should we avoid any metaphor or symbolism in our communication that might cause offence or controversy? No! We want to go to war against those who are destroying the dream that once united our nation. We want to save our Flag.

Controversy helps drive our message.

We must confront voters with a stark choice: Are you a burner or a builder? That is the issue in this election. Only DA has the guts, experience, and track record to beat the burners.

In 30 seconds, we convey what has taken 475 words to unpack here. And, for free, our message is being turbo-charged by the fuel of manufactured outrage.

In the war of words, so far, the prize for the most insightful comment on “The Burn” goes to @riaanafrica, who posted on X: “If you look very closely, like in very closely, you will note it’s a piece of paper and not a municipal building or a train.”

Helen Zille is the Chairperson of the DA Federal Council.