Press Release: Legal Resources Centre Assists Komape & Life Esidimeni Families in removal of DA Billboard
For Immediate Release: 28 February 2019
The Democratic Alliance (DA) have removed its billboard, which listed the victims of the Life Esidimeni and Michael Komape tragedies. The DA’s appropriation of the victims’ names for its electoral campaign caused many to condemn their actions.
The Legal Resources Centre represented families of Michael Komape and the Life Esidimeni victims in seeking recourse from the party for its exploitation of their suffering and grief for political gain.
On 16 January 2019 the leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane unveiled the billboard in the Johannesburg central business district, as part of the party’s electoral campaign titled #TheANCIsKillingUs. Despite neglecting to obtain the consent of or even notifying the families, the DA placed the names of all 144 of the deceased in the centre of its campaign with its billboard. The affected family members came forward to strongly condemn the DA’s actions, characterizing them as a blatant disregard for the dignity of the deceased and their families. Christine Nxumalo, whose sister tragically lost her life as a result of the marathon project, wrote to Mmusi Maimane directly on Facebook:
“You claim to care and you bow your head in silence for those who died, but in actual fact you are using the names of deceased in vain. If you cared you would have contacted the families, but you didn’t because you don’t give a damn. And it is also crystal clear that you do not have a shred of decency because yet again you didn’t bother or didn’t think to call the families of the deceased before embarking on your high moral campaign…why? Because you know you are using their pain, as a political scoring point.”
On 11 February 2019, the LRC sent a letter on behalf of the aggrieved families to the DA Leader’s Office, requesting that the DA to urgently remove the billboard, which should be followed by a public apology to the families. The DA responded two days later unapologetically and still denying that it was using the families as “political fodder,” and maintaining the opinion that the billboard’s message was not disrespectful nor unlawful, despite the families’ belief that it violated their and their deceased family members’ dignity and right to privacy. Still maintaining that the deceased details are a matter of public record and DA was thus not under any obligation to consult with the bereaved families before erecting the billboard.
The LRC, welcomes the DA’s decision to remove the billboard, and hopes that the party will maintain respect for the dignity and privacy of the Komape and the Life Esidimeni families moving forward.
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Tad Khosa – Legal Resources Centre (National Communications Officer)