Honey, I'm Home!

In the last issue I said goodbye. Well, I’m back, after a traumatic experience and an attempt to enter into politics. I am grateful to be back at the helm of QASA again, and have learnt some interesting lessons involving trust and integrity.....

My story is contained in the following preamble and open letter to Patricia de Lille.

“Ari Seirlis, National Director of the QuadPara Association of South Africa and a leading member of the South African Disability Alliance, was invited by Patricia de Lille, President of the Independent Democrats, to accept a nomination as #3 on the ID’s National Assembly List for the 2009 elections.
He accepted and campaigned vigorously for the ID from February 2009, focusing his efforts mainly on mobilising disabled and senior voters. The partnership seemed so obvious. The disability sector was looking for an opposition party who would commit to their cause and the ID was looking for new support, a new constituency and growth.
The disability sector (worth tens of thousands of voters) needs a champion in the highest political arena and de Lille seemed to fit the profile. She professed to whistle-blow on corruption, professed to uphold constitutional rights, and moreover,she professed honesty and integrity as a defender of minorities and other vulnerable groups.
The ID won four seats in the election. But Seirlis, who now qualified to represent the party in the National Assembly as an MP, was then bullied by the party in an attempt to force him to surrender his seat to another ID candidate.
When Seirlis refused to be pressured into resigning from the National Assembly List, the ID presented letters by Seirlis, obtained through sophistry and spurious assurances, to Parliament which purportedly announced his resignation from the parliamentary seat, well knowing that he had not so resigned. “

“In disbelief and in anger:

an open letter to Patricia de Lille, President of the Independent Democrats”

Until last week, the name ‘Patricia de Lille’ meant honesty, integrity, courage for most South Africans. Anyone who called you anything less would have been dismissed as crazy – and I would have been the first to defend you. So I’m shocked, furious, and terribly saddened to find that you have proved no better than the politicians whom you claim to challenge. What makes me say this?
You invited me to join your party as #3 on your candidate list for the National Assembly. When your party did not perform as well as you had hoped in the elections, achieving only four seats, your Secretary General, Haniff Hoosen, tried to bully me into resigning so that one of your old cronies could take my rightful place in Parliament. You, who are so vocally against political interference and cronyism!
Your party submitted a letter of resignation on my behalf to Parliament which bore my signature which was obtained under a pretext. You who are so against fraud and corruption!
What hurts most is that you didn’t even have the courage to call me personally. Instead, your Secretary General Haniff Hoosen (an MP too) did the “dirty” work. I have had to endure his awkward, stilted telephone calls, which could be broadcast for their entertainment value. And then he obtained my signature on blank resignation forms with the assurance that they would not be improperly used, or used without my agreement.
The people who voted for me – many of them vulnerable people with disabilities hoping desperately for a chance to have a champion of their cause in Parliament – won’t find the situation very entertaining. On the contrary, they will be saddened at the way the ID’s candidate list was manipulated in order to corner their vote.
I campaigned vigorously on your behalf, spending a vast part of my own time, energy and money - money, incidentally, which you have not refunded. You gave me no mentorship or guidance. When you did call after six weeks of campaigning, on the day before the elections, the first thing you blurted out was that I must deposit some money into your account – for the ID’s cause. I’m ashamed to say that I did so. What a fool I was.
It’s not just that I feel my trust has been betrayed, but I feel the same about the trust of the disability sector, the trust of those who voted for you and ultimately the trust of the general public. How can you convince anyone to remain loyal to the Independent Democrats when the party has behaved in such an unscrupulous way? How can you carry on blowing your whistle about the arms deal in light of the events of the past two weeks?
Patricia, you were hailed as a champion of the people. You seemed to want to uphold the rights of minority groups and vulnerable people. You proved us all very wrong. I was not only wrongly deprived from a seat in Parliament. The disability sector was cheated out of something that was rightfully theirs – the chance to have a representative on the national stage.

With apologies to William Shakespeare: ”who steals my purse, tis but a purse, but who steals my name, makes me poor indeed”

In anger and in disbelief
Ari Seirlis
National Director
QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA)

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