In an about-turn, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal has apologised for the controversial election posters in Phoenix and has begun removing them.

It comes only a day after party leader John Steenhuisen defended the posters, which read: “The ANC called you racists; the DA calls you heroes.”

Steenhuisen on the controversial posters:

More than 30 people died in Phoenix in attacks that were allegedly racially motivated during the July unrest.

In an interview with SABC News on Wednesday, Steenhuisen said the posters referred to all members of the public who defended their property lawfully during the widespread unrest, while government failed to protect them.

The DA’s mayoral candidate in Johannesburg, Doctor Mpho Phalatse publicly criticised the posters while the ANC and NFP accused the party of fueling racial divisions.

In a statement, the DA’s chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal Dean MacPherson says the party is in the process of removing the posters.

He takes ownership of the message on the posters and says it was an effort on his part to honour the bravery of people who were left to fend for themselves.

McPherson apologised for the hurt the posters caused some people. He says the posters were sanctioned by the party leadership, and points out that the party does not condone vigilante action.

ANC reacts to the posters

Reacting to the DA posters, the ANC’s Deputy Secretary-General, Jessie Duarte said no one should promote criminality and the killing of people.

Duarte in Phoenix as part of the ANC’s election campaign in the area:

” We as leaders, a leader can not promote racism and a leader can not promote that killing another human being as good. Something goes wrong in you when you do that, you lose yourself when you do that so we are asking that community continues with the level of peacemaking and cohesion.”