South Africa's opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille, center, with her parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, left, and national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane, right, lead their supporters during their protest march against the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for opposing the youth wage subsidy in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday May 15, 2012. An opposition party march in Johannesburg turned violent Tuesday after union supporters hurled rocks at the leader of South Africa's main opposition party. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Stigmatising new thoughts and out-of-the-party-box opinions will scupper the party’s growth prospects, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.

Pretoria - South Africa’s fixation with being in agreement fascinates and frustrates me. I am not advocating a free-for-all where everybody does as they please without regard for implications.

I am fascinated and frustrated by the excitement that envelopes all and sundry once it becomes clear that some leaders of a political party do not agree on one thing or the other, as in the case of Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Differences of opinion are routinely amplified to mean the end of a particular party. The ANC-SACP-Cosatu is one example of a situation where differences of opinions have been diagnosed as proof of a fatal flaw in the unity of the organisation.

At every turn the news of the demise of the alliance has proven to have been greatly exaggerated.

Assuming that what we have read in the media is true and Mazibuko has indeed left the DA because she disagreed with Zille on positive discrimination in favour of improving black people’s career and business opportunities, I would say well done to her.

I would say bravo to her first because I believe employment equity and economic empowerment are necessary policies to help correct the wrongs committed in the name of white supremacy.

Second, because people should be willing to stand for something and walk away from people and organisations when they no longer share a common vision.

In a political culture where people are averse to stand for something, it is encouraging to have a politician willing to be in a fallout in defence of their own values.

Broad churches are so 1993.

Political parties and activists must stand for something definable. They must be willing to be vilified even by their own comrades if needs be.

The tendency to be all things to all people might be great as a vote catcher, but it leaves parties marooned in a policy purgatory.

It is not enough to say you want a non-racial, non-sexist society. Everybody does, or at least say they do.

You need to show why you stand out.

Like the Dagga Party, despite whatever you might think of them, there was no confusion about the kind of South Africa they envisaged had they won.

Many other parties are mealy mouthed about what they really stand for.

Nobody knows for sure where the DA stands with regard to BEE and employment equity.

The party seems determined to please conservative whites who see it as a bulwark against black domination while at the same recognising that if it is to grow, it must appeal to black people on the factory floors and in the boardrooms.

They are not the only ones who leave the electorate guessing.

On some days the Economic Freedom Fighters is anti-capitalist and the next day socialists – as if it is one and the same thing.

The ANC talks about a working class bias but can hardly start the process of banning labour brokers as asked by its alliance partner Cosatu and its own national conference resolution.

If the DA has any hopes of being a decisive government, it must make choices.

It must make these knowing that they will win some and lose other leaders and supporters.

Those who stay would then unite and work behind a particular vision.

Voters would decide whether that vision is worth investing in.

Political parties and leaders without the courage of their convictions end up like the SACP, existing purely to be cheerleaders of the governing party or to commemorate Chris Hani’s death.

Such parties pretend their inertia and dwelling on the past are a commitment to traditions when they are in actual fact a lack of new ideas.

In the same way that disruptive innovations have helped business organisations acquire new markets and boost bottom lines, the political discourse and society can profit from encouraging boldness to break new ground.

Organisations that treat differences as divisions; stigmatise new thoughts and out-of-the-party-box opinions miss out on opportunities of sharpening their visions and therefore of growth.

They are like a person who out of sentiment, keeps their prescription glasses even after the lenses no longer respond to deteriorating sight.

They end up blind.

New visions are almost always uncomfortable. But if organisations and individuals are to grow, it is inevitable that they navigate the turmoil and not wish it away.

* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is executive editor of the Pretoria News. Follow him on Twitter @fikelelom

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