Mmusi Maimane
Mmusi Maimane

DA MPs challenge Maimane’s race-inclusive call

By QUINTON MTYALA and LUNGANI ZUNGU Time of article published Mar 25, 2018

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CAPE TOWN - TWO DA MPs have condemned calls in the party for its public representatives to better reflect the country's demographics - two weeks before its federal congress.

Gavin Davis and Michael Cardo, close associates of former party leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, in a letter titled “Real progressives reject group think”, said those calling for greater representivity “speak a sort of dialect of ANC-ese, in which terms like racial ‘transformation’ and demographic ‘representivity’ are parroted unself-consciously”.

This comes days after the KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader and former eThekwini caucus head Zwakele Mncwango expressed his disappointment about the composition of the caucus, which has been widely slammed for being too white.

“Any leader who is serious about diversity and understands where we come from as a country should be concerned. I would be lying to the public to say I am not. If anyone says they are not concerned, it would mean they do not understand where we come from as a country,” an angry Mncwango said this week.

The newly elected eThekwini caucus leadership saw four whites and one Indian emerge.

Those who made the cut were Nicole Graham, who was elected caucus leader, Heinz de Boer, deputy caucus leader, Riona Gokool, caucus chairperson, Warren Burne, deputy chairperson, and Geoff Pullan, deputy chief whip.

Party leader Mmusi Maimane is championing the amendment to the party's constitution which concludes with: “The party will, to the best of its ability, attempt to replicate diversity in its own ranks.”

Both Davis and Cardo, in their letter, said while it was a welcome addition to the DA's constitution, the clause in its current formulation “does very little to distinguish the DA from the ANC's doctrine of racial representivity”.

“Firstly, the proposed amendment talks of different groups, cultures, languages and religions but says nothing about how free-thinking individuals add to the diversity of an organisation.

“There is no sense that diversity should be rooted in individualism, and no acknowledgement that no two human beings are the same.

“Secondly, the proposed amendment says nothing of the need to protect the individual from dominance by others in the name of culture, religion or race. Instead, it says that we must strive to ‘ensure that every group, every language, every religion and every traditional custom is respected and upheld’.

"But what if a group, religion or traditional custom overrides the rights of an individual? Would we still say it needs to be ‘respected and upheld’? Surely not.

“Thirdly, and most seriously, the proposed amendment is a significant departure from the DA's value of non-racial diversity, and a tentative step closer to the ANC's doctrine of racial representivity,” said the authors.

DA MP Solly Malatsi said: “The letter is an entertaining read that equally falls into the labelling of opposing views of what they are seemingly dissatisfied with. It seems to wrongfully suggest that pursuing diversity among the leadership and membership of the party will somehow ‘dumb down’ the party and abandon its liberal heritage.

“But the best thing about congress resolutions and constitutional amendments is that they are won on the congress floor based on constant lobbying of structures and delegates not belatedly spamming their in-boxes,” said Malatsi.

DA KZN MPL Hlanganani Gumbi said: “The DA should always reinforce its efforts to build a party for all and put South Africa's diversity on display in our political leadership, professional staff and public representatives overall. We make better decisions and are a better organisation for bringing people of wide-ranging perspectives into decision-making so that no position, anywhere in the party, can in theory, practice or tradition be held by any person of one colour.”

Meanwhile, two former DA councillors, Clive Lotz and Narendh Ganesh, who ditched the party for, among other things, what they termed “white dominance” said they were vindicated by racial imbalance in the DA's eThekwini caucus.

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