Whites still the cream of the DA

2011-08-27 15:24

Is the DA’s leadership as racially diverse as it claims?

A City Press assessment of the DA’s leadership at several levels has revealed that whites still make up between 70% and 90% of the top leadership.

» The national management committee of six people has one black member – DA federal chairperson Wilmot James.

It has no ­African members. This committee is responsible for the day-to-day management of the party.

The committee comprises Helen Zille, DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip, James, federal council chairperson James Selfe, deputy federal council chairperson ­Natasha Michael and party CEO Jonathan Moakes.

» The provincial leadership corps of nine members has two blacks, one of whom is African. They are Andrew Louw of the Northern Cape and Sizwe ­Mchunu of KwaZulu-Natal.

» The federal executive of 30 members is more diverse. A tally by the party reveals that 70% of its membership is white and 30% black. This executive is elected from the federal council. A gender breakdown shows that one in three members are female.

Party leader Zille agrees that the party is not diverse enough.

“We have the most diverse ­leadership, public representatives, membership and staff of any party. Nevertheless, I do not ­believe we are diverse enough,” Zille said this week.

The current picture of the DA will look very different by the 2014 general elections, she said.

“That is one of the key reasons we started the young leaders programme five years ago, and young leaders are emerging across the party in leadership positions.”

Federal chairperson James Selfe added: “The DA is going through a process of restructuring that includes a process of further staff diversification.”

His office could not provide ­details of the planned changes.

The DA’s analysis of its ­performance in the May 18 local government elections was ­trumpeted to show the party had increased its support among black voters from 1% in 2009 to 5% this year.

Zille was joined as the face of the election by national spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko, who is a graduate of the young leaders programme.

But four young leaders who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity are not happy at the pace of change. They were not willing to go on the record for fear of losing their positions.

One senior DA leader said: “The party wants growth (in black ­areas), but it does not want to change. They only want puppet black leaders. If you are an ­independent black leader, they will cut you down.”

He said when he started ­pushing for transformation, he was elbowed out of his position.

“James’ position (of federal chairperson) is tokenism, period. The real power is in the hands of Selfe,” he said.

James is elected by the congress but Selfe is elected by the federal council, which governs the party.

Said one young leader: “You cannot say you want to transform yet put only whites in strategic ­positions. This thing of the party being the most diverse in South Africa is pure nonsense.”

The four said it was difficult, as young black people, to raise race issues in the party.

“You get labelled a racist,” said one, in a dejected voice.

The DA councillor in the City of Johannesburg, Marcelle Ravid, said transformation should be based on the party’s “fit for ­purpose” principle.

“We don’t ­believe in putting people in positions based on their race. We are the least racist party in the whole country,” she said.

The DA’s former mayoral candidate for Joburg, Mmusi Maimane, agreed: “Transformation is not about replacing white people with black people; it’s about diversity.”

Maimane is now the DA’s caucus leader in the City of Joburg.

According to Selfe, 58% of the staff at the DA’s national head office and 53% of staff countrywide are historically disadvantaged South Africans. In addition, 64% of DA employees are women.

In measuring effective equity, these figures reveal little.

When asked to expand, an aide said six senior managers were black and 15 female.

“A number of vacancies have ­also arisen because some of our senior staff became councillors. In filling vacant posts, diversity is a key criterion.”

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