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The DA is not in a crisis, it is coming of age. There is no other political party in the country that is asking itself how to achieve "One South Africa For All". Never before has the DA had to deal with a conversation of what it's offer is and how it speaks to all South Africans. This is because the DA has become a serious political contender in South African politics which was never the case previously, writes Luyolo Mphithi.
The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has over the years done sterling work for the advancement of liberal values in South Africa. As an advocacy organisation they have over time reminded South Africa of the importance of protecting and guarding our freedoms. However, recently they have degenerated into an organisation that sows division in the DA, devoid of substantive arguments and evidence.
This became clear this past week when it launched its #SaveTheOpposition campaign that seemed to be primarily targeted at the DA. The most striking call in the campaign is that "racist leaders must be expelled from the party". The IRR failed to name who these leaders are which is quite odd for an advocacy organisation that prides itself on being an evidence-based research organisation.
The IRR has further muddied its reputation by playing in the field of causing suspicion and distracting members of the DA from the important work of uniting South Africans. This has diminished its efforts to promote and advocate for a liberal agenda and it has found itself doing exactly what it has cautioned against in the past.
READ | Herman Mashaba: Is the IRR the Guptas of the DA?
As the DA Youth Leader and the DA Youth broadly, we have fought vigorously for "One South Africa For All" which is about uniting South Africa in all its beautiful diversity in order to tackle our challenges. I was elected on the mandate of "Breaking New Ground" which is about robust debate, engagement and reaching new frontiers in our support. This is why we have been so vocal in the efforts to bring our nation together.
We did this when the EFF spewed racism against Indian people and we reported them to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) last year. We did this when we condemned Adam Catzavelos for his racist comments against black people. We did this when we condemned the YES programme for excluding white unemployed youth. We did this when we reported the BLF to the HRC after its racist comments against the families of the Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy.
And yes, I stood up at the beginning of the year and stated my concern at a picture trending on social media showing kids at a school in Schweizer-Reneke separated based on their colour.
The IRR's assertion that I accused the teacher of racism is a baseless lie. I want to say this clearly: there is no evidence of this. I will continue to stand for all South Africans because it is what is right.
I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the events within the DA in the past couple of weeks. I joined the DA because I believe in the rule of law, that the Constitution must be protected, that all freedoms must be guarded and defended, but most importantly in social and economic justice.
So many of us find ourselves frustrated, stressed out and angry. This year has been like no other. We've been challenged as activists, members and leaders. We've had to take a deep look at ourselves after the national elections and ask ourselves what we need to do to not only win back our support but increase it.
There have been so many asking us: "When are we going to STOP focusing internally and start doing the work that matters?" The work of bringing hope back to our communities; fighting against injustice and protecting our democracy. I think about this a lot. It has been difficult but not without opportunity.
The DA is not in a crisis, it is coming of age. There is no other political party in the country that is asking itself how to achieve "One South Africa For All". Never before has the DA had to deal with a conversation of what it's offer is and how it speaks to all South Africans. This is because the DA has become a serious political contender in South African politics which was never the case previously.
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As we chart the way forward it is important to remember not to get distracted by outside voices like the IRR. We cannot afford to allow manufactured division to tear us apart.
We must remember that on a daily basis many of us have to go into our communities in our DA t-shirts and face the wrath of communities who are either disappointed in us or shocked at the events of the past couple of weeks. But they DO IT because they joined the DA for the good times and the bad times.
Did we think it was going to be beautiful all the time? Did we think there would be no hard times? The point is rough seas make tough sailors.
So this how we hold our ground. This is how we stand together. This letter is for all of us in the DA; the ones fighting for a united South Africa. The ones not looking for someone or a group of people to blame. The ones who wake up each day and take the DA to their communities. The ones who will try their best to build it. We do this for South Africa, not the IRR.
- Luyolo Mphiti is DA Youth Leader.
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