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Democratic Alliance Leader Mmusi Maimane. (Jabu Kumalo)
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Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane must be the only South African politician that’s managed to infuriate coloured people, black people and white people … all in a single week.
Coloured people are outraged at his party's treatment of former Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille. Black people are fuming at Maimane’s casual remark that people see him as a "mini-Mandela" (sell-out or not). And white people are pulling their hair out at his "white privilege" comments.
No doubt, Indian and Asian people are also upset with Maimane for their being side-lined in this furore. But, if this week from hell has done anything for Maimane, it’s provided him invaluable feedback.
In truth, all DA supporters know that Maimane's heart is in the right place, and they also know he’s the best person to lead the DA in the upcoming 2019 national election. What Maimane needs desperately, however, is a golden bullet.
Looking at South Africa's leading politicians, Maimane is the only one lacking a core ideology. For instance, EFF leader Julius Malema is fixated on land expropriation without compensation, while ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa is devoted to tackling corruption and building the economy.
Maimane's focus appears to be a mish-mash of nation building through transformation, equal opportunity and the breaking down of social inequality … so that together, united as a non-racial society, we can create a future of wealth for all who live in our beautiful country.
Come on, Mmusi! A man of your calibre can do a whole lot better than this.
How about "economic liberation through education"? Surely that's a golden bullet that all South Africans – irrespective of race – can subscribe to. It’s short, sweet and nails South Africa’s biggest constraint: substandard education.
The fact is, if Maimane puts forward a brilliant strategy to revolutionise South Africa’s education system, people of every race and social status would vote for the DA. Education is the "golden bullet" that will solve almost every one of our country's persisting problems, so Mmusi should use it.
A leading reason people vote for the DA is that it's widely regarded as the least "racist" party. People appreciate the fact that there’s a healthy mix of racial groups represented in both the DA’s internal hierarchy and also its support base. The DA is the political party that best reflects our aspirations of becoming a multi-racial rainbow nation.
But Maimane's latest comments have unfortunately – and unnecessarily – rocked the party's non-racial foundation. To emphasise the point, consider how effective Maimane’s contentious comments would’ve been if they were focused on educational disparity rather than racial disparity:
• "When we speak the truth, there is such a thing that we must confront of white educated privilege and black uneducated poverty." – DA Freedom Day speech, April 27, 2018
• "Inequality still persists. The only consistent measure that we have at this point for measuring inequality, is race education. If you use income as a measure of that, then you must concede that even income is still skewed along racial educational lines. White Educated South Africans are still earning five times more than their black uneducated counterparts." And
• "This is because South Africa remains a deeply unequal society in which black uneducated South Africans remain locked out of opportunities, even after 24 years of democracy." - Comments made to City Press on May 5, 2018.
When we speak the truth, Mmusi, South Africa's core disparity exists between educated people of all races, and uneducated people of all races. Thus, your core focus should be on uplifting the poor (of every race) through a revolutionary, DA-inspired education system overhaul.
If the DA is a truly progressive party, it will abandon yesterday’s outdated racial terms such as blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians, in exchange for today's highly relevant non-racial terms such as educated, uneducated, skilled and unskilled.
Although it’s tempting to define privilege along racial lines, it's actually counterproductive. Far more sensible would be to address privilege along educational lines. Not only would the DA avoid offending multiple racial groups, it would tackle the root cause of South Africa's growing disparity.
As Max du Preez observed in his recent article: "The (substandard) education of black youth in townships and rural areas remains the prime driver of inequality."
And as Moeletsi Mbeki recently stated: "Black voters are far more economically literate than they are credited for … They're not interested in race issues, they're interested in what's happening in the economy."
These two statements sum it all up, and Maimane would be wise to regard them as the foundation for a political manifesto.
Maimane understands the importance of education, as highlighted in his recent letter: Unpacking unequal opportunity in SA. In it, he states:
• "This (deprivation) is a result of … the single failure of the post-democratic governments – especially recent ones – to improve public education at the primary and secondary levels."
• "As a nation, we must fight for quality education for all our children."
Now's the perfect time for Maimane to take the education bull by the horns and show voters that the DA is serious about turning South Africa into a prosperous, non-racial society through education.
- Robert Traydon is a BSc graduate of Engineering and the author of 'Wake-up Call: 2035'. He's travelled to over 40 countries across six continents and worked in various business spheres. As a contrarian thinker, his articles explore a wide range of current affairs from unique perspectives.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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