DA doesn't take policy seriously - former policy head's resignation letter

2019-01-24 12:10
Gwen Ngwenya (Facebook)

Gwen Ngwenya (Facebook)

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DA MP Gwen Ngwenya resigned as the party's policy head because she "does not believe that the party takes policy seriously".

However, News24 understands that there has been some unhappiness from the party leadership with Ngwenya in her capacity as policy head. There were concerns that the policy positions would not be delivered timeously for the party's manifesto.

There was also tension between the neo-liberal views Ngwenya holds versus the party's commitment to redress given the realities in South Africa.

READ: DA's head of policy resigns

In a letter to DA leader Mmusi Maimane, Ngwenya set out her reasons, saying it would not come as a surprise to him.

"The bottom line is that I do not believe the DA takes policy seriously; and as a result, there has not been the operational or political resources necessary to result in a policy outcome I can be proud to be associated with," she wrote.

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said: "Policy in the DA is developed through a variety of structures and highly skilled individuals, and this work will continue that will culminate in the launch of our election manifesto on 23 February. This manifesto which will give life to our vision of delivering change that will build One South Africa for All."

News24 understands that the drafting of the manifesto was taken away from Ngwenya and the manifesto was approved by the DA's federal executive council at its recent meeting.

Before becoming an MP and the DA's policy head, Ngwenya worked as the Institute of Race Relations' (IRR) chief operating officer. The IRR is a libertarian think tank, funded by among others Anglo American and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. There was apparently unease in the DA that Ngwenya was establishing a "quasi-IRR" in the party.

Tension between the party's traditional liberal ideologues and the purveyors of realpolitik in the party is nothing new and came to the fore ahead of the party's federal congress in April last year, as the "diversity clause" was debated.

In the letter to Maimane, dated January 18, Ngwenya cited five operational causes and four political causes behind her decision to resign. Among them, she said she felt unfairly repudiated by some party leaders for an opinion piece she wrote about the ANC's failure on BBBEE, in which she quoted Maimane.

"That was probably the moment at which I should have tendered my resignation; when I was hung out to dry without so much as a phone call for reiterating what the leader had months ago already said, albeit within the relative safety of a DA newsletter," she wrote to Maimane.

She also said some policy positions had been held "hostage" and that "there was an apparent distancing of the leadership from the policy process, with a consistent reference to 'Gwen's policy'."

"It is unfortunate to come to the realisation that I have never in any meaningful way been the head of policy; I was given all of the responsibility and none of the basic levers to do the job. In practice all this resignation means is that from today I am no longer available to be the face of policy," Ngwenya wrote.

"I will continue to offer my opinion (it being not in my nature to withhold it) and to carry out my duties as a member of Parliament.

Malatsi said: "We thank Ms Ngwenya for the role she has played, she will now dedicate herself full time to her energy portfolio and bring considerable expertise to bear to her parliamentary work."

"The focus now is on finalising the policy which will culminate in the manifesto to be unveiled on the 23 Feb and campaigning to present our offer of building One South Africa for all. The leader, in consultation with the federal executive, will review the need for the next head of policy and make a determination on the timeline to fill."

Read Ngwenya's full resignation letter here.

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