DA not a party for minorities - Zille

2010-07-24 16:06

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance is not a party for minorities, party leader Helen Zille said at a federal congress in Cape Town on Saturday.

Zille, who was welcomed on stage at the Cape Town International Convention Centre with an ovation and shouts of "long live Helen, long live", said voters were increasingly rejecting "politics of race" and turning to the DA.

"More and more South Africans want our politics to be an open contest of ideas and values, rather than a closed circle of conflict between race groups," Zille said.


She agreed, she said, with a recently expressed view that the DA was "the most multiracial party in the country".

"South Africans who are making this choice are coming together in the Democratic Alliance.

"It is the reason why the DA has become, in Professor Lawrence Schlemmer’s words, 'the most non-racial party South Africa has ever had'."

South Africans wanted politics to be an open contest of ideas and values, rather than "a closed circle of conflict between race groups", Zille said.

What political analysts did not understand, she said, was that the DA could "never be a party just for minorities".

"Our entire reason for being is to challenge the notion that ethnic and racial nationalism is the only way South Africans can conduct their politics.

"And that is what we are doing. We are building a new majority."

Building up black support

The DA, which was expected to spend significant time grappling with how to build up its black support during the congress, had sharply increased procurement from black owned companies in the City of Cape Town since it won power, Zille said.

"In the City of Cape Town, the DA has managed to increase procurement from black-owned companies and SMMEs from 40% under the ANC to 60% under the DA," she said to a cheer.

Zille said she had witnessed the non-racialism trend accelerate in the past week when the DA won three by-elections in wards it had never won before.

"We have now won 11 new wards since last year’s election. But the most exciting development of all, this year, was breaking through another race barrier.

"In political terms it is like breaking the sound barrier. It is an historic moment. If we seize it, it will be the beginning of a new era."

Nothing could describe "the exhilaration" of receiving an SMS in the middle of the night to say that the party had just won a 52% majority in a voting district where there was "not a single minority voter".

"Just one year ago, a mere 1.8% of voters supported us in Mkhondo, Mpumalanga," Zille said.

"Since then, the people who live there have made a different choice.

"This confirmed what we saw in the Grabouw by-election in May this year.

"It sends a clear message to the political analysts who propose that we remain a party for minorities only. The voters don’t agree with you."

Coalitions with opposition parties

Zille said coalitions with opposition political parties were a crucial step in the realignment of South African politics.

"There are people who share our values in all political parties. If we manage to bring all those people together in one political vehicle I believe we will be a majority."

According to reports, the congress could be the start of a close alliance between the DA and the Independent Democrats.

ID leader Patricia de Lille was scheduled to address the congress on Sunday morning. Earlier this year Zille was a key speaker at an ID congress.

"I remain convinced that coalitions are a crucial step in the realignment process," Zille said.

"We must now move to the next step. We must bring together all those who still believe in a place called the new South Africa."

De Lille, according to Zille, is still consulting with her party on the possibility of a merger with the DA.

Zille had said the DA had given up on talks with the Congress of the People after infighting in the party.

Zille was the only nominee for party leader at the congress. MP Wilmot James is the sole candidate for federal chairperson.

The party had nine nominations for deputy federal chairperson.