Democratic Alliance Gauteng leader John Moodey has shot down a proposal to introduce quotas for the party.
The proposal is an attempt to have more black people in leadership positions and as party public representatives.
"As a black person, if I am going to be chosen for a position purely to fill in quotas, it’s going to be a slap in my face, because I don’t want to be elected into any position or be promoted into any position because of the colour of my skin.
"I want to be there because of the value and contribution I can add to my organisation," Moodey said.
He was speaking to News24 at the party’s new Johannesburg headquarters - Nkululeko House - officially opened yesterday ahead of the weekend elective congress in Pretoria.
The party’s more than 2 000 delegates are going to congress divided over what the inclusion of "diversity" as a value - alongside "freedom, fairness and opportunity" - should mean in practical terms.
The move is seen as an attempt to counter the perception that, while the party has grown the number of black members and voters, the leadership still remains white dominated.
The amendment, pushed through by leader Mmusi Maimane, aims to ensure that the party "will, to the best of its ability, attempt to replicate diversity in its own ranks", in line with South Africa's Constitution.
However, the inclusion of diversity has sparked a race debate within the party ahead of 2019's hotly contested elections, with some demanding that gender and race quotas be introduced.
The heated debate entered the public domain after a letter by MPs Gavin Davis and Michael Cardo, headlined "Real progressives reject groupthink", was circulated.
They contended that the talk of transformation and representivity was akin to “ANC-ese". The ANC has a gender quota that enforces that 50% of delegates at conferences and in its national executive committee are women.
The DA has been criticised for lagging behind on race and gender representation.
Moodey - who is seen as part of the so-called “black caucus” within the DA - has warned the party against “bean counting” and “window dressing” by putting black MPs on the front benches of Parliament when they don’t yet deserve it.
He said it was international practice for more senior members of Parliament to occupy the front seats.
“Newer members of caucus sit in back and the older in front and, given the history of the DA... you had many more white parliamentarians because of their seniority, you have what you see in front benches,” Moodey said.
“We could have gone in and brought the black faces to the front and female faces to front and window dress, for what purpose," he asked.
'I lost friendships and relationships'
He said his caucus in Gauteng was fairly balanced and he expected that, after the elections next year, more black and qualified members would emerge without the use of quotas.
A member goes through a rigorous process of interviews and aptitude tests before becoming a public representative.
“We are going through our processes now. The intake of successful candidates that a person is going to get, in terms of racial groupings, we will be spoilt for choice, and we will see that through a natural process of growth.
He said the DA had become an accepted brand, irrespective of colour, compared to when he joined the party 20 years ago.
“I lost friendships and relationships because of my association with the DA, to where today it is no longer frowned upon for a person to be seen in a DA T-shirt in the heart of Soweto, and even in Nkandla,” he said.
He argued that the faces of the party in municipal councils also changed after the 2016 local government elections.