Maimane stands firm on diversity

DA leader Mmusi Maimane
DA leader Mmusi Maimane

His position as party leader uncontested, Mmusi Maimane come out on top at the DA’s federal congress with the adoption of the much-debated clause on diversity.

However, with race quotas being rejected, questions are being asked about how it will be achieved.

Maimane’s expression of commitment to transform the lily-white DA benches in Parliament has placed added pressure on him. Many will be watching the names of those fielded for leadership positions as he manoeuvres through his second term.

In a marathon meeting that lasted 12 hours on Friday, the federal council – the highest decision-making body of the DA between congresses – wrestled with the definition of diversity in the party’s values charter.

Although it was rubber-stamped in principle, the party is divided on one aspect of the clause. Those opposing say it gives no definitive mandate to the party to transform. The sticking point is the wording: “The party will continue to take active steps to promote and advance diversity in its own ranks, without recourse to rigid formulae or quotas.”

The initial draft has been criticised for being too broad and “seemingly only focused on race”.

A buoyant Maimane told City Press that the meeting was a win for him. This was amid talk of a very tense meeting where some were vehemently opposed to the diversity value even seeing the light of day.

Maimane said people tabled proposals that strengthened the clause, which is where the debate originated.

He said concerns were raised about the possibility of quotas being used to achieve diversity. He and other party members however dismissed these, saying they did not believe in quotas.

An emboldened Maimane yesterday announced his next move, the championing of an “African liberalism” agenda.

“African liberalism means we have a liberalism that is African and not European. The European one says there is the individual who does not form part of the community and does not belong anywhere. They can’t identify as a particular colour,” Maimane told City Press.

“We are acknowledging that I am black, I am part of a family and community. Even though we are both black we can also define ourselves differently.”

He said he would promote this agenda outside the borders of South Africa. As a start, he would discuss it with opposition party leaders in the Southern African Development Community.

Maimane said he was not worried about opposition from within the party to his latest vision.

“Change does not take quickly in an organisation this size. It takes a while, so you must get people used to something.

“When you lead people you must bring everybody along with you. This agenda of African liberalism is something I am going to champion. The fundamental issue here is how do you ensure that people can identify themselves with it and say I am proud to be black.”

A number of insiders took issue with Athol Trollip, who is seeking re-election to the position of federal chairperson. They said he used the federal council’s meeting on Friday to campaign.

“He was a complete bully and raised issues around the naming of the campaign headquarters in Gauteng, saying he was not consulted. But he sits on the federal executive where it was discussed, so how could he not know?

“Anyway, it had nothing to do with the business of the day. He was just trying to get one up on Solly,” one person said. Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga and MP Annelie Lotriet are challenging Trollip for the post.

Another person at the meeting told City Press that it was a common occurrence for people to use the federal council sitting ahead of congress as a platform to campaign. As a result, the sitting resolved to have a policy congress ahead of the elective congress, so that matters of policy could not be used as a proxy war or campaigning gimmick.

Today, all eyes will be on Trollip and Msimanga. Both men took to the stage yesterday looking confident of winning.

However, its understood that Trollip could receive a sympathy vote on the basis of his fallout with the Economic Freedom Fighters in Nelson Mandela Bay, where he is mayor.

“Obviously this has earned him sympathy within the ranks,” said an insider.

The DA was yesterday locked in a fierce debate about refining the constitutional clause that outlines their cooperation with other political parties to form coalitions. There was also discussion on the firing of “unreasonable deployees”, which was seen as an indirect reference to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, who is facing party discipline.

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