OPINION | KZN elective conference: Why the commentariat is missing the point

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Newly-elected DA KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader Francois Rodgers. (File)
Newly-elected DA KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader Francois Rodgers. (File)

Given a large diverse electorate at a recent DA KZN elective conference, it is not racism that the leadership elected constitutes white candidates, writes Dean Macpherson.

Since the DA's KwaZulu-Natal provincial elective congress just over a week ago, there has been an avalanche of write-ups by the commentariat and so-called political analysts - all suggesting that the leadership elected during this congress was elevated because they were white.

This is nothing but a superficial and narrow-minded argument from commentators who should read the Constitution again.

What they failed to do was look at how the very real facts on the ground have played out - during this conference and ever since the DA has embarked on a journey of self-correction and unifying leadership. The analysts' focus, as most of the opposition of the DA is also constantly hammering on, is always only on one, narrow aspect - the colour of the candidates' skin.

Real analysts have the duty to dive deeper into the facts. The facts are that between the 500 delegates to the elective congress in KwaZulu-Natal, a total of 60% of them were black, Indian and coloured voters. This makes up the majority of the electorate.

The fact of the matter was that no one was "elevated" or "appointed" as the political analysts are trying to convince South Africans. Rather, and what is extremely mind boggling, is that they still don't understand the difference between a democratic election and an appointment. The latter is not an applicable process in the DA when it comes to leadership positions.

Free and fair process

Given the large diverse electorate, it is not racism that the leadership elected constitutes white candidates. But what is racism is the fact that a free and fair process is being hijacked into a discussion about the colour of the candidates' skin.

Essentially, what the commentariat is arguing, is that any democratic electoral outcome is invalid if it does not meet the requirements of racial representivity – or rather meet a racial and/or gender quota. As if the commentariat wants you to know that black people can and will only vote for black people!

It is essentially racist to believe that black people only vote for black people. There are a myriad reasons why the commentators continue to spew this racism including self-interests and political capture by the ANC.

In the DA's case, black voters continue to see the advantages of well run local municipalities and having the DA govern their province. During the December 2020 by-elections, we were presented with an opportunity to test this notion, and overwhelming won eThekwini (Ward 66) at 85.03% of votes cast. Importantly, we have made significant in-roads into ANC strongholds, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and the DA growth in black voting districts was up 135% on 2019. And none of them were swayed with the promise of a food parcel or a t-shirt!

READ | 'I still wouldn't shake Zuma's hand,' says newly elected DA KZN leader Rodgers

The DA in KZN has continued to show growth in all racial groups and in all parts of the province because of the work of our public representatives, not because they come from a racial or ethnic background.

The commentariat can scream and shout all they want, but the evidence points towards a DA that resonates more and more with black votes, no matter the colour of the leadership's skin.

It is because those voters know that only the DA is prepared to stand firm on their promises and action of holding the ANC accountable for the way in which they are plundering state coffers. The evidence shows that voters - from white, coloured, Indian to black - all believe the DA is the rational centre and the only party who could take South Africa forward.

It is therefore a foolish argument that black people won't vote for the DA - an argument they are using to sour the outcomes of the KZN election conference. That in itself is a racist notion. If that was the case, the EFF would be much stronger than it currently is.

Chosen on merit

These arguments that only race can play a role in fair and free election processes need to end. Racial representivity is poisoning politics when we should be focusing our attention towards policies that will advance the country and not allow the ANC to continually get off the hook. And increasingly it is appearing that the media and so called analysts are the biggest drivers of these arguments.

That is why the DA believes that individuals, when free to make their own decisions, will not be represented in any and every organisation, sector, company or level of management according to a pre-determined proportion and we oppose race, gender or other quotas as this vessel for diversity.

The assumption that one’s "race" represents people who think, feel, or have the same experience of shared events, based on their physical appearance, should be regarded as false.

The leadership group was chosen - on merit - by all racial groups and should be considered all as individuals that are unique. They should not be regarded as a racial or gender envoy. They are ready to serve KwaZulu-Natal - in true DA fashion of service delivery to every single municipality in the province.

- Dean Macpherson is Chairperson for the DA in KZN.

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