LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Mondli Makhanya: A further example of DA bashing

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DA interim leader John Steenhuisen  (Jan Gerber/News24)
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen (Jan Gerber/News24)

Bryan Buchler writes that Mondli Makhanya's article on the DA's non-racialism policy contains untrue representations. 

This past Sunday, Mondli Makhanya, in an article titled: "The DA's Rip van Winkles" proceeded to argue against a fictitious version of the DA's new non-racialism policy. Unfortunately, this incomplete account of the DA's policy is just one further example of the less than stellar media coverage of the recent DA policy conference outcomes.

It appears that Makhanya, and many other members of the media and commentariat have failed to actually read the DA's policy position on non-racialism.

Makhanya, starts his article with much flowery language and little substance, before finally attempting to add some substance where he states that, "The so-called classical liberals believe that race-based gross inequality will disappear if you adopt the correct colour-blind policies and implement them across the board".

Makhanya then makes an almost incomprehensible analogy of the DA's non-racialism stance to that of Donald Trump's Covid-19 pandemic stance... yes, this makes as little sense as it sounds... 

Makhanya is making a blatantly untrue representations of the DA's stated policy.

READ | Gwen Ngwenya: Demystifying the DA's economic policy and why it should be giving newspapers advice

The DA in its policy document states that: "Nonracialism is therefore a commitment, not just to reject racialism and racism, but to fight for the deconstruction of race, and the reconstruction of a nonracial future."

However, the party still supports the principle of redress, saying it recognises the need to remedy or correct an unfair or unjust situation caused by Apartheid's racial discrimination. 

Makhanya is therefore either ignorant or being less than honest when he says the DA believes inequality will merely disappear if you adopt colour-blind policies.

The DA still firmly believes in redress, but that this redress can be achieved through focusing on actual persisting current disadvantage, rather than the crude category of race.

Straw man argument

The outcome of this DA policy is that it will still uplift the majority of disadvantaged black South Africans, while also including disadvantaged members of other races, and excluding already uplifted black South Africans who should no longer be uplifted at the potential expense of those less well off.

The straw man fallacy is a form of argument where the writer appears to have refuted an argument, however, in this instance, all the writer has done is refuted a false representation of his opponent's position, whilst leaving the actual position of his opponent unaddressed.

Makhanya throughout his article argues against a fictitious account of the DA's policy. He builds up a straw man version of the party's policies, through ignoring the DA's commitment to redress using actual current disadvantage.

He thereby attacks only his own straw man version of the DA's policy proposal. I suspect he does this to avoid the difficult question of why redress policies should be applied to already wealthy black South Africans.

Makhanya would do well to learn the "principle of charity" before he proceeds to argue against the DA again.

READ | Analysis: Swimming upstream: Will the DA survive its policy outcomes?

When arguing against another's position, you should first present its best and strongest possible interpretation prior to your presentation of an argument against it. By failing to do this, Makhanya never comes into contact with the reality of the DA's position, and resultantly argues against a bogeyman DA of his own creation. 

Critics of the DA's stance on non-racialism need to directly explain why race should be used as a proxy for disadvantage as opposed to other non-racial metrics which would still uplift disadvantaged black South Africans, whilst excluding an elite class of individuals from repeatedly benefiting from redress policies they no longer need.

Critics of the DA's stance also need to directly address whether it is possible that the repeated benefiting from redress policies by a small black elite, may constitute a new form of injustice in our society?

Without answering these questions, the real issue at the centre of this debate is being skirted by our political commentators, at the expense of the South African public.

- Bryan Buchler is from Cape Town. 

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