DA gears up for inaugural policy conference as party tries to get 'policy clarity'

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DA policy head Gwen Ngwenya . (Jan Gerber, News24)
DA policy head Gwen Ngwenya . (Jan Gerber, News24)
  • The DA will discuss its values and principles as well as economic justice when it holds its inaugural policy conference.
  • Its head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, says it is opportunity for the party to reaffirm its commitments to freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity.
  • The party says it has the widest consultation process for the conference, which included speaking to academics, members of society and party members.

The DA is hoping its inaugural policy conference this weekend will mean an end to divisions and double speak.

The party is gathering 200 delegates on Saturday and Sunday for a virtual conference, a first of its kind in South Africa. It comes ahead of the organisation's elective conference next month.

The party's interim federal chairperson, Ivan Meyer, and head of policy Gwen Ngwenya told journalists during a virtual media briefing they did not anticipate any logistical issues or "virtual walk-outs".

The media has also been barred from the two-day event, which is the first of its kind among South Africa's political parties.

"It was about policy choices, policy positions and political philosophies, what we have tried to do here is to get policy clarity," Meyer told journalists.

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Reminding those in attendance of the review report that was tabled by former party leaders following the dismal performance of the DA in the 2019 national elections, Meyer said that process was clear in that the party needed a policy conference to get clarity and avoid double speak.

He also pointed out this would be a "fleshing out, in practical terms" of the founding provisions or principles and values of the party ensuring both DA members and South Africans did not experience ambiguity on its approach.

Ngwenya, when discussing some of the proposals before the party, said it was important to take a holistic approach when it came to matters like economic empowerment.

Ngwenya, who said the party had consulted widely for input into its policy conference, rubbished the perceptions of divisions on matters of policy, saying most of the suggestions and amendments received were constructive.

"I look forward to including them in the document, nothing that sets us apart. No amendment received where I would say I cannot be in a party with a person who makes this kind of proposal."

She discussed thoughts around the role of the private sector, saying the challenges in South Africa were so great that no single stakeholder could handle them and due to the existing resentment towards capital, it was important for it to play a role in addressing historical inequalities.

Race can be a proxy

Ngwenya acknowledged this could be a sticking point, saying it could be a distraction.

The policy head said while race could be used as a proxy, for her it was a matter of how it could be used as a proxy and she often approached it from a research and statistical point of view.

"It's not enough to say the majority of the disadvantaged are black, it's a useful thing to know and to note that we also want to know more about those people, don't want to leave it at just, 'So you are black,'. I want to know more about your situation," said Ngwenya.

She added many got entangled in the discussion of whether race was a proxy and it often led to an abstract and intellectual discussion but proxies were useful when the issue was not well-defined, while in this case it could be.

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