Race is important but must not suck oxygen out of room - DA policy head Ngwenya

DA policy head Gwen Ngwenya addressing the Cape Town Press Club. (Jan Gerber, News24)
DA policy head Gwen Ngwenya addressing the Cape Town Press Club. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Race is important but it must not take all the oxygen in the room, the DA's policy head, Gwen Ngwenya, told the Cape Town Press Club on Monday.

Last week, Ngwenya released a draft policy document titled "Our Values and Principles".

She said this document was intended to "kick-start" the DA's policy drafting process, which is due to culminate in a policy conference in April, and to get everyone singing off the same hymn sheet.

Much of the commentariat's criticism of the document centred on how it handled race and redress.

Ngwenya said non-racialism "cuts to the bone of the decisions we need to make", adding for a long time the meaning of the two words "multiracialism" and "non-racialism" had been fudged.

"There is a difference between non-racialism and multiracialism."

READ | DA stands firm on race ahead of policy conference

She added multiracialism referred to a society who said there were different races who got along, saying this seemed to be the hegemonic view in South Africa as embellished by the "rainbow nation" concept.

Ngwenya said the other option - non-racialism - said race does not exist but had been foisted on the populace by those who benefitted from it, and it envisaged a future where race was overcome.

"The DA unequivocally stands for non-racialism, not multiracialism," read the policy document.

"It's just principally a different approach," Ngwenya said, adding the DA had been maligned for their views on race.

"By no means is it describing the current situation," she said. "As anyone in their right mind can tell."

The draft policy document also states: "A great deal of harm was caused, and continues to be caused, on the basis of false beliefs in racial difference."

READ | Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela not contesting party leadership - for now

Ngwenya lamented the fact that everyone only asked the party about one area in its policy - race - while ignoring the other values in the document, like a social market economy and federalism as well as the separation of state and party.

"Of course, it is important, but I don't want it to take all the oxygen in the room," she said.

To get its message across, the party will make use of social media and "going back to basics" - door-to-door campaigning.

Ngwenya said the document was a "re-articulation and reaffirmation" of the party's values and principles which was critical for policy.

It will be followed by three more draft policy documents. The next one will be on economic justice that will set out a policy on redress which Ngwenya is sure will elicit much discussion.

She said she would be a non-voting delegate at the upcoming policy conference as her job was to be at arm's length and provide evidence-based policy options.

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