Dear DA, Let's talk about Transformation

2016-03-12 16:50

When we think about the United States of America, we think about the land of the free. Free to pursue their ambitions without much hindrance. Poverty, disease, and State killing citizens are not things that we easily associate with USA. Those things happen in Africa and other places.

Hurricane Katrina introduced me for the first time, to poor helpless Americans. Not the image you easily associate with America. Then Flint happened which showed more poverty in America.

But the one thorny issue that America also shares with South Africa has to be racism. Perhaps it manifests in different forms in the different countries but it remains a contentious issue. Many people both in South Africa and the US will tell you to get over it and avoid talking about it all.

When New York City’s Health Commissioner Dr Mary Bassett was in South Africa last year to talk about amongst other things, structural racism, she complained about how fed up she is with being told to get over racism when she sees it New York’s segregated neighbourhoods every day.

How could she get over racism when a white police officer kills a restrained black teenager only to get 1 month in jail?  And that 1 month sentence is served over weekends because the police officer has a family that needs him. The black people in prison do not have families.

Then another cop kills a black person and is reportedly suing the estate of the person he killed. The reasons for the lawsuit are that the police officer was traumatised by the incident. Reading that article on The Guardian left me traumatised.

Change the race of the killer in both instances and imagine the likelihood of them getting the same sentence in the same courts. Do even better, change the race of the police and make him black, and change the victim to a white teenager. Then would you still look at Dr Bassett and tell her to get over racism?

 For some reason, as violent as South Africa is, it appears that it would be better to be black and poor here than in the US. In the US, you would not only have to worry about a common criminal killing you, but police too. Wait… The South African Police Service is unleashing brutality on black people too - even when they are marching for their constitutional entitlements. So we share a lot of bigotry with America.

I am writing this to you as a frustrated supporter of our beloved DA. There appears to be disagreements amongst DA supporters about how the challenges facing our country should be addressed, particularly in redressing historical injustices. Not just with anti-racism pledges but uprooting structural violence against black people.

One argument says we can overcome this through growing the economy so that the millions unemployed can work and lift themselves out of poverty. This is also used to argue against affirmative action and BEE. Our former leader Helen Zille once told the DA’s parliamentary caucus that the surest way to kill opportunity for marginalised people is with economic stagnation. Persuasive if the free market was not blind to historical injustices and guaranteed equal distribution of the wealth it produces.

The other argument says we can overcome this by growing the economy and get people working, implement affirmative action (with quotas where necessary) and BEE without benefiting an elite few, so broaden access.

You would love to say the DA supports affirmative action and BEE for redress. But you and I know that it only does so without race as a proxy because having policies that favour a particular race group is racist. Then there is also the potential for those who have benefited to abuse the race proxy to further enrich themselves. So support AA and BEE but no race? I don’t see how that makes sense since the policies were conceived to have a deliberate race bias.

To understand how the “let’s support AA and BEE without race” argument was constructed in the DA you would have to look back before the formation of the DA.

Back in 1997, when the Employment Equity bill introduced affirmative action, the Democratic Party published a document titled “The Death of the Rainbow Nation: Unmasking the ANC’s Programme of Re-racialisation. Similarly, the National Party of course rekindled the Swart Gevaar campaign it had long warned its supporters of since the days of Apartheid.

Their opposition in those days was grounded on how the policy undermined the rainbow nation since the proposed policy re-racialises South African society. Of course they were foolish enough to believe that the 1994 elections and the new constitution miraculously made the likes of Penny Sparrow see black people as human beings, not monkeys. And the exclusion of blacks in institutions of higher learning, certain professions, and ownership of the means of production was justifiable since blacks are less human, hence incapable.

 This exposed the naivety with which both the DP and NP looked at the invisible hand of the free-market as the best mechanism to redress historical injustices. The difference between then and now is that the DP merged with National Party and others to form the DA and there was a break away NNP that later merged with the ANC.

Importantly, the DA today is still opposed to AA and BEE (of course make a formal claim to support it). There were no compulsory quotas then so the quotas excuse doesn’t really hold up. Former DA Leader Helen Zille found a comfortable excuse in Zumanomics and the impact of quotas on coloured people in the Western Cape and Indians in KwaZulu Natal. But she offered no solution for how to change the face of middle-management which remains majority white and male.

This inadequacy in coming up with redress solutions is also evident in Zille’s former advisor and DA Strategist who tweeted “the DA  has long been for diversity and against “representivity”. Seems to me that Mmusi has remained faithful to that essential distinction”.

Having a leader and strategist with such views is not helpful to the DA. They fail to appreciate the purpose of the Employment Equity Act which is “implementing affirmative action measures to redress the disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups, to ensure their equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workforce”.

Perhaps this is why the DA’s senior staff has fewer blacks and more white people. Because the DA is against the representation that the Employment Equity Act seeks to achieve. And no, the Act never said use race alone, competency or potential to develop it is most encouraged.

 So the DP and NP had the rainbow nation as their scapegoat and the DA today has Zumanomics for convenience. It’s a powerful argument when you look at rising food prices and fewer new permanent jobs. Even government has to halt new appointments as a result of budget cuts.

But it does not help us redress historical injustices. Even if the economy were to grow, massive inequality would still be there on income distribution. When an Irish politician campaigning for votes pointed out that Ireland has the fasted growing economy in the EU at 6.9%, Woke voters were quick to point out that homelessness in Dublin is at its highest. Because the only injustice the markets know is the one it creates and perpetuates in the unequal distribution of wealth.

Markets alone cannot be trusted to close the wage gap between men and women in the UK, and USA. In the same way we cannot trust employers in South Africa to recognise black talent (all inclusive), women, and disabled people hence the need for affirmative action to give such a historically marginalised groups access to opportunities. The black academics at institutions of higher learning such as UCT will tell you that even with affirmative action in place, their talent and blackness are not good enough. Now I hope you can see how quotas may help them by forcing employers to recognise talented black people.

 So yes, we need a growing economy or else there’ll be no opportunities to speak of. Growth with redress policies has created a growing black middle-class that should be sustained and pursued rigorously.

But redress is not just about employment, promotion, equal pay for equal work, and owning businesses. There are other historical legacies that the DA struggles to address. Since I have posted on this platform about the party’s higher education funding policy which does not adequately address the funding crisis, I won’t bore you by repeating myself like a broken record.

A perfect illustration of the DA’s clumsy handling of transformation can be found in the story of MaRhadebe. Currently in her 50s, she lived in overcrowded inhumane hostels in Langa, Cape Town. A single hostel accommodated several families. But it was only big enough for a bachelor. Such hostels were also built in Nyanga.

Some of the hostels in Nyanga are currently being demolished and new flats are built to accommodate the people who lived in them. The ones in Langa had different plans. Some of the people who lived in them moved out and built shacks as the hostels were rather inhumane. Some dwellers were relocated to what is known as Luzuko in Philippi.

When they moved to Luzuko, they only found plots with open toilets similar to the ones in Makhaza. They built shacks and later houses were built for them. But MaRhadebe, unlike her sister who ended up in Luzuko, moved to Khayelitsha since Joe Slovo informal settlement had grown too big and as inhumane as the hostel was. And Luzuko plots with toilets were gone. Khayelitsha became the best option since it was not as crowded.

Before leaving Langa, MaRhadebe had put her name on the City of Cape Town’s housing waiting list in 1992 with renewed hope of a better tomorrow. Today MaRhadebe is one of many who have been unable to pull themselves out of poverty and is still on that waiting list. How could she pull herself out of poverty when you still have institutionalised racism? Without policies that give MaRhadebe access to opportunities she has been denied, how does she help herself? And you still have employers and parties like the DA who only tolerate a few blacks given opportunities disguised as diversity? Diversity alone is clearly not enough hence need for representation.

Many of MaRhadebe’s generation have similar stories. I could tell you about Nyawuza who was beaten by the Apartheid security forces, forcing them to leave crossroads and move to Khayelitsha. Some of them today still in the same shacks they built.

I recall asking Premier Helen Zille for help to rebuild Sukwini’s shack which had collapsed during the winter rains. The shack had been built in 1986 after Sukwini, like Nyawuza, had been forced to leave crossroads and settle in Khayelitsha. When there were housing projects in the area, Sukwini’s house could not be built because he did not have a title deed. The City of Cape Town demanded a payment of about R700 in order to issue the title deed. It  does not look like a lot of money but consider that Sukwini depends on his disability grant from the State. Wait… Who is going around promising people title deeds this election? I think the DA.

Forget the R700, think about the thousands of rands families that were forcefully removed from their homes in District 6 were asked to pay in order to get their land back. I found it outrageous that the ANC and DA administrations dared to ask people to pay to “heal” their wounds. To think I have family relatives who are still stuck in Gugulethu and would not be able to raise the kind of money they were asking.

But the lesson I want you to learn from this, and our party has failed to appreciate is that the more clumsy we are on redress, the more extremist ideas from the likes of Malema start to appeal to children of MaRhadebe, Nyawuza and Sukwinis who could show you scars from the beatings they got when the Apartheid government unleashed its brute force on them.

You see, if the ANC had radically redressed the imbalances of the past, and spent every tax ZAR delivering on the promise of a better life for all, the EFF would not have as many seats in parliament and the same can be said for the DA.

So we cannot depend on the ANC’s failures alone which have rekindled the extremist views of the PAC and they are growing. Building a credible opposition to the ANC that can appeal to those extremist views becomes necessary. Without offering them something worthy of their support, you risk having more and more of the kind of social movement seen with Rhodes Must Fall. So if you don’t transform, you will be forced to do so kinda thing.

Bring a DA government tomorrow, if it does not appease those extremist views that are easily convinced by the likes of Malema who lack sincerity, that DA government would be as doomed as the ANC is today.

The challenge Maimane has is convincing the 6 out of every 10 DA MPs who happen to be white, some DA members to look beyond liberal views and craft a transformation policy that would redress the historical injustices that many South Africans still face today. Clearly the obsession with jobs, even piece jobs is not enough. MaRhadebe had a few of those piece jobs Patricia De Lille likes to promote. They have not helped her get out of poverty. And there is nothing put forward by the DA that would help speed up transformation and help the black academics at UCT.

South Africa may have successfully silenced the extremist views of the PAC, but some of their ideas have been ‘resurrected’ in the EFF. The task goes beyond just getting votes to govern. But winning support across the board while governing. This has not been achieved by the ANC and the same can be said for the DA which has not won a single ward in Khayelitsha even though the party governs the Cape. Learn from the US and SA in the rise of the EFF and other social movements, when the established parties fail, extremism flourishes. I beg you to offer South Africa something worth supporting before the EFF gets more votes in Khayelitsha than the DA.

News24 Voices Terms & Conditions.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.