The DA has not forsaken its liberal values

Phumzile Van Damme responds to Frans Cronje's criticism of the party

 In a Politicsweb article titled “The DA's inexplicable attack on itself”, Frans Cronje erroneously asserts that the  DA is undergoing ‘a bizarre and ill-timed rejection’ of its liberal origins. His argument grossly misrepresents our values as a liberal party and attempts to create a false image of how we are projecting those values.

While Cronje’s view overlooks the unjust historical context of South Africa, the DA will not be ahistorical in our liberalism. The assertion put forward by Cronje is that there is only one way to project liberalism, when in fact, liberalism has varying leanings and understandings. To confine liberalism to a single set of articulations and values is misguided.

South Africa’s current socio-economic context is one of vast poverty and inequality, which is the result of the exclusion and deprivation of millions of Black South Africans under the discriminatory apartheid laws, combined with the poor governance and devastating corruption of the current ANC government.

As a political party, with the objective of national governance, we need to move away from rigid liberal ideology towards a liberal approach that is more relevant to addressing the inequality in South Africa.

This is not a rejection of our liberal values. To quote DA Leader Mmusi Maimane “[o]nly liberalism is equipped to deal with these challenges” and we realise that the classical liberalism as we know it, has to be reassessed. A classic liberal policy in South Africa is not feasible to address the deep-rooted, systemic and institutional inequality in South Africa.

Our efforts to find the best possible solutions to alleviate the suffering of poor South Africans has not resulted in us rejecting our core beliefs. Caring for the poor does not divert us from our liberal values.

The DA has never been apologetic about its liberal values. We believe in individual liberty. However, in a society where a where millions of individuals still do not have the means to gain access and benefit from social, economic and political rights, a classical liberal approach is not enough. 

The Constitution, which many agree to be a liberal document, speaks to issues of land rights as wells as the redistribution of land in order to address the injustices of our past; empowerment programmes such as B-BBEE in their current from are imperfect and have been corrupted, we have therefore proposed changes to the codes in order to make sure that it works and aligns with other programmes geared towards building an inclusive free market economy.

We refuse to be ahistorical in our liberalism. Millions of South Africans, black and white, understand this, and are looking to the DA for answers, many have found the answers they have been looking for, hence our growth in every election.

For Cronje to conclude that to vote DA and ANC under Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019 would be a similar exercise, is one dimensional and could not be further from the truth. The DA has a proven track record of good governance, quality service delivery and a commitment to building a dynamic and inclusive economy for South Africa. The ANC is everything that the DA is not. Even under Cyril Ramaphosa, who has propped up and praised Jacob Zuma’s administration, the ANC could not be compared to the DA. Cronje has bought into the false belief that the ANC can “self-correct”.

South Africans are searching for a new beginning and the DA is the only party that can offer our people a free and fair democratic society, built on liberal values and ideals.

Phumzile Van Damme MP is DA National Spokesperson