DA Policy Conference: Be careful of missing a great opportunity

Ina Cilliers says race reductionists love it when media picks out disagreement among diverse leaders

DA Policy Conference: Be careful of missing a great opportunity

11 February 2020

I am responding to the media’s reaction following the release of our draft Values and Principles document. In particular an article by KgothatsoMadisa entitled “Gwen Ngwenya, Helen Zille flayed over release of DA policy document” (Sowetan, Monday 10 February).

The word “flay” means to literally strip the skin off a corpse. Makes a catchy headline for sure, but it is only the first of a series of “alternative facts” in this article and others that is the hallmark of lazy journalism so common in South Africa today.

As a member of the Federal Council and the Policy Steering Committee allow me to unpack how this policy process is unfolding: Last October Federal Council resolved that Dr. Ivan Meyer be tasked as the political head of the policy process. Together with Helen Zille he assembled a steering committee of politicians nominated by leadership across the country. Every aspect of the process is discussed and approved in this forum and that included the release of the document and the creation of an online portal to receive comments.

The only body that can adopt a policy in the Democratic Alliance is the Federal Congress, which sits at the end of May

Let me be more explicit: Gwen Ngwenya cannot adopt DA policies, neither can Helen. Anybody who is a member of the Party can and has produced many policy proposals for consideration in the past and will continue to do so. The difference this time around is that the Party is using its opportunity to have meaningful discussions in a widely cast net and is using technology to ensure that every comment has an equal weight.

This is serious business to us. It speaks to the essence of the soul of the DA and we will use these values to test every decision we make on policy, which eventually filters into every decision we make for you, the South African, where we govern, and where we are in opposition. That is why we address the positionality of race directly, and we do not skate around the sticky patches in our collective past.

The opportunistic race reductionists out there love it when the only thing the media picks out of the policy debate is that there is robust disagreement amongst diverse individual leaders. Do you really have to weaponize the very essence of individual freedom?

Let me not single out the Sowetan article because that would be unfair to the Daily Maverick. On the 4th of February, a day after the document was released, Stephen Grootes wrote a gleeful article about “bloodletting” and “character assassination” in the Party. It appears his whole academic review was based on a Twitter feed.

So here is the million dollar question to the journos out there: Have you actually read the Values and Principles document?

Because there is a real danger that you are focusing on superficial details and petty squabbles in order to sell your publication and missing the whole point of this exercise.

Please engage with the document and give us your comments via the online portal. We are trying to put in place the building blocks of a resilient society, and time is of the essence.

By DA Gauteng Legislature Member, Ina Cilliers, and in response to criticism of the DA's policy process ahead of its policy conference in April.