Straight Talk with John Steenhuisen
12 September 2020
September has been a defining month for the Democratic Alliance. I am extremely proud of the way the party conducted our virtual policy conference, and even more so of the resolutions we adopted.
We have now anchored ourselves to a set of extraordinarily powerful and enduring values and principles, including non-racialism, redress, compassion, and integrity. I cannot conceive of a more solid foundation on which to unite and build our party and our country, a higher standard against which to measure ourselves in government and in opposition, nor a more reliable loadstar for policymaking.
Non-racialism means non-discrimination on the basis of race. Inherent in this principle is the imperative to compensate past racial discrimination.
In line with this commitment to non-racialism we adopted an economic redress policy that targets disadvantage, rather than race. Importantly, it prioritises those who still suffer - and suffer most - the consequences of past discrimination and exclusion: the over 30 million South Africans living below the poverty line, excluded from the economy. In so doing, the DA committed to the economic inclusion of all who live in South Africa.
This is not to deny that past discrimination and exclusion were race-based. On the contrary, the DA is not a political home for anyone who denies that Apartheid and colonialism disadvantaged people on the basis of race, and that this disadvantage must be systematically dismantled. Nor is it to deny the existence of racism and racialism, which grew from the false belief in a scientific basis for race. Rather, it is to hold that it is preferable to compensate past exclusion by directly addressing the factors which perpetuate that exclusion than by racial discrimination in the other direction.
Not only is this the better route to a fairer society, it also puts clear blue water between the DA and the ANC, offering an approach to tackling racialised inequality that avoids the serious shortcomings of the ANC’s race-based redress policies, BEE and employment equity (EE).
It avoids the need to resort to racial classification, for which there exists neither scientific nor constitutional basis. It enriches the poor, which is in everyone’s best interest, while race-based redress enables the enrichment and re-enrichment of a connected elite, at the expense of the rest of society, who get less value from public spending, due to inflated tenders and non-merit-based appointments in the public service. And it aligns with the globally accepted approach to measuring and incentivising companies’ social contribution, the UN’s social development goals, and so will attract rather than deter investment as BEE and EE do. This is crucial, given SA’s unprecedented economic crisis.
This week, StatsSA confirmed that economic activity dropped by 51% in the second quarter of 2020. This massive fall follows three previous consecutive quarters of economic contraction. Ramaphosa’s lockdown has now turned a recession into a deep depression that will condemn millions more to dire poverty unless we embrace wide-ranging pro-growth reforms, one of which is to reject the ANC’s investment-killing, race-based redress policies.
Voters who are serious about tackling poverty and racialised inequality now have a clear choice: they can choose the DA, a law-abiding, non-racial party committed to a social market economy and a capable state, with a track record of delivery and a plan to tackle economic exclusion. Or they can choose the ANC, a corrupt, racial nationalist party committed to state control of the economy and cadre deployment, with a track record of economic destruction and a programme of wealth extraction for the elite.
This is the clear blue water South Africa needs if we are to build a better future for all who live here.