Nobody should be surprised that the recent decision of the Democratic Alliance (DA) to reject race as a means of classifying people has attracted so much hostility in the communications media.
It has been clear for years now that the racial thinking of the African National Congress (ANC) has captured the hearts and minds of a great many members of the commentariat, both in the print media and on the Internet. The same is true of academia, non-governmental organisations, donor agencies, business, and the diplomatic corps.
The ANC, with the support of its communist and trade union allies, has actually pulled off an extraordinary intellectual feat. Its proclaimed commitment to non-racialism helped to win it massive political and financial support around the world in its quest for power. But even before the end of Nelson Mandela’s term of office as president of the country, the ANC had enacted the first of a series of affirmative action laws that have steadily undermined both non-racialism and the principle of equality before the law. This process attracted remarkably little opposition.
Ritualistically proclaiming the mantra of its commitment to non-racism, the ANC led the country by the nose in the opposite direction as more and more racial preferencing requirements were implemented in the public sector and imposed on the private sector. For the first time in its history dating back to 1929, the Institute of Race Relations was asked by corporate giving departments to provide racial breakdowns of its staff (which we refused to do).
So extensively has the ideology of affirmative action permeated South Africa that there is now cynicism and even outrage when the DA, after a long detour, proclaims its commitment to two of the very principles on which the post-apartheid era was supposedly founded: non-racialism and equality before the law. The party, so we are told, has adopted “race denialism”, “turned Trumpian”, its “ideological purity collides with South African reality”, and its “liberalism” is now dressed in quotation marks. Bizarre.
The idea that it is possible for “disadvantage” to be dealt with using objective social and economic criteria rather than the crude one of race is scornfully dismissed. Conveniently forgotten is that nearly a quarter of a century’s worth of affirmative action policies are one of the main causes of this country’s social and economic ills: a crippled public sector, the wrecking of Eskom and other state-owned enterprises, massive unemployment, anaemic investment, economic stagnation, intensifying despair, rampant crime, languid prosecutions, and a public schooling system that has betrayed the hopes and aspirations of millions of young people.