The not so ‘accidental leader’ of the DA.
Unimaginable one year ago, the Democratic Alliance has elected a white and middle-aged male called John Steenhuisen to lead them. His election is significant because, by virtue of the DA being the country’s second-largest party, he is also the leader of the official opposition. In this constitutionally mandated position, Steenhuisen embodies the democratic alternative to President Cyril Ramaphosa. In a certain way, his success is South Africa’s success regardless of individual party allegiance or none. Unfolding from this is the wider question if Steenhuisen’s election is symbolic of ‘non-racialism and non-sexism’ in, what is, a predominately black country.
A deep dive into the DA’s history over the last decade explains how he became presumptive leader when Mmusi Maimane dramatically resigned one year ago. As the U.S. presidential historian, Robert Caro, observes a leader’s ‘essential character’ is revealed by how they respond to events on ‘the way up.’ The public record, former and serving party MPs and leaders, testify to what Steenhuisen said and, crucially, did at key moments.
On the personal level, Steenhuisen displays good manners, and his colleagues enjoy his company and admire his social ease. His folksy disposition and artful unkemptness are refreshing in an age of stylised politicians.
John’s journey began when he was recruited from the apartheid era National Party by former Democratic Party/DA MP, Mark Lowe. In 1995, Steenhuisen approached Lowe, the then deputy mayor of Durban. Lowe fondly recalls a “promising young man from Durban North, already well involved in public service.” Being “a little naïve and non-political”, Steenhuisen had been “snapped up” by the provincial leader of the National Party, Reiner Schoeman. Lowe continues: “to his credit, he’d seen that his future lay with me and the then DP.” Lowe signed Steenhuisen up, and he became a “committed and very energetic member of the Durban North DP team.” In return for Steenhuisen’s diligence, Lowe ensured that he was the “sole DP candidate to replace [him] when [he] moved to the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in 1999.”
After a decade of public service in the Durban council chamber and provincial legislature, Steenhuisen was deployed to the National Assembly in July 2011 after resigning as the DA’s provincial leader. This was precipitated when a private matter was pruriently exposed in the province’s newspapers. While Steenhuisen’s private life was no one’s concern, the story unfortunately damaged professional and personal relationships. The DA KZN provincial chairperson, Greg Krumbock, asked Steenhuisen to resign. Initially resisting pressure to resign, the national leadership stepped in firmly. Steenhuisen recovered fast, though, and ousted Krumbock at the DA’s KZN provincial congress in March 2012.
Steenhuisen’s final restoration came about, it is claimed, as a quid pro quo for his next act. He had become close friends with Athol Trollip, the recently defeated DA Parliamentary Leader in late 2011. They swiftly became – as did several other white male MPs - disaffected with the “rising star” of the DA; the freshly-elected parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko. “Resenting” being upstaged by the younger, telegenic, and intellectually surefooted political “superstar” they, it is alleged, began to “plot her downfall.”
During the 2014 national election campaign, it became public knowledge that Maimane was headed for parliament after his “Sowetan Obama” style campaign for the premiership of Gauteng. Steenhuisen reportedly began to “manoeuvre behind the scenes” to help stir dissent amongst MPs against Mazibuko, paving the way for Maimane’s election as parliamentary leader. Mazibuko, alerted to this, surprised the entire country and accepted a scholarship to study at Harvard University.
As a reward, Maimane appointed Steenhuisen as his chief whip. As the consummate party insider thriving in a chumocracy, he flourished. His peerless grasp of parliamentary procedure at the provincial and national tiers paid off. The ‘loyal’ chief whip to Maimane was dubbed the nation’s “best parliamentarian” by the estimable political commentator Eusebius Mackaiser.
Meanwhile Maimane, just one year after assuming the mantle of leadership, took the DA to the mountain top in 2016. Toppling the ANC in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, he won a hat trick in football terms. The 2016 ‘confidence and supply’ agreement negotiated with the Economic Freedom Fighters in these three metros in August 2016 held for a surprisingly long time. South Africans from all walks of life got used to seeing the irrepressible Herman Mashaba and Patricia de Lille govern the nation’s two largest cities. The ANC’s reputation as the ‘natural party of government’ had finally been punctured. Broad-based coalitions with ACDP, COPE, IFP, UDM and VF+ signalled that the “realignment of politics” in South Africa was, according to Maimane, “fully underway.”
Within a year, however, the project began to implode. Steenhuisen was tasked by the DA’s Federal Executive (FedEx) to investigate De Lille’s poor relationship with her City of Cape Town caucus. De Lille steadfastly maintains that she responded to the Commission’s questions. But rather than attempting to mediate relations in the caucus, the eponymous Steenhuisen Commission heavy-handedly recommended her resignation. Commenting on the saga, Mazibuko wryly observed: “I’ve never heard of a man being accused in politics of having a bad management style.”
De Lille believed that a “conservative cabal” of the DA were “hankering for the years of baaskap.” She took the Steenhuisen report on judicial review and asked for the “evidence” of the Commission to be provided. Instead of defending the report, the DA dropped it. De Lille won four consecutive court cases with costs against the DA. She finally resigned in October 2018 and formed a new party. The DA experienced its first significant drop of support in its electoral stronghold in the 2019 general election.
This - and another trigger of Helen Zille’s (then premier of the Western Cape) unintended making - unleashed a bitter exchange of accusations of racism and counter accusations within six months. After a trip to the former British colony of Singapore in March 2017, Zille controversially tweeted that not all of colonialism’s legacy was negative. In most times and places, a chief whip seeks to ameliorate a party’s wounds when its protective outer skin blisters. Instead, Steenhuisen joined other party MPs to flay Zille publicly. After a protracted fight that became litigious, Zille finally withdrew from all party activities and completed her term in office.
The DA was now ablaze. Two intersecting cultural conflicts erupted. Both shone a light on the contours of South Africa’s unfinished work of reconciliation and economic justice. The first was the DA’s 2019 xenophobic election campaign. The second, modelling similar tactics, is the partisan mobilisation of the universal principle of non-racism by the new leadership.
‘Riding the tiger’ of xenophobia.
The extremities of life and death in South Africa’s townships had long provide fertile ground for xenophobia, and the country has witnessed the murder of foreigners in waves of attacks. Within this incendiary socio-economic context, the DA contested the 2019 general election on a platform that left liberals and human rights activists around the world shellshocked.
Most South African parties had held the line that nation-states must be able to secure its borders; have a proximate idea of who is in the country; respond to ‘push’ and ‘pull’ drivers like economic opportunities; war; terror attacks; famine, and, above all, to keep South Africans safe. As a regional power, South Africa exerts a strong ‘pull’ from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa in a similar way that the U.S. does from Latin America, and the European Union does from fragile states in North Africa and the Middle East.
Moreover, it is appropriate for a political party to develop positions about how they would best regulate immigration and protect the nation’s borders from ‘foreign and domestic’ threats. The DA, however, went one step too far by mobilising the vulnerability of life in the townships.
A legal or illegal migrant, or undocumented refugee, will nearly always gravitate to the most impoverished communities because that is where the cost of subsistence living is lowest. They are also less likely to be monitored by the authorities. The DA’s then strategists purposely struck a match, hoping to pick up votes from two groups of voters. One was the growing black middle class frightened by crime, despite the fact that universal evidence shows that crime affects impoverished communities most. The other was the unfounded fears of township residents that migrants might take their work opportunities.
Mashaba, in March 2017, controversially designated undocumented immigrants in Johannesburg as “criminals.” His words, at first blush, were problematic for the DA because of, one, the fragility of life in the townships, and, two, because it sounded like the rhetoric of the then newly elected President Donald J. Trump to build a ‘Big, Beautiful Wall’ to keep Mexican immigrants out of the United States.
To begin with, Maimane supposedly held the liberal line. He noted that “statements like that do not help” but, equally, his hands were tied. He had recruited Mashaba and did not want to undermine the good work the maverick mayor was doing to uncover the corruption of the previous administration. Maimane is by disposition a conciliator and motivator. He sought to hold the fragile project together. So, when Mashaba stood in front of shops, owned by foreign nationals, and said that these shops and people do not belong here, he was flanked by Maimane.
Mashaba is a complex enigma and, like Maimane, exudes vim and warmth. Having campaigned on a “pull yourself up by the bootstrap” backstory, the man seemed transformed by the gravity of his office in a city mired in gut-wrenching poverty. While rejecting the EFF’s macroeconomic solutions, he developed an appreciation for the Red Beret’s diagnostic of the economy.
While this drama unfolded in Johannesburg, the DA’s FHO leadership sensed that the populist EFF was squeezing the DA to the left and a newly energised Freedom Front Plus to the right in a pincer movement. Unknown to party donors, the DA began to poll Mashaba’s sentiments with ‘dial testing’ in township focus groups (participants hold hand dials and express their emotional reaction to a sentiment). They found that Mashaba’s remarks were popular with citizens subsisting in the townships. These were South African ‘souls’ that, to use the famous title by the sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois were ‘on the line.’
It is critical to acknowledge that the DA’s 2019 manifesto position on immigration was not in and of itself egregious. It differed little from most centralist parties. Rather it was the party’s deliberate Trumpite strategy to mobilise anti-immigrant sentiment that fuelled the flames of xenophobia with tragic results. While Maimane allowed his judgment to be trumped (and ‘the buck’ must stop with him) the entire Federal Executive (FedEx)of the DA – including John Steenhuisen – signed off on the dystopian strategy.
Given the two nation’s shared history of colonialism, conquest and racial supremacy, Brazil is a proximate comparison to South Africa. The party’s anti-immigrant slogans echoed Brazilian President Javir Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan “Brazil before everything, and God above all.” When the election results trickled in the EFF had grown, and the DA’s support fell. Maimane, though, might have clawed back some of the black votes lost in the Zille ‘twars’ and he, in fact, marginally increased the DA’s overall share of the black vote.
Tragically, the nation’s bonds were frayed in a culture war unleashed by the DA and EFF and appropriated by some local ANC leaders on the ground. The constitution’s ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it” won the day. No party can straddle a Mandela inspired ‘One Nation for All’ vision and a Bolsonaro embrace of ‘SA First.’ Ramaphosa won 57% of the vote, which was 5 percentage points below the 62,65% achieved by Nelson Mandela in 1994. This was of course with a different electoral composition, and after a disastrous decade under President Jacob Zuma.
The DA’s and EFF’s campaign may have contributed to the murder of at least five migrants in Johannesburg by the end of 2019. Steenhuisen has yet to offer a mea culpa on behalf of his party despite being the interim leader for a year. Mirroring the xenophobic campaign’s tactics, the party is now mobilising the universal value of non-racialism. The purpose is to remove the centrality of ‘race’ from achieving economic justice and salving the nation’s wounds.
Why has the DA appropriated ‘non-racialism’, now?
The Democratic Alliance’s appropriation of ‘non-racialism’ has rendered it what the Scottish philosopher, Walter B. Gallie, famously termed an “essentially contested concept.” Given how polarised the debate has become, the fact that non-racialism is a Section 1 constitutional principle should not be overlooked.
Revealingly, the DA leadership rarely states the indivisible two-clause principle in full: ‘non-racialism and non-sexism.’ If the party were to place the correct emphasis on both clauses, it would become clear that ‘race’ as a methodological identifier is necessary to ‘de-segregate’ (‘to end a policy of racial segregation’) data in crafting policy.
Copying large corporations, banking institutions, and NGO’s, the DA seeks to align its new economic policy with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The document controversially seeks to remove the axial indicator of ‘race’ and replace it with the generic term ‘need.’ The party rightly contends that redress and restitution should be offered to any South African in need. Arising from this, most of these South Africans, they aver, are black, and thus would receive proportional remedy. However, the script collapses under the weight of its multiple inconsistencies.
The majority of South Africans live at the intersection of ‘race’, gender inequality, and poverty. In this trifecta, ‘race’ must be central to solving poverty and sexism; and in a circular way the problem of ‘race’ itself. The sociologist Charles Mills crisply observed this paradox in The Racial Contract: ‘In a racially structured polity, the only people who can find it psychologically possible to deny the centrality of race are those who are racially privileged.’ Simply put, in order to reach a ‘non-racial and non-sexist’ society, large-scale and targeted interventions are needed to ‘level up’ the playing ground for black people.
The head of the DA policy unit, Gwen Ngwenya, claims: “there is no evidence to support the belief that the further use of race is essential for addressing any of the economic disparities caused by apartheid.” This reasoning is like claiming: ‘there is no evidence treating a disease cures it, because it is always logically possible that ignoring it could cure it.’ If you say that you are ignoring race, you are also ignoring racism.
Ngwenya also makes an asymmetrical comparison by arguing: “many countries with histories of genocides, civil war etcetera has addressed better than we have educational disparities, wage and wealth disparities [without resorting to policies akin to BEE/EE]." First, unlike apartheid South Africa, most of Africa’s ‘genocides’ were not ‘racial’ civil wars. The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, for example, was, primarily, rooted in Belgian and France's total control over the country in the post-colonial era. The colonial powers restructured Rwandan society and culture, with a plethora of divisive ethnicity-based policies. In juxtaposition, ‘race’ and ‘class’ are contextually critical in South Africa because racial capitalism was the foundation stone of apartheid.
Arising from this, the debate primarily turns on the exercise of power by one racial group (or the representatives of that group) over others. This raises the key question which Ngwenya ignores. Does the advent of constitutional democracy mean that this exercise of power has ended? The DA's implied answer is ‘yes’, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
If one group has dominated another for centuries, the domination does not miraculously disappear when rights and the universal franchise are extended to all. People are psychologically used to viewing some, especially white men, as the 'natural' holders of positions of skill and influence. Others, especially blacks and women, are still viewed as people who, at best, have to prove themselves. Anecdotally, how many middle-class South Africans would happily agree to be operated on by a black surgeon, for example?
If the answer is ‘many’, the problem has not evaporated. By ignoring it, the DA is refusing to face an existential problem. It runs the risk of alienating nearly the entire black middle-class who experience this problem on a daily basis. A party which listened – instead of transmits - to black voters would hear that racism is still an issue.
A party which, one day, aspires to government office needs to address the issue one, concretely, and, two, with emotional intelligence. Conceptually, the crisp issue is not whether black people still live in poverty, but whether people are still denied dignity and opportunity because they are black. The evidence ‘shouts’ that they do so. Therefore, the DA is not blind to ‘race.’ It is rather blind to racism.
On the question of quantitative and qualitative evidence, countries collect data on a wide range of characteristics including ‘race.’ Data is king. In September 2020, at the same time the DA launched its new policy, the Gates Foundation launched its peerless annual Goalkeepers report, which tracks progress against the UNSDG’s 18 indicators.
When speaking about how transitional societies risked losing a decade due to Covid-19, Melinda Gates observed: “there isn’t enough being done to disaggregate data by race, income and so many other critical markers that help us develop the kind of policies and programmes to reach people with the support they need.”
In the same month, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced a targeted programme to support black entrepreneurs because “much more needs to be done to better help Black business owners and entrepreneurs, and address anti-Black racism.” The government announced: ‘As part of our work to better understand the barriers faced by and needs of Black entrepreneurs in Canada, Statistics Canada will work to improve disaggregated data collection on Black entrepreneurship.’ Why did Gates and the Canadian government – to mention just two examples - simply not refer to ‘need’ instead of ‘race’? To understand what animates the DA’s contrarianism, it is necessary to consider South Africa’s political and constitutional story.
The ‘non-racial and non-sexism’ principle did not appear in the constitution first section ex nihilo. The liberal democratic credo of the constitution was watered, in large part, by the non-racialism and egalitarianism of the ANC’s founders. Nobel Laureate, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, saw South Africans as individuals and communities who must be brought aboard an all-inclusive solution; one driven by the black majority in the pursuit of a non-racial destiny.
The Institute of Race Relations encouraged Professor Z.K. Matthews famous proposal for an Assembly of the People. The Freedom Charterists affirmed that South Africa belonged to all its inhabitants, black and white. It demanded a non-racial, democratic system of government and equal protection of all before the rule of law.
Today’s DA offers a thinner and legalistic notion of non-racialism. The party mobilisation of non-racialism it appears, owes more to an economic project with a political fuse: ‘classical liberalism.’ To understand its implications for modern day South Africa, it is necessary to consider the philosophy’s historical roots. The term has both a British empire provenance and, in a characteristically English way, eccentric usage.
The nineteenth century ‘Tory’ party was an alliance between the working classes and the rich rural gentry; it sought to combine support for monarch, church and country, with a commitment to alleviating the suffering of the poor. Historically, the dominant Conservative party was suspicious of capitalism and free markets. To give this a contemporary gloss, this is why the former Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, insists that the transformational ‘Tory’ prime minister, the late Margaret Thatcher, was a classical liberal in the Gladstonian mould.
So, when libertarian DA MPs like Zak Mabhele, Michael Waters, and many other DA MPs, describe themselves as being ardent supporters of the ‘Thatcherite Revolution’, they have understood the term ‘classical liberal’ correctly.
Thatcher, former U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, et al, believed that Marxists in the ANC mission-in-exile had developed a complex theory that capitalism and racial segregation were intertwined, and therefore believed that the end of apartheid would require a socialist revolution led by the black proletariat.
In contrast, they quoted the Chicago School of Economics, Milton Friedman’s simple dictum that “it costs money to discriminate” and that, in practice, it is very difficult, given the impersonal nature of market transactions in a globalised economy. Capital, unlike the architects of segregation and apartheid, according to the ‘classical liberal’, was colour-blind. They believed that apartheid and capitalism were inherently incompatible, and that economic growth would in time lead to the disintegration of apartheid.
However, the history is far murkier. Today, it is easy to forget that early liberal thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were slave traders or, at least, involved in the barbaric trade. It is likely that the individuals whose ‘liberty’ concerned them were white males. The historical break within liberalism came with John Stuart Mill, who rejected slavery. Some academics, however, argue that Mill did not reject racism.
The South African public intellectual, Steven Friedman, has convincingly argued that there were two South African brands of ‘liberalism.’ Moreover, both corresponded to the two liberalisms defined by the Canadian political philosopher, C. B. Macpherson. He believed that the original liberalism of Hobbes, Locke, and others, was essentially a ‘charter’ justifying why white property-owning men should not be dispossessed.
'Developmental liberalism' - which is democratic and not necessarily wedded to whiteness – was inspired by the younger Mill. In South African terms, this helps describe the intellectual divide within the Liberal Party between the ‘Cape liberals’ - who believed in absorbing some black people into a white-run world - and the non-racial liberalism of Jordan Ngubane, Selby Msimang and Peter Brown. Some people may conclude that the ‘new DA’ represents a return to ‘Cape liberalism.’ Many voters may also fear that the project camouflages new justifications for white dominance.
Poverty has a ‘colour’
The renowned University of Notre Dame political scientist, Daniel Philpott states: “restorative justice and reconciliation begin from a relational conception of people and the world they inhabit.” Yet today’s ‘race’ denialists in South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, have frequently used a wedge tactic that’s been refined by outgoing U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
By mobilising a false antithesis (in rhetoric, an idea that is the exact opposite of something else), they seek to bulldoze those who emphasize the saliency of ‘race’ in order to solve the problem of race. The contours of their case are elegant: there is no scientific basis to ‘race’ as a biological construct; everyone has the same collection of genes; all people alive today are, in an important sense, ‘Africans’; slavery was (and remains) a modern ‘non-racial’ global and universal network; Barbary slave traders in Morocco trafficked Irish slaves; olive-skinned Romans considered the white people of their time to be ‘savages’; there were poor whites in the Jim Crow South – and there are pointed reminders of Japanese ‘Asiatic’ racism against whites and other Asians; and that, in today’s nominally ‘colour-blind’ Brazil, the descendants of black slaves still face violent discrimination.
The crisp point, however, is that no rational person disputes these facts and histories. (One might add, en passant, that recent scientific evidence shows that racial discrimination accelerates telomere shortening in Native American and black American communities).
Moreover, no political party in South Africa today claims that ‘race’ is destiny. There are few that deny – even within the ANC governing party - that individual achievement and merit has been eroded by economic entitlement, vulgar materialism, and the misnamed Black Economic Empowerment model. Decades before the Democratic Alliance agreed that BEE was a blunt and ineffective tool of redress, senior black leaders from Inkatha’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi to the economist, Moeletsi Mbeki, said that BEE was a shady vehicle for black elite enrichment and perpetual re-empowerment.
Most South Africans concur that collectivism and corporatism have curtailed both individual and collective liberties. Few people disagree that creativity and hard work have suffered as a result.
However, this is an insufficient pretext to purposely negate the importance of prioritising ‘race’ as a primary social indicator or characteristic in policymaking. The DA is the first political party in South Africa - and Africa - to reject the centrality of ‘race’ as a primary identifier or indicator. The danger of replacing ‘race’ with ‘need’ is redress might be reduced to a cheap substitute for the material fortification for the victims of apartheid. BEE and Employment Equity were never the only policy tools available to bolster economic redress and reconciliation.
South Africa faces two existential challenges in a world transformed by Covid-19 and the changing world of work. Black poverty and inequality remain baked into the composition of the lop-sided economy. The other is climate justice which is closely correlated to South African extractive and consumption-based economy. As one of the world’s greatest bio diversities, our ‘Garden of Eden’ is highly vulnerable to the Holocene’s climate disruption. As the Oxford University economist, and creator of the ‘doughnut economy’ concept, Kate Raworth, puts it, we are in danger in overshooting our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems.
Redress, reconciliation, and climate justice would be better addressed with a new ‘circular’ economic model, which transcends the ANC-DA ‘business as usual’ consumption-led growth model. Authentic BEE and redress can be created, to an extent, by the state doing business with and bolstering black led B Corp companies. These are businesses that balances social purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider their impact on their employees’ wellbeing, customers, supply chain, community, and the environment.
Tom Rippin, CEO of the leadership development social enterprise On Purpose, goes further: "Our social and environmental challenges are deeply entwined and can't effectively be tackled separately. Many of their difficulties are rooted in how we choose to run our economies and our collective values that underpin this; developing a shared set of values that give rise to a healthy economy is critical. By demonstrating that business can be run according to healthier values, organisations such as B Corps, social enterprises, mutuals and many more are blazing a trail towards a better economy that gives us a chance of overcoming the social and environmental problems we face."
Although a new understanding of reimagining the economy with an ‘intersectional’ lens is gathering pace, the DA has appeared increasingly marooned and, at times, malign. On 25 May 2020, in Minneapolis, USA, a black man called George Floyd was arrested for a petty crime. As his face was pressed into the baking hot tar, his neck was knelt on by Police Officer Derek Chauvin. He died a painful eight-minute death pleading “Officer, I cannot breathe.”
Within weeks of global protests of grief and rage, John Steenhuisen – a similar age to Floyd but a white male - lambasted President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government for “holding its boot to the neck of South Africa’s economy.” This was after the government, like nearly every other country did, put the economy into an induced coma to arrest the spread of Covid-19. It was a provocative Trumpite line.
Having secured a plurality of DA delegates last week, Steenhuisen must still answer the question: For what purpose? The hairline crack in the DA’s shaky edifice is that - mirroring their chief ANC competitor - the party’s membership is a broad church encompassing every political tradition from social democracy to libertarianism. There are also a large swathe of individuals and factions with no discernible beliefs other than a wish to be part of a credible alternative.
Simply put, the DA is what political scientists call a ‘catch-all’ party. This would not be a problem if the now dominant faction in the DA did not hubristically mock progressive liberals and social democrats as being ‘woke’ or ‘identarian.’ Recently, DA opinion pieces have scorned the importance of the ‘lived reality’ of black South Africans. They appear impervious to the traction of ‘critical race theory’ in the U.S., and elsewhere.
Yet love always, in the end, trumps hatred. The DA is part and parcel of the fabulous South African Story. Like a mirror glass, the DA’s story is our story, too. The party’s brokenness speaks to our individual brokenness and sense of dislocation in a changed world; of what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do, to achieve economic redress and reconciliation for our black sisters and brothers. Yet, as our individual stories are not written in the stars, nor is the nation’s official opposition party.
Jon Cayzer is a Ph.D candidate interrogating the transitional justice processes of Rwanda and South Africa. A professional speechwriter, Cayzer holds an MPA from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is a Fellow and former Associate of the leadership development social enterprise, On Purpose.