Gwen Ngwenya. Picture: SUPPLIED
Gwen Ngwenya. Picture: SUPPLIED

The draft policy on economic justice and redress the DA’s policy unit plans to release over the next few months will contain proposals as to how the party should tackle economic exclusion from both the ownership of the economy and from job promotion in the workplace.

A key proposal of the value and principles document was that the redress of the inequalities inherited from SA’s apartheid past should not be based on race. The contentious question as to whether race should be a proxy for disadvantage or whether this can be objectively measured without reference to race is one that has bedevilled the DA and caused factions within its ranks.

The official opposition has been torn down the middle mainly on the issue of race and economic redress. DA federal council chair Helen Zille is strongly opposed to BEE and affirmative action based on race, an issue that was fundamental to the departure from the party of former DA leader Mmusi Maimane and former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

The governing ANC has tackled white ownership of the economy by means of BEE and racial discrimination in the workplace by means of employment equity legislation.

But while the DA supports the goals of ANC policies, it rejects BEE and affirmative action as the means to achieve them as they are based on the racial categorisation of the beneficiaries of the policies. DA policy head Gwen Ngwenya told members of the Cape Town Press Club on Monday that the proposed DA policy on economic justice would be fundamentally different from that of the government.

She said two other draft policy papers would be presented before the party’s policy conference, which is scheduled to take place in April, ahead of its national congress in May. The papers on economic justice and local government priorities would be in addition to the draft policy released last week on the values and principles that should underpin all the DA’s policies and practices inside and outside government.

The draft policy on values and principles has been opened up for public comment.

The paper on economic justice will give concrete expression to the proposed values and principles, and while it will address economic exclusion, Ngwenya did not say if it would explicitly address white control of the economy.

“We are very much focused on economic exclusion. We realise that there are many people in this country who do not participate in the economy in any way and our policy is definitely focused on how we can bring more people into the economy — both in terms of ownership and job opportunities across the spectrum,” Ngwenya said in an interview after her speech.

The draft policy on values and principles rejects the idea of quotas based on race and gender, so it will be interesting to see how Ngwenya and her team seek to address racial discrimination in the workplace in the paper on economic justice. The draft policy on values and principles also comes out in support of a social market economy and not free-market fundamentalism that argues there is no role at all for the government in the regulation of the market.

On Monday Ngwenya reiterated her support for nonracialism rather than multiracialism as the ideal to which the DA should strive. Nonracialism is defined by the party as the rejection of race as a way to categorise people, particularly in legislation. Ngwenya’s draft policy unit’s values and policy document states that nonracialism is not a rejection of the reality of racialism and racism, but a normative ideal.

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