SA’s official opposition party, the DA, has rejected race as a way to categorise people. 

The party took the stance for nonracialism as opposed  to multiracialism at its first ever policy conference on Saturday.

The conference dealt with the values and principles of the party as well as its policy on economic justice, and was called following a report compiled by an independent review panel after support for the DA waned in the 2019 general election

Race is one of the most controversial issues in the DA. The party’s redress policies, in particular, have been the subject of much debate over the past few years, the main issue in the debate being race as a proxy for disadvantage. 

On Saturday, delegates at the conference adopted nonracialism as one of its values and principles as is, with no amendments made to the policy proposal put forward by the party’s policy unit, headed by Gwen Ngwenya. 

The now accepted principle of nonracialism is defined by the DA as the “rejection of race as a way to categorise and treat people, particularly in legislation”.

“The assumption that one’s “race” represents people who think, feel, or have the same experience of shared events, based on their physical appearance, is false,” the new principle states.

It goes further to say that while there is scientific consensus that race does not exist, racialism and racism do exist and have a profound and damaging impact on the lives of individuals and society.

“They (racialism and racism) are abhorrent and detestable. A great deal of harm was caused, and continues to be caused, on the basis of false beliefs in racial difference,” it states.

The principle acknowledges that social groups based on cultural, religious, political and linguistic factors do exist.

“However, people who identify with each other on this basis should not be squeezed into narrow racial boxes inherited from our segregated past,”  it says. 

“Nonracialism is therefore a commitment, not just to reject racialism and racism, but to fight for the deconstruction of race, and the reconstruction of a nonracial future”.

The party does, however, support the principle of redress, saying it recognises the need to remedy or correct an unfair or unjust situation. 

“Our past is littered with myriad injustices, arising from past conflicts and the racial segregation policy of apartheid. These include forced removals, job reservation, detention without trial, disparities in education and concentration camps.

“The consequences of these injustices remain, compounded by poor governance, and are reflected in high rates of poverty, unemployment, and general inequality of opportunity,” the principle states. 

Redress must couple a firm commitment to reconciliation with a commitment to ensuring that inequality of opportunity is not a feature of the present or the future. ​

“Policies which tackle inequality of opportunity — including interventions in education, healthcare, the economy, and safety and security —  will always be central pillars of our programme of action,” the principle states. 

The policy conference continued on Saturday and Sunday.

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