Helen Zille and Mmusi Maimane. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Helen Zille and Mmusi Maimane. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."

Humpty Dumpty came to mind when I read the following paragraph in Natasha Marrian’s article (DA must be on front foot as sands shift, March 9): "The debate about ‘direction’ [of the DA] is often between the ‘purist’ largely liberal English-speaking faction and the more ‘progressive’ faction, which includes its ‘black caucus’."

Through perverting the meaning of words, this paragraph advances the notion that racial mobilisation is progressive. There is nothing progressive about it. On the contrary, it is a dangerous approach whose description as "progressive" derives from the current obsession with the politics of racial identity in the US and the resulting inversion of the meaning of words as we understand them.

The fact that racial identitarianism is finding a renewed foothold in SA is a retrogressive step. It is neither liberal nor progressive. In fact, entrenching racial identity was the basis on which the apartheid edifice was structured. It is anathema to the truly progressive notion that each person should be judged on their personal qualities, not the colour of their skin. The Progressive Party was established almost 60 years ago to advance the latter approach.

Progressives have always strongly emphasised nonracialism. A race-based caucus would, therefore, be anathema to them, because they seek support on the basis of values, principles and policies. Not race or ethnicity.

So let’s stick to the meaning of words as we know them. As Jannie Steytler, the Progressive Party’s first leader, once said: "Eventually, SA will be governed on the basis of these principles because it is the only way it can be governed." Sooner or later, we will realise what a visionary statement that was.

Helen Zille
Western Cape premier