DA leader Mmusi Maimane. PICTURE: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
DA leader Mmusi Maimane. PICTURE: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The DA has not rejected race-based policy, and your correspondent James Cunningham (DA sees light on BEE, 12 February) is wrong that Deng’s dictum applies to the party. The DA has in fact stated that race is a proxy for disadvantage, that race must therefore be the basis of policy, although it is careful to add that it will apply the policy more effectively than the ANC.

More accurately, the DA dictum is something along these lines of  “it matters that the cat is black and we hope it will still catch mice”, a message that for lack of conviction recalls the “separate development with justice” mantra of the United Party.

Cunningham correctly observes that wherever race-based policy has been applied, it has led to economic and political misery. You do not need a proxy, let alone the proxy of race, to determine disadvantage because disadvantage itself can easily be determined, measured, and assessed. Even if you were to insist on a proxy, then unemployment, or the level of education attained by a person’s parents, would far more accurately divide the country along lines of advantage and disadvantage than the crude and distasteful application of race.

We have long argued therefore that empowerment policy should not be based on race but rather on the actual disadvantage suffered by the beneficiaries of the policy. Nothing would better ensure that the policy served its intended purpose.  

But the DA knows all of this and the reason it has chosen instead to settle on race as a proxy is not moral conviction or a sincere commitment to social justice, but rather that it hopes for some short-term political advantage to accrue if it dabbles a bit in racial nationalist populism. It is a very dangerous thing to do.    

Frans Cronje
CEO, Institute of Race Relations