I refer to Shawn Hagedorn’s analysis (“How the DA can regain momentum and lead the way to prosperity”, November 4 2019).

An official opposition that “is sensitive, but not subservient to, racial politics” is exactly what SA needs.

And, yes, if SA is to provide Southern Africa with a viable economic role model, we must import and implement winning ideas from “global overachievers”.

It is precisely these economic high performers that have done the most to eradicate poverty, which is why SA should waste no time in applying these lessons. Yet our government remains impervious to them, because it prefers the easier route of procrastinating on difficult reforms. 

One of the key lessons from the success stories in some developing countries is that an obsession with race-based “transformation” politics creates an impenetrable barrier to implementing the necessary policy solutions.

We are trapped in this obsession and it is preventing us from attracting investment, driving growth and creating jobs. Indeed, we have done the very opposite, repelling much-needed investment through policies such as expropriation without compensation and the bureaucratic nightmare of compliance with racial targets and quotas. 

This overriding obsession has prevented us from building a capable state required to fulfil its constitutional obligations — from driving infrastructure development, to basic service delivery, to aligning education to the skills people need in a growing, global, 21st-century economy.  

Race-based transformation has prevented us from doing all these things because it has provided a fig leaf for promoting politically connected cadres to key positions. They have “captured” the state for their own financial gain, paralysing its capacity to hold power to account and hastening the collapse of service delivery. The economic consequences are there to see, with more than 10-million South Africans now unemployed.

Yet the more the facts cry out for a change of strategy, the more the ANC government encourages people to herd together in racial laagers. This will not help us build a more equitable future.

By now we should have learnt that economic forces cannot be dictated to by the demand for racial redress. The collapse of the mining industry, which has propelled hundreds of thousands into unemployment, is a clear example. And the Eskom debacle is the clearest illustration of why the elevation of racial redress above all other priorities has the most devastating effect on the poor.

The DA must indeed position itself largely as the service delivery party, building a capable state to ensure an inclusive, more equitable future. The race obsession is likely to linger for years yet, but over time, an alternative will become an attractive option, as long as the field is not left wide open to racial populists. There is no time to lose and a reinvigorated DA is up to the task.

Geordin Hill-Lewis MP
DA shadow finance minister

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