Columnist Peter Bruce says he agrees with DA MP Hlanganani Gumbi that to build a nonracial party one must use race in policy-making (“Let’s talk about the economy and not race in the months ahead”, November 6).
Gumbi had responded to DA federal executive chair Helen Zille by saying: “The debate on whether race is a proxy or not for disadvantage in the DA is sadly back. Nevertheless it must be addressed. The simple answer is yes, of course race is a proxy for disadvantage.”
This doublethink is common, but groundless. While race can be a predictor of disadvantage in SA it can certainly not serve as a proxy for disadvantage. Being black does not automatically mean being disadvantaged. Is someone like Proteas bowler Kagiso Rabada, the son of a doctor and a lawyer, who attended St Stithians, disadvantaged? The answer is clearly no.
While we accept that the Rabadas of SA are still fairly rare and the vast majority of poor people are black, it is also true that some white people have been left behind, even if on a vanishingly smaller scale than black South Africans. But is it right to consider Mamphela Ramphele disadvantaged but not a white school dropout living in a squatter camp on the West Rand?
Why not pivot empowerment policy so that it benefits people who are actually disadvantaged, rather than simply focusing on race, which has been SA’s curse for so long? An alternative has been developed by my colleague, Anthea Jeffery; her economic empowerment for the disadvantaged model focuses directly on disadvantage without having to refer to race at all.
If the current way of doing things was working, we would not have a real unemployment rate nudging 40%.
Institute of Race Relations
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