In joining the debate over the DA’s recent policy changes, Tony Leon, in his customary elegant way, makes two points. The first is that with the adoption of “nonracialism” the party brings itself into line with the constitution; and second, in Leon’s opinion this will not cost the DA voters, and in particular black voters, as argued by Steven Friedman and others. Only time will tell who is right on this point. 

Regarding nonracialism, I don’t believe Leon’s interpretation of the concept, or the constitution’s, is the same as that of the Zille faction of the DA. As I understand it, Leon’s concept of nonracialism, as is the case with the constitution, refers to the disapproval of “racism “and “racist” language and behaviour. But he accepts the concept of multiracialism and the SA population (among other diversities — cultural, linguistic, religious, and ethnic) as multiracial, which is certainly true of the constitution.

This is borne out by article 174(2) (appointment of judicial officers) which decrees that: “The need for the judiciary to reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of SA must be considered when judicial officers are appointed.” Here one has clear recognition of the multiracial character of SA, something I am reasonably sure Leon accepts but Zille and the DA at present do not.

At a time when race and its issues are tearing the oldest democracy apart, and when race figures in the politics of many European countries, the challenge to SA — the most multiracial country in the world — is to to do a better job of making multiracialism work rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.

Denis Worrall, Democratic Party co-founder and leader

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