Picture: AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH
Picture: AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH

The DA will continue with its fraught debate on empowerment on Thursday as it works to finalise the policy it plans to take into the 2019 national election.

Whether race is a proxy for disadvantage will be one of the crucial questions that the DA will have to answer at the party’s economic commission meeting in Cape Town, ahead of its next federal council meeting in October.

It will be at this October meeting that the DA finalises its policies to take to its electorate ahead of the elections.

The question is central to a debate on the DA’s empowerment policies that has been brewing over the past few months and which played out publicly as senior leaders in the party contradicted each other on the critical policy issue.

The party was sent into a spin after its head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, announced in August that it had ditched BEE from its economic policy at its last federal council meeting.

DA federal council chair James Selfe said that this was untrue, adding that the DA still believed that race was a proxy for disadvantage in SA.

After a public debate in August, Ngwenya and Selfe issued a joint statement, saying that the DA rejected the ANC’s BEE policy and would offer an alternative model of "real, broad-based empowerment".

However, the DA remains ideologically divided on the issue. One grouping in the party, aligned with a traditional liberal viewpoint, staunchly believes empowerment should move away from race-based empowerment, while there is also a grouping that makes it clear that one cannot separate race from disadvantage in SA, given its history of racial oppression.

Dean Macpherson, who will chair the commission, said the point of the meeting was to really look at what causes deprivation and disadvantage, of which race is "but one small part of it", he said.

"The focus of tomorrow will be looking at the systems of deprivation and what the DA is proposing to do about that," Macpherson said.

Various recommendations will be made and are to form part of the final policy proposal that would then go to the federal council.

He emphasised that the commission will be an internal discussion, and that the party will not be giving feedback on it, as it does not want to "let the proverbial cat out of the bag in terms what our policy proposals will be ahead of the elections".

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