DA approves rejection of race as a means to categorise South Africans
Opposition party stance likely to be at odds with SA laws on race
The DA has taken a step closer to its aim of being colour blind in terms of race, which is still one of the party’s most sensitive issues, while it has also called on a fresh approach to redress.
Racial redress has been the subject of much dispute over the years in SA’s official opposition party, with the question of whether it was a proxy for disadvantage heavily influencing discussions on the DA’s stance on redress and how it must be achieved, among other issues.
An independent review panel listed the many and varied disputes over race issues as one of the factors that dented its electoral support during the 2019 general election, in which the DA lost votes for the first time.
The race issue was highlighted in former leader Mmusi Maimane’s and former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s resignations in 2019, and the party’s Gauteng leader John Moodey’s resignation just last week.
On Saturday, about a year and a half after former party leader Maimane said ahead of the national elections that the party believed race was a proxy for disadvantage, the delegates at the DA’s first policy conference voted for nonracialism as one of the principles in the party. The DA defines this as the “rejection of race as a way to categorise and treat people, particularly in legislation”.
This is important, as racial categorisation is key in redressing laws in SA such as BEE and affirmative action.
In the past discussions on race and redress have been heated, but Business Day understands from senior DA members that there was little robust debate on the issues before it was voted on.
The newly voted for principle states that “the assumption that one’s ‘race’ represents people who think, feel or have the same experience of shared events, based on their physical appearance, is false”.
It goes further to say that while there is scientific consensus that race does not exist, racialism and racism do exist and have a profound and damaging impact on the lives of individuals and society.
“They [racialism and racism] are abhorrent and detestable. A great deal of harm was caused, and continues to be caused, on the basis of false beliefs in racial difference,” it states.
The principle, however, acknowledges that social groups based on cultural, religious, political and linguistic factors do exist.
“Nonracialism is therefore a commitment, not just to reject racialism and racism, but to fight for the deconstruction of race, and the reconstruction of a nonracial future.”
On Sunday, the conference adopted its policy on economic justice. This is based on the DA's recognition that SA is still a fundamentally economically unjust society, where opportunities are not available to all, and where poverty still limits the life chances of many.
“The DA envisions a society where opportunity is broadly available to all, and where people have the capabilities to make use of them. We are still far from that point as a country,” Ivan Meyer, the party's federal chair said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
“SA desperately needs a totally fresh approach to redress and inclusion,” he said.
Meyer summarised the policy's approach as “redress for the disadvantaged, not for elites”.
The DA has in the past heavily criticised BEE, saying it has only benefited the elite.
The party will host a media briefing on Monday when it will reveal the policy decisions taken over the weekend.
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