Peter Bruce’s recent column warrants a reply (“Note to the DA: Business is your business”, March 9). He says of Gwen Ngwenya’s policy document that he was not “kind to the document she produced”, and then added that he doubted his “remarks about her paper would have worried her for a second”.

Bruce would do well to understand it’s not about kindness or causing worry. The document was put out into the public domain for comment. I’m sure Ngwenya has taken on board his comments as part of the input she sought — as did I. Surely the point is to engage on the issues and debate them in and outside party structures. That’s what I did. I’m sorry it irked Bruce somewhat and provoked a measure of unnecessary innuendo.

That aside, Bruce engaged only on two issues, and again on one matter appeared unable to resist a jibe instead of dealing with the issue. He asks why the DA and I are simply “not comfortable doing anything to challenge the way business operates in our back yard”. That would be understandable, he continues, because he “suppose(s) the party needs to raise money and business has it”. I’d be careful if I were he of such supposition, precisely because he’s wrong on both counts.

In the first instance, the whole point of the document — the  general thrust of which I agree with completely — is that we need to change the way we do business. In addition, I think most people might know by now that I speak my mind, and to suggest that I am pandering on behalf of the party to the interests of business (whatever they may be in the homogenised form he alludes to) is plainly unsustainable.

What I said in respect of Ngwenya’s document represents my view and I expressed this (as invited by the party) both internally and externally. The object is to raise the level of debate and engagement.

The only other issue Bruce addressed was co-determination. My problem with his take is expressed perfectly when he says: “My appeal to the DA is to formulate plans for an inclusive society based where necessary on compulsion.” We all know where that has led in the past and where it is likely to end up — it’s not as if we’re not governed by the constitution.

Bruce’s views on the necessity for co-determination are worth interrogating, and that he says “right now there are raging debates about exactly the proposition that Cachalia makes” is in itself proof that there isn’t one view on the subject. I have stated mine and welcome debate on it.

As far as his assertion that “it is a crying shame that the DA, so vital to our democracy, cannot stand up to inequality more robustly than it does in its draft policy document” is concerned,  I’ll simply repeat what I said in my article: “Let’s be clear, inequality is tolerable only if the poor have a shot at becoming rich ... today’s business and political leaders can do more to make sure everyone at least has a chance. That’s where equality of opportunity comes in, as opposed to equality of outcome.”

As ever, I’m open to debate and discussion — I hope Bruce is open to this.

Ghaleb Cachalia, MP
Via e-mail

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