Democratically elected: John Steenhuisen. Picture: Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas
Democratically elected: John Steenhuisen. Picture: Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas

On November 3, Peter Bruce, ex-editor of the FM and an avowed "Ramaphorite" wrote an online column that sought to analyse the outcome of the DA’s recent virtual congress.

This is the very congress where more than 2,000 delegates of all races came together to elect the leadership of the party for the next three years.

Moreover, the congress gave overwhelming mandates to both federal leader John Steenhuisen and federal council chair Helen Zille.

Bruce openly admits to taking his cue from his Twitter feed, so it is unsurprising that he distorts the truth to conclude that the congress result somehow proves that, for the DA, "race is simply not a factor in SA".

In doing so, Bruce discounts the fact that there was overwhelming congress support for federal chair Ivan Meyer (uncontested), deputy federal chair Refiloe Nt’sheke (ranked first) and federal council deputy chair James Masango (uncontested). They were not elected on the basis of their skin colour, but their experience, popularity and credible offers.

Rather, Bruce actively delegitimises these party stalwarts because they don’t fit into the commentariat’s racist analysis. His line is informed by the same derogatory dismissal of black DA leaders as "garden boys or tea girls", stripping them of their autonomy, character and track records.

Is it really so difficult to understand that DA members of all races vote for individuals they believe can best fulfil the requirements of each job? This means elections are not a racial census in the DA — an attribute that is to be celebrated, not condemned.

Bruce’s analysis relies heavily on the overt racial nationalism expressed on Twitter, which assumes that politicians can only fight for or resolve the issues of citizens of their own race. We thought this myth had been dispensed with long ago, by SA’s greatest politicians, such as Helen Suzman and Nelson Mandela.

It is clear that Bruce and the rest of the commentariat are licking their wounds after their attempt to influence an internal election failed. To them, the only way out is to berate the DA’s duly elected leadership and delegates for having exercised their right to vote.

Bruce then degenerates into criticising the DA for its proactive stance on farm attacks and murders. Does he not believe this is an important issue? One that has the potential to severely comprise food security? Can he only see these gruesome attacks through a racial lens, when in fact farmers of all races are targeted and farmworkers often feel the greatest impact of these attacks? Or does he not recognise the need for a moderate, rational voice on an issue that is clearly a political tinderbox?

Bruce leaves his most absurd conjecture for last, when he argues that the DA "simply doesn’t understand the economy and struggles to even be interested in it. That minute’s silence at the start of the weekend said everything. It could have been for the thousands of employers put out of business by the government’s poor Covid lockdowns. Or the jobs lost. Or the revenue lost. Or the coming fiscal collapse."

Was he held hostage in an alternative universe at the time the DA was at the forefront of arguing for an end to the hard lockdown, or putting forward a myriad proposals focused on protecting both lives and livelihoods, or is this just cognitive dissonance? One only needs to conduct a cursory Google search to find our extensive proposals laid out in the DA’s "Blue Book" and "smart lockdown model".

Bruce argues that "this is just a party that never thinks business or economics first.

"Never. It is why it is going to continue to struggle to grow."

However, the DA has a comprehensive economic policy suite that includes an "economic justice" policy, which outlines a clear mechanism of redress that relies on socioeconomic indicators, aligned to the UN sustainable development goals, instead of using race as the sole proxy for disadvantage. This policy focuses on lifting 13-million South Africans out of unemployment and 30-million out of poverty, and is the clearest alternative to broad-based BEE since its inception.

Moreover, the adoption of a social-market economy as our fundamental economic system makes it clear that a DA-led national government would be market-based while also having in place a social safety net. It would also relax the labour legislation and cut the red tape that stifles economic growth.

While Bruce waits for President Cyril Ramaphosa to save him, we will continue selling our credible alternative to the electorate, and demonstrating the "clear blue water" between us and the ANC.

Mat Cuthbert, MP
DA shadow deputy minister of trade, industry & competition

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