/ 29 March 2018

DA quibbles over diversity wording

Frontrunner: John Moodey
Frontrunner: John Moodey

Amid calls for greater racial diversity in its own ranks, the Democratic Alliance’s federal executive has rejected a call to include more township-based party members as delegates at its federal congress next week, because of administrative constraints.

Gauteng DA leader John Moodey, who made the original request for increased representation, confirmed to the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday that the federal executive had considered various options to expand the size of the congress delegation but could ultimately not reach a workable solution.

“We have over 4 000 branches countrywide; if we amend [the list of attending delegates], we would have to have an excess of 5 000 people, to accommodate every branch,” said Moodey.

“That on its own comes with a series of logistical and financial implications, which we didn’t factor in.”

The party’s process of selecting delegates is also bound by a formula outlined in its constitution, which Moodey said could not be flouted but would be subject to change in future.

“I must admit, even from my side, that we didn’t look at the implications of us having grown as fast as we have over the last few years,” he said.

Moodey’s call for representation forms part of a wider debate in the DA on the issue of diversity, which is expected to dominate the congress’s discussions.

The M&G has seen two letters, written by DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia and North West provincial leader Joe McGluwa, urging delegates to reject a constitutional amendment championed by party leader Mmusi Maimane, which seeks to introduce a new clause on diversity in the party’s framework.

Maimane has been unapologetic about the DA’s need to start attracting more black voters and talent into its ranks.

The two senior members have joined a resistance movement started by MPs Gavin Davis and Michael Cardo, with claims that they are generating enough support to shut down the proposal from the congress floor.

It appears the main issue of contention is not so much the need to introduce a new clause as the wording of the clause.

Maimane and others who support the push for a diversity section want the constitution to state that: “The party solemnly subscribes to the preamble to the Constitution of South Africa, [which states] that: ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in diversity.’

“The party will to the best of its ability attempt to replicate diversity in its own ranks.”

But Davis, Cardo and others who have rejected the clause have cautioned that this wording is a toned-down introduction of race-based quotas.

They want the clause to read: “The party solemnly subscribes to the preamble of the Constitution of South Africa, which recognises the injustices of our past, and affirms that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

“The party will take active steps to promote and advance diversity in its own ranks, without recourse to regressive mechanisms such as quotas.”