The Democratic Alliance on Monday labelled its weekend policy conference a success with an “overwhelming majority” of voting delegates agreeing with the policies proposed.
DA delegates met collectively, yet alone as the party gathered virtually to vote on the policy path of the party, which has been dogged by strategy uncertainty and a party leadership battle after a disappointing showing in the 2019 general elections.
Among the major policy proposals to be adopted by the official opposition includes a revised stance on economic justice. It eschews the use of race as a proxy for inequality and a means for redress. It’s a stance that differs from that of former DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who said race was a significant factor in determining whether one is disadvantaged or not.
In explaining the party’s move, the head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, stressed that while it recognises past colonial and apartheid injustices that harmed black people, the party was essentially colour-blind to those who require redress to uplift their current position. She added that current ANC-government policy benefited a small elite.
“While we can use the proxy of race, it doesn’t tell us everything you need to know about the material conditions experienced by people. And if you want to address those material conditions, you need to know more about them than their race,” Ngwenya said.
“We need to move away from this intellectualised, abstract, debate about whether race is a proxy or no, because it doesn’t get us down to the issues that people face on the ground and that we need to address to ensure more economic inclusion.”
Asked during a media briefing whether the DA supports the global movement, Black Lives Matter, Ngwenya said it does but would not be prescriptive on how party members show their support.
“We don’t think people should be forced into specific actions to demonstrate their allegiance or their support of a particular cause,” she said. “People are judged to be in support or not in support of a particular ideal because they’ve refused to take part in some performative action which a group has decided it’s necessary. We will not be forcing people to undertake any performative action.”
The weekend policy conference comes amid several reports of disgruntlement among the rank and file of DA members, and mainly it’s black caucus.
Asked whether reports of an alleged purge of outspoken leaders in the DA is accurate, federal executive chairperson Helen Zille was quick to refute this.
Last week the Daily Maverick reported that two-thirds of the party’s provincial leaders face censure, including former Gauteng leader John Moodey who last week resigned from the DA.
“I don’t know where the myth arises that six out of nine provincial leaders are facing charges at the moment,” Zille said. “That is not true. One provincial leader is facing charges, and that happens to be the one leader who isn’t black. That’s apart from John Moodey who was facing charges.”
She described the accusations against Moodey as, “some of the most serious charges that have ever come before the federal legal commission”.
The DA accuses the former party veteran of being behind an alleged conspiracy to defame a DA colleague and a former party deputy chief whip, Mike Waters, in a sex-for-jobs scandal.
Although the DA said it has voice recordings confirming Moodey’s alleged conspiracy, the former provincial leader said he could back up his counterclaims with affidavits.
Zille added: “We have many black leaders. And when a white person is charged, we don’t talk about a purge or an exodus. We have a fair and due process. And that applies to everybody. We don’t have purges in the DA.”
Though the party declared it’s first virtual policy conference a success, there were hiccups.
Several non-voting delegates who have rights to participate in debates but not to vote cast their ballots in favour or against policy proposals.
But the DA said these votes were picked up by auditors and excluded from the final vote count.
“Our system worked at 100 percent. We could pick up non-voting delegates who voted. I’m sure 99.9 percent [did so] by mistake. We have an audited result that we are 100 percent satisfied as being accurate,” Zille said.
She said the party would not be using the current voting system during its federal congress from October 31 to November 1 when a new DA leader will be elected.
DA delegates will vote in a secret ballot in an election between interim leader John Steenhuisen and Kwazulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli.
“We are using a system that has been used by leading parties all over the world. The liberal democrats in the UK use it. It’s also been used in the United States. It makes certain only the person with the specific link as a voting delegate can vote,” Zille added.