Nobody should be surprised that the recent decision of the Democratic Alliance (DA) to reject race as a means of classifying people has attracted so much hostility in the communications media.

It has been clear for years now that the racial thinking of the African National Congress (ANC) has captured the hearts and minds of a great many members of the commentariat, both in the print media and on the Internet. The same is true of academia, non-governmental organisations, donor agencies, business, and the diplomatic corps.

The ANC, with the support of its communist and trade union allies, has actually pulled off an extraordinary intellectual feat. Its proclaimed commitment to non-racialism helped to win it massive political and financial support around the world in its quest for power. But even before the end of Nelson Mandela’s term of office as president of the country, the ANC had enacted the first of a series of affirmative action laws that have steadily undermined both non-racialism and the principle of equality before the law. This process attracted remarkably little opposition.

Ritualistically proclaiming the mantra of its commitment to non-racism, the ANC led the country by the nose in the opposite direction as more and more racial preferencing requirements were implemented in the public sector and imposed on the private sector. For the first time in its history dating back to 1929, the Institute of Race Relations was asked by corporate giving departments to provide racial breakdowns of its staff (which we refused to do).

Ideology of affirmative action

So extensively has the ideology of affirmative action permeated South Africa that there is now cynicism and even outrage when the DA, after a long detour, proclaims its commitment to two of the very principles on which the post-apartheid era was supposedly founded: non-racialism and equality before the law. The party, so we are told, has adopted ‘race denialism’, ‘turned Trumpian’, its ‘ideological purity collides with South African reality’, and its ‘liberalism’ is now dressed in quotation marks. Bizarre.

The idea that it is possible for ‘disadvantage’ to be dealt with using objective social and economic criteria rather than the crude one of race is scornfully dismissed. Conveniently forgotten is that nearly a quarter of a century’s worth of affirmative action policies are one of the main causes of this country’s social and economic ills: a crippled public sector, the wrecking of Eskom and other state-owned enterprises, massive unemployment, anaemic investment, economic stagnation, intensifying despair, rampant crime, languid prosecutions, and a public schooling system that has betrayed the hopes and aspirations of millions of young people.

Replaced one type of apartheid with another

Affirmative action is supposedly necessary to redress the effects of apartheid. But, as we all know, it has merely replaced one type of apartheid with another: a rich and corrupt black ruling class sitting astride a multi-racial middle class and vast numbers of hungry, homeless, waterless, and illiterate poor, most of them black and most of them without opportunity to improve their lot.

Yet the insinuation is made that the DA, in proclaiming its intention to use a different approach, cares more for the white minority and white privilege than for the majority of South Africans. Also bizarre.   

Given that identity politics is gaining ground in many countries, the DA’s adoption of non-racialism is timely. It is also a courageous example of political and moral leadership. In addition, it marries sound principle with practicality and experience, because 25 years of ANC policy using race as a proxy has proved to be unfair, unjust, and counter-productive. Race has indeed been less of a ‘proxy’ for dealing with ‘disadvantage’ than as an excuse for the ANC to impose its ideological agenda of demographic proportionality under the pretext of bringing about ‘redress’.

Distractions

All of South Africa’s social and economic problems, whether inherited from the past or the result of more recent policies, can be tackled without using race as a proxy for anything. We need faster growth, more investment, better public schooling and healthcare, more housing, more jobs, more entrepreneurship, safer public transport, reliable water and electricity, less crime, and much more opportunity. The ANC’s exploitation of race, and the commentariat’s obsession with it, are distractions which are not only counter-productive but wholly unnecessary. Banging on about colonialism and/or apartheid and/or race achieves absolutely nothing for the poor. Zilch.  

The DA has for too long also been distracted by the ‘race is a proxy’ argument. It should not allow media hostility to deflect it from its renewed commitment to the profoundly important principles of non-racialism and equality before the law. They were, after all, the ideals which inspired millions of people to oppose apartheid.                     

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25 COMMENTS

  1. The DA is going the right way. We all need to show support. However, the DA needs to find better ways of getting its message out. It also needs to be far more aggressive.

  2. Yes exactly. But who pays the commentators of the commenteriat? Please name and shame them so that we dont waste time and money reading misleading articles
    Take for example daily maverick and marion merton. They have done great investigative work into state capture but they are anti DA. Marion constantly undermines and denigrates the party. DM has a hidden agenda and their reporters seem to have super powers of output.
    So who is supporting them and actually writing the articles? I smell a rat

  3. This removal of race classification by ID number has long been my bugbear and a key tenet on which the policies of the ANC has always relied upon. With one pull of the rug, “race” can be exposed and the big stick brought out.

    it has been glaringly obvious that this “apartheid style” of race card has been the ANC’s ultimate trump card.
    Why only now has this been “discovered” by the DA? Possibly the answer lies in its searching for meaning and a stronger franchise in an otherwise featureless political horizon. I can hardly ascribe it to people not having thought about it for ever and a day.

    Well done, at last, DA; now stand up, find some more strong partisan partners, opinion leaders and doers and take it further

    • Race classification by ID number may have been removed, but the ANC long ago introduced race and gender classification by Z83 form, and nobody I know of has ever tried to put a stop to it. I was a soldier in the SA army back in 2001 and you would not believe the amount of race and gender politics there. The consequences of insisting on race and gender quotas instead of merit are a large part of what led to the death of Collins Khosa and others, something I warned was going to happen from my days in uniform until the moment when I clicked ‘send’ on an email to DA leader John Steenhuisen on 17 January this year, but did the DA (whom I had warned twice and even offered to testify in front of Parliament) or anybody do anything? No, because everyone was (and still is) busy playing the BEE certification game.

    • Since 1991, race has not formed part of the ID number of anybody with a South African ID document.
      Your ID number consists of the following :
      Digit 1 – 6 = your birth date (formatted as yymmdd)
      Digit 7 = your sex where 0 – 4 indicates female and 5 – 9 indicates male
      Digit 8 – 10 = your personal serial number, which basically indicates the how many-th male or female person registered for this birthday, you happen to be
      Digit 11 = indicates your country of birth, where 0 = South Africa, 1 = UK, 2 = USA, etc
      Digit 12 = 8
      Digit 13 = modulus 11 check digit

  4. A rare moment of positive news from the DA, if indeed it sticks to its guns for once and maybe clarify a few of its other principles too. Trust in the media – especially legacy media – is at an all-time low. Social media, especially the Big Tech firms, are also censorious in nature and they are enjoying a decline in trust and popularity accordingly. The DA would do well to learn from the lessons in the previous elections, and from the American political climate, of which it was very keen to copy the Obama populism right down to the logo. It is not effective to campaign on the grounds of you’re not the bad guy, it is more effective to campaign on what you have to offer as an opposition party. People vote for Trump because of what he has to offer, and now, because of the dismal state of the Democrats there, and all they have to offer is ‘orange man bad’, people take one look at Biden and say no thanks, we’re taking our chances with the oros man.

    The DA has to drain its own swamp still, although this is definitely a move in the right direction.

  5. About time. As a ‘classified’ (read white!) rich, cash cow, racist maybe you will get my vote again. All our lives matter! And DA…start making noise! Don’t be the political ‘secret force’ of South Africa. Now….allow free speach.. ffs!

  6. The ANC was a revolutionary party and their purpose was to overthrow a government considered to be unacceptable due to its political stance towards people of Color.

    After the success in being recognized as a new political party, the ANC should have taken a bow and allowed a new political group representing the interests of the ANC but also place people astute and well versed in the arena of Governing a Country into office.
    With the exception of ZUMA the presidents elected have been good but not well supported in the drive to economic growth. All were mainly focused in grabbing money.
    We now need a period of political healing to save the Country and such healing must be permitted with an understanding that every political party be allowed to bring corrective and improved rehabilitation to the Countries economic mess and financial trouble.
    There will also have to be a revised and leaner social care system as the system in place cannot be allowed to extend to all in Africa as it appears is happening. Furthermore a relaxation of regulation on business and employment must be made to allow a free market to again establish and generate growth and employment so as to generate tax income which is critical for the Country to remain operational.
    As is always the case – NO MUN NO FUN.

  7. The mindless knee-jerk reaction by ANC lackeys was predictable. What is sad though is that someone like Zapiro, who I admire enormously, sees this as nothing more than an opportunity for a cheap shot.

  8. “Media hostility should not throw the DA off course”. Correct – the classic liberals won and got what they wanted. However, the IRR and DA are on a full blown media offensive attacking our media and commentators. Even if it has merit, it comes across as having a bit of a tantrum that everything was not received according to script and judged on their own ideological terms.

    One could even argue this already suggest you are losing and the communication is not working. Look – if the DA and IRR believes what it does about the media – nothing is going to change. Focus on putting out positive communication and material about the DA’s policy platform and vision. You won and your ideas, communication vehicle and leadership strategy will now be tested. (South Africa is not the US – with a whole opposition media, new media and organisational reach and more or less half the country on its side. We should not learn lessons devoid of important “context” from the US)

    That said, two rebuttals (JKB / MM) both use the post-1994 vs Apartheid reference – in my opinion a big loser. I would copy more from the current Action SA in that you avoid evoking this politics of the past with strong identity elements and focus on now and the future. (A lot of this stuff rings likes “learn to code”, “deplorables” and strengthens the impression that South African liberalism often talks down, is a minority brand, tone deaf and thinks of the majority of the people mostly as more than a bit dof for not realising the obvious…to be fair that is liberalism in general)

  9. I personally think that BEE and other race based policies have created rather damaging stereotypes about black people and I personally commend the DA for taking such a stance in a race obsessed world. I believe that the DA shouldn’t bow down to race hustlers of this world

  10. I think the DA has adopted a wonderful policy on which to create a proper, principled and functional democracy. Now the DA needs to spread the true functionality of this policy among the majority of voters who have automatically voted ANC. The message needs to be disseminated widely – not the version being peddled by the media, but the true impact of this policy which dignifies all citizens by giving us all equal opportunities while also promoting improving education and health for those most in need, regardless of colour. That is true equality. I have often wondered what the educated post 1994 coloured and black analysts, business leaders and intelligentsia feel when everyone around them, despite their obvious talent, thinks they are only where they are because they are black. Another token. How insulting is that? The DA has now put on the table a policy which will support all equally, regardless of race. How liberating is that? This approach and how it will work in practice MUST be explained compellingly to those voters who are most likely to be misled by ANC/EFF propaganda banging on about the DA being a racist party protecting the whites. Don’t waste time on engaging with those of us who get it, but throw everything you have at those who need to understand the most. The time has never been better for the DA, what with the ANC having totally destroyed its credibility with the mismanagement of the pandemic, and the relentless looting of money from the public. Those who need the money most, have had their eyes opened to the true nature of the ANC. This gives the DA a small window of opportunity to explain their policy to those voters. Personally I would prefer the DA to work with the various Western Cape secessionist movements, but for some reason I notice they are not in favour of that idea. Then their only chance is to sway large numbers of voters to their way of thinking. A very tough objective indeed.

    • To be honest I don’t think the DA’s challenge is dissemination and / or explaining of policy at all. People understand it and they understand it within a certain perspective regardless of how liberal want them to see it. You can try and influence / change this perspective. This is the reality of politics.

      The test will be the next two election cycles and if the DA does poorly / not as well it will not be because they did not explain enough or the media disseminated their message poorly.

      The DA should absolutely not work with secessionist movements unless it has given up on South Africa and an independent Western Cape will have completely different political dynamics – the DA running it is a wide open question.

    • Agreed Andrea, as usual. PLEASE get your message to John Steenhuisen personally. JS is no fool and is probably acutely aware of what he and the DA need to do to reap the rewards of their policy changes, but a bit of pushing from you certainly won’t hurt. Regards.

  11. As much as I have supported the DA in the passed when Helen Zille was in control I now find that the imputes seems to have dwindled and be to passive to stand against the ANC it needs to start making a noise and more head way, the EFF are taking all the front running now along with there seemingly partners the ANC, time to get some back bone guys and fight your corner again.

  12. The DA needs to be commended for returning to liberal values and aggressively pursue it’s policy. The media as we see today are infiltrated by ANC cadres with a specific target to get news to go soft on ANC blunders and to up the criticism of anything that may looks like challenging or exposing ANC dirty tricks. It is clear that the ANC on the surface wants to be perceived not meddling in press freedom, but if you infiltrate the media with undercover loyalists and just slowly in little steps influence the news you get to achieve what are being witnessed nowadays.

  13. There is a lot of noise about DA’s so-called change in policy, but the fact is that the party has played the race game and broken the faith with its constituents. They now have quite an uphill road ahead to rebuild trust and come up with something that makes sense to the voters, myself included.

    • Exactly, their main issue now is rebuilding trust. Their problem is they have broken that trust on both sides now. The woke crowd has already been appeased, and now the DA is doing an about turn on that to try and appease its former Classical Liberal supporters. That broke the trust with the woke crowd, although honesty or integrity are not exactly a virtue to them.

      I’m quite happy to vote for a real minority party until the DA cleans its house.

  14. John Kane-Berman starts the article with “No one should be surprised….. ” (at media hostility). Perhaps I am naive, but I certainly was surprised and disappointed at the media response, especially from sources that I have held in high regard in the past. South Africa became the pariah of the world due to a policy based on identity politics. Am I missing something or has identity politics finally become respectable, sustainable and the accepted status quo?

    • Identity politics has finally become respectable and acceptable to the Fourth Estate. That very legacy media that merely serves as a soapbox to tell us what and how we should think – what we’re allowed to think, even – is the one who is now having a knee-jerk at the notion that the only thing the apartheid government did differently is the ratio of the identity quotas.

  15. I fully agree with John Kane-Berman. Categorizing people on a racial basis de-humanizes everybody and will South Africa, both as a civilized and developing country, turning us into a failed state. The DA now has the only viable policy for the country and a proven record of good governance! I challenge our horde of commentators to come up with something better.

  16. Two points to ponder.
    Firstly, as I have mentioned before, the ANC puts a different meaning to words than what most people believe that word to mean. “Non-racialism” is not the same as “non-racist”.
    By “non-racist” the ANC means “do not treat a person of one race different than a person of another race”
    On the other hand, “Non-racialism” in the ANC dictionary means “while we apply race to everything we do, we will not tolerate racism in anybody else”
    Secondly, certain commentators above implies that that there are no rightest or leftest media in SA, and even goes so far as to say that it certainly never existed pre-1994.
    That is certainly not true – a very popular joke going around in the mid 80s was that PW Botha was driving by where a bus full of people fell into a dam. So he got out of his car, walked on the water over to the bus and started carrying people out.
    The next day, the Beeld had as its headline: PW walks on water. The Star’s headline read: PW can’t swim.

  17. The DA as political party has rejected race – in line with the demands of the South African constitution, current international dynamics and established international conventions.

    Consequently after rhree decades of ANC racist government in the form of BEE and other racist legislation, any South African political body, “print media, academia, non-governmental organisations, donor agencies and business” who acknowledge or propagate race for whatever reason are inadvertently themselves racist.

    • While I do applaud this move on the side of the DA, it’s a very rare and lately uncharacteristic move on their part in the sense that it picked a value and it’s sticking to that value. I for one am still curious as to what their values really are, and I will not be surprised if this move gets overturned – just like it did last time. Like other commentators noted: The DA has a very rocky road ahead of it before it will regain the trust of the public.

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