DA mops up af­ter de­ba­cle around eq­uity U-turn

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

opin­ion pieces for na­tional news­pa­pers as they sought to limit the losses among po­ten­tial new black sup­port­ers, on the one hand, and more con­ser­va­tive tra­di­tional sup­port­ers on the other.

Chang­ing the think­ing in the party on the ques­tion of re­dress was akin to “chang­ing a re­li­gious par­a­digm”, Zille said, as she staked out a new em­pha­sis on “sub­stan­tive lib­er­al­ism”, rather than the “for­mal­is­tic lib­er­al­ism” of tra­di­tion­al­ists, like for­mer leader Tony Leon and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the SA In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions, who have ac­cused the party of be­tray­ing its lib­eral roots.

The dif­fer­ence, she said, was that the for­mal­ists con­cen­trated on rights, like equal­ity be­fore the law and the right to equal treat­ment, “and the devil take the hind­most”.

Sub­stan­tive lib­er­al­ism, on the other hand, ac­knowl­edged that “the play­ing field has been so dis­torted by our his­tory that we can­not as­sume every­body starts at the same place and we be­lieve the state has a role in achiev­ing re­dress”.

Nev­er­the­less, the party re­jected the “rigid racial quo­tas” and “Ver­wo­er­dian think­ing” em­bod­ied in the Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Amend­ment Bill, which DA MPs had mis­tak­enly sup­ported when it was de­bated in the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

As the party heads to a pol­icy con­fer­ence next week, some black mem­bers are re­port­edly still ag­grieved by its change of heart on af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion.

But Zille said the party would not pan­der to ei­ther for­mal­ists or racial na­tion­al­ism.

“How do we cre­ate a non­ra­cial so­ci­ety and what kind of bridge or lad­ders do we have to con­struct from our ex­tremely racist past to achieve that with­out en­trench­ing racial pref­er­enc­ing as a per­ma­nent mech­a­nism?” Zille asked.

It was a dif­fi­cult ques­tion that ev­ery­one com­mit­ted to non­ra­cial­ism had to grap­ple with.

“Ev­ery time we come up with con­cepts that break a mould, it cre­ates mas­sive con­fu­sion and it has through­out his­tory. You break the mould and ev­ery­one re­sists and fights back.”

The “set pieces” in the de­bate on af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion are that, on the one hand, it is by def­i­ni­tion racial pref­er­enc­ing, which is good, and “the other side de­fines it in ex­actly the same way but says it’s bad”.

“We say, we are try­ing to make a bridge to a non-racial so­ci­ety.

“And so, to break the mould of how peo­ple see things is an enor­mously com­plex process, and one of the very good things about this is that it’s thrown this de­bate into sharp relief,” Zille said.

Not only or­di­nary sup­port­ers, but “some peo­ple in our own cau­cus” didn’t un­der­stand.

“Be­cause it’s hard, you have to shake off just about ev­ery­thing you’ve ever be­lieved in; it’s like chang­ing a re­li­gious par­a­digm and that is why it is so dif­fi­cult.”

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