DA’s ‘black cau­cus’ faces stormy de­bate

Dif­fer­ences over race-based af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion to be aired at con­fer­ence

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG DODDS

A BID by the so-called “black cau­cus” in the DA to per­suade del­e­gates at a pol­icy con­fer­ence this weekend to sup­port race­based af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion looks set to fall on stony ground.

A Green Pa­per on eco­nomic in­clu­sion pre­pared for the con­fer­ence, of which Weekend Ar­gus has seen a copy, makes the party’s dis­taste for race­based re­dress clear.

While it voices sup­port for mea­sures to “ex­pand op­por­tu­nity and to em­power eco­nomic out­siders, and specif­i­cally pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged cit­i­zens”, it calls for the re­moval of race as a cri­te­rion in em­pow­er­ment mea­sures.

“Our ap­proach to em­pow­er­ment will help over­come the legacy of race-based ex­clu­sion with­out en­trench­ing ‘race’ as the de­ter­min­ing fac­tor of our fu­ture as we build an open, op­por­tu­nity so­ci­ety for all,” the doc­u­ment says.

It puts for­ward four pil­lars of the party’s ap­proach to “eco- nomic in­clu­sion and re­dress”: ex­pand­ing op­por­tu­nity, em­pow­er­ing South Africans for par­tic­i­pa­tion, re­dress in its plan for growth and jobs and in­cen­tivis­ing busi­ness con­tri­bu­tions to re­dress.

But in its dis­cus­sion of the score­card for Broad- Based Black Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment and the Codes of Good Prac­tice flow­ing from the leg­is­la­tion, the Green Pa­per says th­ese must be “de­lib­er­ately re­shaped to broaden the scope of em­pow­er­ment… and must move away from an ex­clu­sive fo­cus on racial tar­gets and race-based re­dress”.

Else­where, the doc­u­ment says the DA “does not sup­port quan­ti­ta­tive racial tar­gets for em­ploy­ment eq­uity, and es­pe­cially not the eth­nic break­down of racial tar­gets into cat­e­gories of pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple as pro- posed in the cur­rent amend­ments to the Codes of Good Prac­tice”.

This stands in con­trast to com­ments by DA par­lia­men­tary leader Lindiwe Maz­ibuko and Khayelit­sha MP Ma­si­zole Mn­qasela, among oth­ers, who have said there is a role for race in af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pol­icy.

Maz­ibuko said re­cently “resti­tution is a ne­ces­sity and part of it is race-based”.

Mn­qasela would ar­gue for the DA to sup­port BEE and af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion poli­cies, but set a 20-year cut-off date, the Mail & Guardian re­ported yes­ter­day.

Al­ter­na­tively, he would ask that MPs be al­lowed to vote in­de­pen­dently of the party line.

Wil­mot James, the party’s fed­eral chair­man and pol­icy guru, said its po­si­tion would be up for de­bate at the con­fer­ence, which opens to­day at the City Hall and ends tomorrow.

He said the party had been re­view­ing all its poli­cies through a con­sul­ta­tive process go­ing back at least eight months. Its po­si­tion on em­ploy­ment eq­uity had been thrown into relief when the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion came up in Par­lia­ment.

Party leader He­len Zille said it had “dropped the ball” in sup­port­ing the Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Amend­ment Bill, which she claimed would in­tro­duce “rigid racial quo­tas”.

The furore had helped the party to re­fine its po­si­tion.

“So we are pre­sent­ing an ap­proach we’ve been work­ing on for a while, but it’s cer­tainly some­thing that has evolved into some­thing that I think bet­ter an­swers the ques­tion of the DA’s ap­proach to re­dress, and the place of race in that,” James said.

Del­e­gates would be able to change the pol­icy if they could con­vince the fed­eral coun­cil, in a spe­cial sit­ting, “to go one way or the other”.

“It will prob­a­bly be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant dis­cus- sions we will have,” James said.

Speak­ing for him­self, he said: “We can’t pre­tend that non-racial­ism means we are blind to race.”

How­ever, he said he favoured a “cre­ative” ap­proach that didn’t ad­van­tage any­one to the ex­clu­sion of oth­ers, over a “me­chan­i­cal” method that pre­dicted out­comes.

James Selfe, chair­man of the DA fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive, said while the 120-plus del­e­gates to the con­fer­ence could pro­pose amend­ments, the process was al­ready “fairly far ad­vanced by the time we get to this stage”.

The con­fer­ence favoured con­sen­sus and sel­dom put pol­icy ques­tions to a vote.

“Ob­vi­ously there might be is­sues over which there are sharp dis­agree­ments and it’s un­able to ar­rive at agree­ment and then one might put a thing to the vote, but it’s very un­usual in my ex­pe­ri­ence,” Selfe said.

Del­e­gates were drawn from DA rep­re­sen­ta­tives in all spheres of gov­ern­ment, as well as the rank and file.

This means most will come from the Western Cape and Gaut­eng, where the DA re­ceived 989 132 and 924 211 votes in the 2009 na­tional elec­tions re­spec­tively.

Next came KwaZulu-Natal, with 364 518 votes.

DA Western Cape leader Ivan Meyer said the prov­ince had not adopted a po­si­tion on em­ploy­ment eq­uity and, while it had dis­cussed the is­sue, did not have a con­sol­i­dated set of pro­pos­als on any of the 20 pol­icy ar­eas up for re­view.

Gaut­eng leader John Moodey said the prov­ince had ap­pointed a fa­cil­i­ta­tor to steer dis­cus­sions on pol­icy from con- stituency level up­wards.

This had cul­mi­nated in a meet­ing on Wed­nes­day of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the re­gions, chaired by the fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

This group had a man­date to set out the prov­ince’s stance.

But Moodey said it had not set­tled on a po­si­tion on em­ploy­ment eq­uity.

He said he had per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of how “Ver­wo­er­dian” af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pol­icy could frus­trate in­di­vid­ual progress and, on the other hand, in the case of his daugh­ter, how hard it was for new grad­u­ates to get work in their pre­ferred field with­out ex­pe­ri­ence.

How­ever, he did not be­lieve in puni­tive mea­sures, such as con­tained in the Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Amend­ment Bill.

“The fin­ing and the threat of a fine, whack­ing them in the pocket to force in­dus­try to com­ply, that’s not an in­cen­tive.”

James was con­fi­dent the DA could come out of the con­fer­ence speak­ing with one voice.


HOPE­FUL: Wil­mot James

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