PO­LIT­I­CAL PER­SPEC­TIVE: Is the DA’s pol­icy man­i­festo merely ‘Ramaphosa-light’?

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Contents -

Ihave se­ri­ous con­cerns about the DA’s per­for­mance as the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion in South Africa at the mo­ment. My first con­cern is that the DA keeps hav­ing won­der­ful ideas that ‘self-punc­ture’, and these mo­ments over­shadow the party’s achieve­ments.

In this re­gard, there is no bet­ter ex­am­ple than the saga that un­folded around the res­ig­na­tion of the for­mer mayor of Cape Town, Pa­tri­cia de Lille. No­body got out un­scathed; it was painful.

In the lat­est in­stal­ment of the Days of the DA soap opera, it has ac­knowl­edged the crim­i­nal charges laid by De Lille against top party mem­bers, but said it was also look­ing for­ward to the out­come of a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing her.

De Lille said that in April, four mem­bers of the DA forged a state­ment by the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral, and shared it on so­cial me­dia. The Of­fice of the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral has since said the state­ment was fake and that the doc­u­ment that claimed to rep­re­sent its of­fice had been forged. Now, as we try to put all the scan­dals the party has been em­broiled in dur­ing re­cent times be­hind us, I be­lieve it is im­por­tant to look at the DA’s mes­sage, and at its suc­cess sto­ries. We should also look at those ar­eas of de­bate where there is (sup­pos­edly) pol­icy fric­tion with the ANC.

This is my sec­ond con­cern: I couldn’t find any. As a party, the DA is fail­ing to pub­licly make good, solid pol­icy pro­nounce­ments, so I went to have a look at the party’s web­site.

The DA says on its web­site: “The only party to have grown in ev­ery elec­tion since 1994, we are work­ing to unite our coun­try to build one South Africa for all. A South Africa of hope, fo­cused on putting all South Africans first.”

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the party’s pol­icy doc­u­ments on the web­site in­di­cates that most of these poli­cies do not deal ex­plic­itly with an eco­nomic plan, but rather look at the in­ter­sec­tion of the so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges that face South Africa.

Agri­cul­tural pol­icy

With re­gard to agri­cul­ture, I read, un­der the head­ings ‘Your Land’ and ‘Land Re­form Pol­icy’, that to achieve the DA’s ob­jec­tive of an open op­por­tu­nity so­ci­ety for all, the party’s eco­nomic and so­cial poli­cies are pri­mar­ily aimed at cre­at­ing the cir­cum­stances for growth and job cre­ation.

“In ru­ral economies South Africa’s his­tory of racial dis­pos­ses­sion has left the coun­try with skewed pat­terns of own­er­ship that ex­cludes the ma­jor­ity of South Africans from land as­sets and in­clu­sion in ru­ral economies,” it says.

“The DA sup­ports a land re­form process that achieves re­dress in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, pro­motes eco­nomic in­clu­sion to lift ru­ral peo­ple out of poverty, and sup­ports growth and pros­per­ity in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

“As land and land-use is in­tri­cately tied to food pro­duc­tion and food se­cu­rity, poli­cies that af­fect land own­er­ship and land-use must pri­ori­tise the need to en­sure the con­tin­ued sup­ply of food at prices that are af­ford­able to or­di­nary South Africans.”

There is noth­ing about a Con­sti­tu­tion change in the da’s land re­form pol­icy

So­cial demo­cratic in­ter­ven­tion

These state­ments could have been writ­ten by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa! Ex­cept for a racial de-em­pha­sis, this is so­cial demo­cratic in­ter­ven­tion in­volv­ing re­dress for past wrongs. There is noth­ing about chang­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. Es­sen­tially, this pro­posal is more openly neo-lib­eral with re­gard to the econ­omy, but I have a feel­ing this is a ‘Ramaphosa-light’ ver­sion.

So, af­ter this short in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I still feel that the DA is not gath­er­ing enough en­ergy into the party, given the cur­rent weak­ened state of its po­si­tion.

I be­lieve the of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion party should be seen and heard to speak out more on sub­stan­tial is­sues.

The prob­lem might be that the DA is try­ing to be a ‘catch-all’ party, and maybe some of its mes­sages would not go down equally well ev­ery­where.

Po­lit­i­cal per­spec­tive by Dr Jan Ven­terDr Jan Ven­ter is a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at Aginfo. Email him at [email protected]

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