Columns 26.8.2016 05:29 pm

No black like me in the DA

FILE PICTURE: DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Neil McCartney.

FILE PICTURE: DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Neil McCartney.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but there’s a lot that could be criticised about what the DA thinks ‘diversity’ actually is.

Firstly, the Democratic Alliance (DA) needs to be congratulated for scooping three metros: Tshwane, Johannesburg, and the Nelson Mandela Bay, which have long been held by the ANC. Twenty-two years into democracy, the community of Alexandra, which neighbours the plush Sandton, is still embarrassingly shanty. Sixty-one years after the “adoption” of the Freedom Charter, the people of Kliptown still live in abject poverty. The ANC inarguably didn’t cover itself in complete glory when it comes to service delivery. And Now the DA has a big task to overturn these dehumanising conditions, if that’s what it’s planning to do.

Corruption, being the ANC’s weakest point, is what the DA hopes to eradicate. The DA has proven many times it can run an almost corruption-free government. In 2015, the DA-run Western Cape provincial government achieved impressive audit outcomes with all but one of its departments receiving clean audits from the Auditor-General. Now it’s time for it to replicate that same good governance in the new municipalities they won, and the communities which have been besieged by rampant corruption for all their lives can’t wait.

When the DA seemed to be leading in terms of votes during the counting in the local government elections, South Africans started a Twitter hashtag, #IfDAWins, sharing sentiments that black people would be replaced by stereotyped white people under DA rule, and others even said they foresaw the return of apartheid. They believed, wrongly or rightly, that the DA was a party cared only about the wellbeing of the white race in South Africa.

This year in August, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille came under fire for having “too many white males” in her mayoral committee. In her defence, De Lille argued the almost all-white team of males was chosen based on their capabilities. Choosing capable people to lead in government is the right thing to do, and this is evident in the ANC, where cadre deployment led to poor service delivery. Because in most cases the deployed “cadres” often lacked the requisite skills in terms of education and work experience.

But for the DA to argue that the absence of black people in its top positions, especially in Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay is because their white males are chosen based on their capabilities suggests that white males possess some sort of a monopoly on capability. It suggests white males are the only ones in the party who have education, management experience, and the requisite skills to run a government effectively. Otherwise, we’d be seeing a more balanced team in terms of race and gender. Do white males truly possess this monopoly, or is it a failure on the part of the DA to recognise capable blacks in their provincial governments?

Any critical mind would see that this is no different to the story of a time in European history when mountaineer Edmund Hillary was the first “man” or “human being” to reach the summit of Mount Everest, while he had a Nepali mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay, right beside him, who some even believe was his guide. This logic turns a blind eye to the supposedly negligible presence of anyone who isn’t European in contributing towards positive history.

In an interview with The Citizen, the DA’s national spokesperson, Phumzile van Damme, argued that in Nelson Mandela Bay, Athol Trollip’s mayoral “representation is diverse” in terms of race and gender. But on the list, there’s literally only one black woman, along with two black men and six white men (Trollip included), out of 13 mayoral committee members. What kind of “diversity” is this when there’s one black woman on the whole team in Women’s Month? Aren’t there capable black women in the DA Trollip could have appointed in his “capable” team?

None of this is to to take away from the nearly fair representation in terms of race from the DA’s other newly elected mayors Solly Msimanga (Tshwane) and Herman Mashaba (Johannesburg). Msimanga’s mayoral committee does suggest he is in South Africa, with three black women, three black men (Msimanga included), three white men, one Indian and a coloured person. Mashaba’s list comprises a team of predominantly black people (four of which are black women) and three white people.

The aim here is not to trash the DA, but to highlight the need for more transformation in terms of race and gender. It’s not true that capabilities and an attitude opposing corruption can only be found in white communities. In trying to build on Nelson Mandela’s dream of a rainbow nation, political heads should lead by example by recognising that we have as many qualified and capable black people – black women more especially – as there are capable white people.

All that being said, let’s give all of them a chance to prove themselves, whatever colour they may be.


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