DA sorts out its stance: The Herald

Zille secures support of party’s federal council on equity issue

THE DA has patched up its contradictory views on equity – for now. Over the weekend the party’s federal council in Cape Town debated important policy issues, with broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) and employment equity (EE) high on the agenda.

This comes after national DA leaders contradicted one another in public on issues of equity and party MPs flip-flopped by first voting for and then against EE legislation.

Speaking after the federal council yesterday, DA leader Helen Zille said the DA supported BBBEE but rejected empowerment policies that “seek to empower a narrow politically connected elite”.

She also said the DA supported EE that promoted diversity which might include racial preference, but which excluded racial quotas.

The DA proposed an incentivebased system for businesses, rather than punitive measures. Another decision taken at the federal council was that the “right to classify people according to their race” was up to individuals and not the government.

Eastern Cape black DA leaders – who did not want to be named – were tight-lipped on the debate, but admitted it was “a thorny issue” and the differing views on equity had the potential to bring damage to the party if not handled correctly.

Responding to a question on whether there had been tensions between members of the DA’s so-called “black caucus” and its “old guard”, as reported previously, Zille said this had never been an issue.

“There was never an issue . . . There never really was anything such as a ‘ black caucus’ … There wasn’t any division or racial polarisation on issues at all,” she said.

DA Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip and DA chief whip Bobby Stevenson did not want to comment on the EE debate and decisions taken at the council over the weekend, despite both attending it in Cape Town.

Trollip said only that the DA in the Eastern Cape supported the party’s new policies on equity. He said other important policies in terms of the economy and land reform were also decided on at the weekend that would impact directly on the Eastern Cape.

“We hope to implement it in at least five municipalities after the 2016 [local] election when we win these municipalities.

“During next year’s general election, we hope to increase our support levels in the province and expect to make great inroads in the ANC strongholds of the Transkei.”

Trollip said the DA’s support in Butterworth was growing and he was looking forward to the results of Wednesday’s byelection there, which might be a good barometer of next year’s general election in these parts of the Eastern Cape.

He was also hoping for a win in the two Kouga ward by-elections on Wednesday, and said the Kouga municipality had performed much better under DA-rule from 2000 to 2002.

Commenting on the DA’s policy discussions at the weekend in terms of land reform, Trollip said it was important to improve pre-settlement support to landowning beneficiaries in terms of assisting them to become sustainable commercial farmers.

Another important policy, which would be implemented in Eastern Cape DA-led municipalities in 2016, would be the transfer of ownership of RDP homes to the beneficiaries.

Zille said the set of policies finalised by her party over the weekend would drastically reduce poverty and inequality.

Economic growth had to be inclusive. “That is why we support corrective programmes that actively promote black advancement without hampering growth and jobs.”

Asked how she thought the party’s voters might respond to these policies in the general election, Zille said black advancement was aimed at benefiting all.

“If there are South Africans who don’t like this, there are many other parties to choose from,” she said.

Tweets about the #DApolicy were also mainly about the equity debate, with Lindiwe Mazibuko quoting Zille as saying, “We are one party. Sometimes we disagree, but that’s normal in politics. When we do, we always go back to principle”, while ?@LionelAdendorf tweeted, “So @helenzille decided to show @TonyLeonSA the middle finger with #DAPolicy meeting.” – Additional reporting by Sapa