• Hlanganani Gumbi


Why do we exist as the DA?

The answer to the question should be as clear to the ordinary South African voter as it is to the many public representatives of the party. When one thinks of the brand ‘Google’ for instance, we automatically think about them being ‘our source of Information.’ This is because Google has taken the time to have complete clarity about why they exist with their bold plan to be the world's number one source of organized information. As the DA, answering our ‘why’ should be as clear to both DA and non-DA voters, as it is to any potential google user.

Let's start with what we are not as a party. The DA I know, is not racist. We are not a party for minorities only. We are not an emotionless party devoid of compassion. We are not a party that is unaccountable to the electorate and to our membership. We are not a party of just one or two leaders, who rule with an iron fist. We are not trolls that scan social media to provoke people we disagree with. That is NOT who we are as a party.

What is true however, is that the DA’s routes stem from liberal foundations. Those foundations, embedded into the values outlined in our constitution, want to achieve certain means for our party and particularly the people of South Africa. Those include dealing with poverty, unemployment, extreme inequality, racial injustice and crime because they are a barrier to many people enjoying the actual freedoms that we want for the people of South Africa. Some people, including my own colleagues, say that ‘liberalism’ is the reason we exist. Is it really though? In a previous blog post I made the statement that nowhere in our constitution does it say that we are a liberal party. Not a single person has contested that with reference in the actual constitution. Instead, the only reference made is to the historical foundations of our party.

Why do we exist as a party? The gross majority of people do not care about our ideology in the callous way in which politicians do. South Africans have very real and serious fears which threaten their dignity and the future of our country. Many of them are also losing patience with the ability of our political system (and by extension major political parties) to solve their problems. It is the reason why nationalist political parties such as the FF+ and EFF come to prominence because they present hard solutions for complex problems in an atmosphere where people are losing hope. When Afrikaans farmers are made scapegoats for the failures of the ANC government to manage our economy, and they feel like those they have trusted with looking after their interests are not effective, they look for a party like the FF+ who say to them that ‘we stand by you at the expense of others.’ And when young black people are left unemployed for years, still as disposed as if it were the height of apartheid, they look for a party like the EFF who say to them, ‘we stand by you at the expense of others.’ These political parties, are a threat to our democracy. They are a consequence of the failure of our democratic government to steadily improve the quality of lives of all South Africans. Our reason to exist, should never copy their strategy and ethos of choosing one group of people, over another.

The DA I know, exists to be a party for all South Africans. Like Google however, we cannot just say it, everything we do must mean it and we must have the most ambitious plan to achieve it. This means everything we do and say, must embody this. When South Africans look at us and hear us, they must see that indeed we represent all of them. These are deliberate efforts at NOT being a better version of the FF+, ANC or any other party, but mapping our own way forward into the future. And when South Africans don’t vote for our purpose, we don’t blame them and trash them, instead we do better to improve the quality of our offer to inspire them.

In a time when South Africans are losing patience, hope and where racial tensions are exasperated, a party for all is the one that brings people together with hope and a genuine commitment to fight for a noble ideal. It is the reason why we have spent years, hundreds of millions of Rands and enormous energy, branding ourselves under the slogans of ‘One South Africa for All’ and ‘One Nation, One Future’ for instance. It is a choice we took for the future and which South Africans have overtime rewarded us for through electoral growth with the most diverse membership and voter base. It is also the choice I believe which will continue to allow us to grow and become a new majority in South Africa.

In October 2006 when former Chief Strategist Ryan Coetzee addressed the DA Federal Council, the party made the bold decision to aggressively become a party for all by taking deliberate steps to make this declaration more credible. At the time, he said two key things in a long argument which sticks with me today. He argued, “If we are going to succeed in being a party of all the people, the DA needs to display the same passion about eradicating the legacy of apartheid as we currently do about crime, corruption, and ANC power abuse.” And in conclusion he said, “I am really arguing one fairly simple point: that to be a party for all the people, the DA has to care equally about the identities, issues and concerns of all the people. If we do this, then we will project that care and will be rewarded by growing support.”

This is the reason we exist as a party, and was endorsed by Federal Congresses thereafter. It is the reason we have overtime begun building trust with all South Africans. It is the path for continued growth and security for our party and the country. It is also the path that I am arguing a credibly constituted DA Federal Congress must continue to endorse for the future - especially when it is under threat. If we take that path, we will present the best available opportunity to led a new majority into the future – and ultimately deliver on the freedoms that the liberal tenants of our party, both deeply and rightfully treasure. That is why having a deep sense of compassion and sensitivity to the history and stories of all the people, connecting with them and fighting on their behalf with the suitable emotional intensity is required. It is why we must be as deeply and emotionally angered at farm murders for both farmers as we are for the farm workers, at racism against black people as we do the scapegoating of minorities.

If building this kind of party means we are woke, a mob or any other boogeyman theory, then so be it. Any other choice, strategy, politics and goal, will mean the DA fails in its quest to save South Africa from the ANC – and in the end, the nationalists who wait in the wings will win.

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