John Steenhuisen says September has been a defining month for the Democratic Alliance (DA), and that he's proud of the resolutions adopted at the party's virtual policy conference last weekend.

He said the DA has now anchored themselves to a set of "extraordinarily powerful and enduring" values and principles, including non-racialism, redress, compassion, and integrity.

"I cannot conceive of a more solid foundation on which to unite and build our party and our country, a higher standard against which to measure ourselves in government and in opposition, nor a more reliable loadstar for policymaking."

Targeting disadvantage 

Non-racialism, he said, means non-discrimination on the basis of race, and inherent in this principle, is the imperative to compensate past racial discrimination.

Steenhuisen said in line with the party's commitment to non-racialism, they have also adopted an economic redress policy that targets disadvantage, rather than race. 

"Importantly, it prioritises those who still suffer – and suffer most – the consequences of past discrimination and exclusion: the over 30 million South Africans living below the poverty line, excluded from the economy."

DA not denying the past

"This is not to deny that past discrimination and exclusion were race-based. On the contrary, the DA is not a political home for anyone who denies that Apartheid and colonialism disadvantaged people on the basis of race, and that this disadvantage must be systematically dismantled," said Steenhuisen.

Nor is it to deny the existence of racism and racialism, which grew from the false belief in a scientific basis for race, the interim DA leader added.

"Rather, it is to hold that it is preferable to compensate past exclusion by directly addressing the factors which perpetuate that exclusion than by racial discrimination in the other direction."

Meeting international norms

Touting his party's economic plan as a "better route to a fairer society," Steenhuisen said it also puts "clear blue water between the DA and the ANC," offering an approach to tackling racialized inequality that avoids the "serious shortcomings" of the ANC's race-based BEE and employment equity (EE) redress policies, 

"It avoids the need to resort to racial classification for which there exists neither scientific nor constitutional basis," he said of the DA's newly-adopted economic policy. 

Steenhuisen further argued that the DA approach enriches the poor, which is in everyone's best interest, while the ANC's race-based redress enables the "enrichment and re-enrichment of a connected elite," at the expense of the rest of society, who get less value from public spending, due to inflated tenders and non-merit-based appointments in the public service. 

The DA policy position is also aligned with the globally accepted approach to measuring and incentivising companies' social contribution, and the UN's social development goals, he added, and will attract rather than deter investment as BEE and EE do.  

Ramaphosa in the crosshairs

The DA leader then tore into the President, charging that "Cyril Ramaphosa's lockdown has now turned a recession into a deep depression" that will condemn millions more to dire poverty unless South Africa embrace wide-ranging pro-growth reforms, one of which is to "reject the ANC's investment-killing, race-based redress policies."

"All the lockdown really achieved was to give legitimacy to the Disaster Management Act, under cover of which ANC cronies were able to inflate tenders and loot the state."

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa could have "trusted and empowered people to weigh up their own risks and act accordingly within a reasonable set of safety rules, but opted instead for "highly centralized, top-down state control."

This is the same approach he is taking to our economic recovery, he added, which is why there is "reason to doubt that the economy will recover to anything better than it was prior to lockdown," when it had already contracted for three consecutive quarters.

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"In the fullness of time, Ramaphosa's presidency may prove to have been every bit as damaging as was Zuma's. His lockdown has set South Africa's progress back by at least a decade. History will not absolve him, as he claims."

He then threw down the gauntlet to voters.  

"They can choose the DA, a law-abiding, non-racial party committed to a social market economy and a capable state, with a track record of delivery and a plan to tackle economic exclusion. Or they can choose the ANC, a corrupt, racial nationalist party committed to state control of the economy and cadre deployment, with a track record of economic destruction and a programme of wealth extraction for the elite."

This is the clear blue water South Africa needs if we are to build a better future for all, Steenhusen concluded writing in his 'Straight Talk' newsletter.

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