IT is of great interest to me to speculate about the motive seeds for Gareth van Onselen’s diatribe against the alleged departure of the DA from pure liberal principles or ideology, in theory or practice (“DA denies its liberal root”, January 6).
As a former activist in the original Liberal Party of Peter Brown and Alan Paton, detained without trial after Sharpeville, I decided after prolonged contemplation to join the Progressive Party in the 1970s. I did this when I was sure, from the second Molteno Commission report, that the franchise and constitutional proposals of the two parties, eventually, coincided.
In the following years of party evolution and in particular the role of the Democratic Party in the negotiations for the liberal constitution adopted in 1996, I became more and more satisfied with the liberal credentials of the evolving structures, and never more so than witnessing the DA in power in the Western Cape, observing and propagating liberal principles and policy in a consistent fashion. To my mind and to a host of others, every vestige of liberal aspirations and plans for a constitutional democracy, conceived in the Verwoerd era, by proscribed Liberals has been brought, thankfully, to implementation or fruition.
Nelson Mandela was as cherished by Helen Suzman and her colleagues through the 27 years of his incarceration – see Robin Renwick’s recent monograph on the issue – so that in his presidency he became the embodiment of the liberal pacific vision, which makes the idea of his image in DA usage entirely appropriate. In this context I submit that Van Onselen is misdirected in his thesis or perhaps, not entirely disinterested.
-Colin Fraser Lang, Knysna