What diversity means for DA

Targeted recruitment favoured over quotas

DA leader Mmusi Maine dancing at the DA National Congress which was held this weekend.
DA leader Mmusi Maine dancing at the DA National Congress which was held this weekend.
Image: Alon Skuy

Just hours after a crucial part of his policy proposal on race was effectively shot down, DA leader Mmusi Maimane defended his party’s position, saying that racial quotas were undemocratic and would not be allowed in its constitution.

Following heated debates at its national congress in Tshwane at the weekend, the DA adopted Maimane’s diversity policy but fiercely rejected replicating a quota system in its ranks.

Its new policy intends to take active steps to promote and advance diversity in the party.

This is a shift from Maimane’s proposal to attempt to replicate South Africa’s diversity in the DA’s ranks.

Some analysts have seen the policy as a necessary move to force the party to confront transformation in its ranks.

It has also been seen as a balancing act to appease its traditional constituency while also appealing to a new base.

Addressing the media yesterday, Maimane said the DA recognised the historical injustice of apartheid.

“The clause around diversity not only says the party must strive, but that it must actively go out to promote diversity,” he said.

“The ANC’s model on this issue is to say ‘let’s take the country’s demographics and replicate through quotas into any structure’.

“So if we were a rugby side, it’s natural then to say ‘OK, if South Africa has 90% black people, 5% Indian, 3% white, 2% coloured, let’s take the same quotas and apply them to the team’.

“That’s what our party rejects because in a political system you cannot do that,” Maimane said.

“It would be undemocratic of me to say ‘OK delegates, let’s go out and vote for just women. Or let’s vote for these people or [those] people.’

“It cannot be. That is why you cannot infuse quotas.”

He said the only way to transform the party was through a recruitment process.

“You say, go out of your way to recruit the following people, the following gender, the following race.

“In the debate itself, we even looked at the structures in Soweto and said while they represent a particular race, let’s go and attract other races so that when you see a DA table, you see the representation.”

Maimane’s proposal to extend the terms of DA leaders from three years to five years was also defeated.

Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said the diversity clause was tricky for the DA as the party’s support base was built largely on white and coloured supporters.

“It’s been a point of tension among whites and coloured people, in the sense that coloureds at times feel they are neglected in favour of Africans, whereas the whites are still steeped in denialism.”

He said some white members continued to deny the brutality of apartheid.

“To open up the debate of diversity is to force them to deal with the absence of black people in the DA and this is explained by the racial history of the DA and its liberalism, the fact that it was focused more on white people and the protection of white privilege,” Ndletyana said.

Nelson Mandela University political analyst Ongama Mtimka said while the DA wanted to be attractive to a wider constituency, it did not want to be reckless in the growth that it projected.

“The challenge is that in changing itself to appeal to its new market, the DA does not want to be irrelevant to its old constituency.

“This diversity policy is a balancing act.

“Its adoption itself is to ensure that the DA is no longer seen as the natural home for minorities, but at the same time without alienating them.”

Meanwhile, Bay mayor Athol Trollip retained his position as DA federal chairman, two days before he is to face a motion of no confidence in council.

The position was the most senior one contested at the DA’s federal congress – Maimane was elected uncontested as leader of the party.

James Selfe, chairman of the federal council, who also heads up the federal executive, was also elected unopposed at the congress that was punted as one that would be a battle for the soul of the DA.

Shortly after being re-elected, Trollip said he was ready to face the motion of no confidence that was tabled by the Economic Freedom Fighters in a bid to punish the DA for not supporting land expropriation without compensation.

He said the events were unrelated, but with his re-election now behind him he could “focus on keeping our government intact so we can continue to change the people of Nelson Mandela Bay’s lives”.