It’s a great strap line, but is it even possible? Wilmot James, the Democratic Alliance’s federal chairperson, seems to think so and says the number is “grounded in research”. At a media briefing on Thursday, he laid out a roadmap which he said would allow the DA, come 2014, to give voters a “credible alternative economic policy”.
First, the party will develop a diagnostic report, which they admitted might overlap with the national planning commission’s recent diagnostic report. The report will help them identify those primary constraints to economic growth, many of which James said are known: restrictive labour laws, a poor and failing education system, and a government misguided by Marxist ideology. James said the party would develop responses to these constraints and workshop them during the first half of 2012, before presenting them at the party’s policy conference in August 2012.
James took aim at the ANC, saying they have been living off of a “liberation dividend, which is now running out. The ANC’s developmental state cannot grow our economy and is inherently contradictory”.
Party leader Helen Zille admitted that many of the policies that affect economic growth are not within the DA’s control, but promised that economic policy developed from this process would be translated into government policy wherever the party won. She also highlighted the dangers of recent debate over nationalisation – a policy that she equated to appropriation without compensation, something that would require a change to the Constitution.
“We are beholden to the Constitution. While it is not perfect, we should approach changing it very carefully,” Zille said. According to her, among the Constitution’s flaws is allowing a president charged with corruption to appoint his prosecutor, a reference to the Jacob Zuma corruption saga. The party’s policies would work around the flaws in the Constitution rather than change it, Zille added.
In light of their policy direction, the DA may also see section 23 of the Constitution – the source of the trade unions’ power – as being flawed. Speaking to the Daily Maverick after the press conference, James said “We understand what happened in 1994. It was the Constitutional protection of the labour rights of adults and not, for example, the educational rights children”.
Come August 2012, if the policy document is all that is promised, it should answer how the party plans to work around this particular clause in the Constitution. DM
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