South Africa

Op-Ed: The DA needs diversity embedded in its constitution

By Solly Msimanga 4 April 2018

The debate raging within the DA, very publicly, about diversity as a core, indeed, foundational value of our party is an interesting one. It relates to the now well-publicised proposed addition of a “diversity” clause to our constitution. By SOLLY MSIMANGA.

I was quite surprised, upon closer investigation, of the complete lack of any reference to the word “diversity” in the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) federal constitution.

But has the national Constitution’s provisions and protections of diversity, to which the representatives and leaders of other parties swore an oath, prevented them from racist mobilisation? No.

The DA, however, is not those parties and our party and its members do not share such values.

The debate currently raging within the DA, very publicly, about diversity as a core, indeed, foundational value of our party is an interesting one. It relates to the now well-publicised proposed addition of a “diversity” clause to our constitution.

I must say that even in the absence of the word “diversity”, specifically, or a “diversity clause” in our constitution, it has never been necessary for me to question our party’s commitment to it, because diversity permeates our very ethos.

The federal constitution on multiple occasions affirms the fundamental rights and freedoms of every person; it rejects unfair discrimination on any grounds, commits to redress and the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights and opportunities for all and, particularly, previously disadvantaged South Africans. This is even more evident in its unequivocal affirmation of the supremacy of the country’s Constitution that explicitly commits to diversity.

The federal constitution also expressly prohibits, in any election for office, or in opposing any proposed or existent party policy or process, mobilisation of opposition in doing so or discrimination against any person on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language or birth.

Membership of our party is also conditional on signing an anti-discrimination pledge, colloquially referred to as the “anti-racism” pledge.

The crux of the debate, however, if we are honest with ourselves, relates to the selection of public representatives of our party.

Here the regulations governing this process explicitly recognise the value of diversity and provide for the proactive attainment of diverse caucuses.

Fellow Democrats will also remember the oft-repeated four pillars of our core offering: Reconciliation, Redress, Diversity and Delivery.

Indeed, we have built these four pillars into the strategic vision and programme of action of the multiparty administration I lead in the City of Tshwane, building an inclusive, truly diverse, capital city on freedom, fairness and opportunity for all.

Truly diverse” is an important point. Diversity in the DA is not a binary concept. It is not black or white, old or young, woman or man, straight or gay, rich or poor.

The diversity of DA members encompasses race, gender, class, religion, often even different political beliefs or convictions, disability, colour, culture, language, indeed diversity in the fullness that the South African Constitution in the seminal Equality Clause embraces it.

Our diversity encompasses skill, expertise, competencies; it truly embraces the individual in all his or her fullness.

Our party is, and our administrations in government are, the most diverse in the country. Truly diverse.

Our diversity is our greatest asset and our biggest strength.

The question then, is whether adding a diversity clause to the federal constitution is necessary?

Yes. It cannot be that such a core value of the party is not mentioned directly, or provided for specifically, in our party’s founding document.

However, the formulation of the current proposal does not reflect the meaning or realities of diversity in our party, and it is fundamentally at odds with the general spirit and core principles of the DA.

When we go to the congress floor, I will actively fight to ensure that we find an alternative formulation that truly reflects the diversity of the DA and enhances the inclusion of all our members. DM

Solly Msimanga is Executive Mayor of Tshwane and candidate for Federal Chairperson of the DA.

Photo: Supporters of oppositional Democratic Alliance (DA) party attend the launch of the party’s election manifesto in Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 April 2016. Photo: EPA/Kevin Sutherland

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