Opinionista Refiloe Nt'Sekhe 25 April 2018

There’s strength and beauty in diversity

The media’s fascination has been that, of the senior or national leadership of the DA, I am the only black female. People failed to recognise that although I may be the only black female in the federal leadership, I was elected by a congress of very diverse members.

There has been much healthy debate around diversity, going into and after the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Tshwane Federal Congress earlier this month. It highlighted the fact that the DA remains committed to reconciliation (not at the expense of justice) and diversity – using all the makers of gender, race, class, age, religion and so on.

I, along with the majority of South Africans, truly believe it the best way to share how there is strength and beauty in diversity.

The story about diversity comes from a dream I had, in which I woke ready to continue fighting for diversity and reconciliation. It is a fight many believe in and are committed to.

There was a space of land which belonged to no one. Black people arrived and started singing there. Then white people arrived and started singing there. At separate times of the day.

Then one day, they both arrived at the same time. In this land the methodology for fighting was to sing out your competitor. The king of this land was the MC.

At first only the black people sang because they were in the majority.

When the song finished the white people tried to sing their song. When the white people’s song was finished, the conductor said, “everyone together – Shosholoza” which everyone knew how to sing.

The MC kept shouting “integrate, integrate” and so the whites moved in between the blacks until all one could see was a sea of people; and it was beautiful to the eye, yet intimidating.

The blacks taught the whites how to dance and the whites showed the blacks how to sing in high pitches. They had taught each other new things.

The blacks and whites sang together, they sang as if their lives depended on it – they put all their energy into it and as they held hands while singing they found that they sang even louder and with more passion.

The MC then said, “Just like an army practices for war when there isn’t a war, everyone from today will continue to sing together because listening to your individual voices, you hurt my ears, but when you sing together, you make the most beautiful music: the singing is beautiful and the dancing is more beautiful when you do it together. You learn from each other. You teach others what you know and learn what you didn’t know. That is the strength of diversity. Look at how singing and dancing together.

Does anyone even know why you even hated each other so much – no one answered? Now carry on singing and dancing together just because you sing and dance far more beautifully together than individually. It is only through singing and dancing together that you can defeat whatever may come your way. And if you don’t pull together, if the enemy senses, you will be destroyed. Because there will be pockets of weaknesses in the song. The wise enemy will look for these to destroy you.”

She then made an announcement: blacks, you did not win, and similarly whites, you did not win. Integration is the winner. Together you sang and danced beautifully.

As I woke up I thought that this is a beautiful dream which I would like to share with South Africa. We are a diverse nation and through working together we can truly make South Africa the great country it holds the potential to be. Our beautiful country can take its place among the greatest nations of the world. South Africa does not lack anything. Through our diversity, we have all the ingredients which can make this country a force to be reckoned with. The people who make up this country are so beautiful – from our distinct backgrounds: blacks and whites, men and women, different religions, different sexual orientations, disabilities, one can go on and on: the sum of all these is truly a beautiful country where our different identities are a strength.

Having adopted diversity as a fourth value, the DA is on track to making South Africa one of the greatest nations of the world.

At the 2015 congress which was held in Nelson Mandela Bay, the party adopted freedom, fairness and opportunity as its core values. Adding diversity into the mix is a party acknowledging that in diversity comes the strength of an organisation. Diversity is indeed a very complex subject but also very sensitive subject.

In South Africa, because of our very painful past, the focus areas of diversity tend to be on race, gender and then looking at age (including youth). The other elements of diversity seem to fall by the wayside.

The situation does raise interesting dynamics about South Africa. I was re-elected as one of the DA deputy federal chairpersons at the federal congress. The media’s fascination has been that, of the senior or national leadership of the DA, I am the only black female. Further to this, people failed to recognise that although I may be the only black female in the federal leadership, I was elected by a congress of very diverse members. Looking only at race, the congress had blacks, whites, Indians and coloureds.

The DA stance of adopting diversity says “we look to find people who align with our values from diverse backgrounds” including with certain targets where more work needs to be done; a target doesn’t restrict as it can be exceeded, thereby allowing organic growth. There are instances where an area is dominated by a certain group – this dynamic must be accommodated.

Once again, I believe that by adopting diversity as a value the party is saying to itself: “We are not as diverse as we could be, and as the DA we will not be shying away from the fact that we would like to see more black people, and more women, coming through the ranks and taking up more senior positions either in leadership, the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. This then inspires and encourages members to go out and find people who share our political ideologies as well as our values to join us.

Diversity as a value will be a daily reminder that we need to become far more diverse.

As we head to 2019, we are working to ensure that we have a diverse pool of candidates. The more diverse the pool, the stronger the country, because all the ideas that come into the pot are more powerful towards making South Africa the greatest nation in the world – now that would be something! DM

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