Would-be DA leader Makashule Gana flags party stance on race as key issue

12 November 2019 - 16:51 By Aphiwe Deklerk
Makashule Gana wants the DA to acknowledge the historical pain of black South Africans.
Makashule Gana wants the DA to acknowledge the historical pain of black South Africans.
Image: SIMON MATHEBULA

Gauteng MPL and would-be leader of the DA, Makashule Gana, has flagged the party’s stance on race as one of its main problems.

Gana is in a two-man contest to replace Mmusi Maimane as party leader at the federal council meeting, set to be held at the weekend.

In a message to delegates who will decide on the party's interim leader, Gana argued that the DA cannot continue to “propound a brand of politics that strains to emphasise that race does not matter” but still recognises that in order to win elections, it has to have black leadership.

“I do not think this is sustainable because it is fundamentally hypocritical,” wrote Gana.

He argued that although the party had a review process on why it lost votes in the May election, it has still not been able to resolve this question.

“Had we done so, I believe the damage caused by Helen’s [Zille] comments, which are hurtful to many black people, or the poor handling of the Patricia de Lille issue in Cape Town would have been negligible,” said Gana.


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His comments come on the same day that his opponent, John Steenhuisen, argued against race being used as a proxy for disadvantage during a radio interview with Eusebius McKaiser.

But Gana argued that for many black people, “blackness” was still irrevocably linked to their material conditions, which were dire compared with those of their white compatriots.

“It absolutely does not hurt to acknowledge this predicament. It is a just, humane and honest thing to do,” he said.

Gana argued that the party's refusal to acknowledge this communicates a message that black people in the DA are there “essentially as political packaging to win votes".

“There are those in the party who on one hand say that they believe in the country’s constitution, but simultaneously baulk at the injunction to redress the injustices of the past," he said.

“It is particularly striking that these people obsess about race only - and not gender and sexuality and [other] ongoing discriminations. This perpetuates the belief among some South Africans that the party is there to protect the interests of white South Africans only."

Gana said the party needed to come to terms with the fact that if it is serious about political power, it cannot win the hearts and minds of black South Africans without acknowledging their historical pain.

“I am therefore saying that the most sustainable path for the DA is not picking black leaders who are expected to tip-toe around our historical albatrosses, but a position that is genuinely compassionate to the ongoing racialised, gender and sexual orientation inequities in our society,” he said.

He said if the DA takes such a position, voters would not care whether the leader was black or white.


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