DA policy head Ngwenya calls racial classification on bank forms the new ‘pencil test’

Power FM's Aldrin Sampear responded to Ngwenya admitting to ticking the wrong racial group by saying doing so should be considered 'fraud'.

Democratic Alliance head of police Gwen Ngwenya described an incident in which she knowingly ticked the wrong box when asked what racial category she belongs to in a form at the bank.

“I filled in a form at the bank and ticked ‘Indian’, banker looked at me. In the end she said nothing. I wave my pen without looking and tick what it lands on. When I can I leave it blank. We don’t have to be our own pencil test, self classifying like obedient apartheid students,” she tweeted.

The “pencil test” refers to a method used to classify people racially during apartheid. A pencil was pushed through the person’s hair to determine how “Afro-textured” it was. The test was partially responsible for splitting existing communities and families along perceived racial lines.

Ngwenya is known for her rejection of any race-based policy, including any forms of affirmative action or black economic empowerment (BEE), and is expected to drive the DA’s policy in this direction. She is part of the DA’s classical liberal camp which now appears to be calling the shots following the departure of Mmusi Maimane (part of the party’s rival progressive camp) and the election of Helen Zille to the key position of chairing the party’s federal council.

The tweet from Ngwenya provoked debate, with Power FM radio presenter Aldrin Sampear expressing harsh opposition to Ngwenya’s decision to tick the wrong racial group on the form.

“Then how do we determine the concentration of wealth/assets per demographics? I think it should be illegal for someone to tick the wrong race group. It should be fraud,” he tweeted.

READ MORE: Gwen Ngwenya responds to ‘angry’ Mashaba: ‘Three of 104 hardly signals a sea change’

“What should Stats SA do with the wrong info. How do you determine policy intervention without reliable data?” he added.

In response, Ngwenya stuck to her guns: “There is no shortage of ways to map inequality, wealth concentration [and] other economic phenomenon,” she said.

“The point of self classification is there is no official pencil test. If you want to make it fraud to tick ‘wrong’ box then there will need to be an official test to resolve dispute”.

Ngwenya stepped down as DA policy head in January 2019, citing in her resignation letter a lack of budget, a lack of support from DA leadership and having to work with inexperienced staff.

However, she returned to the part towards the end of November, announcing on Twitter: “Excited to be back in the DA and working on policy. There seems to be a real appetite for it, which is fantastic. Looking forward to working with colleagues to producing the best policy platform in South Africa, and for South Africa.”

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