Citizen Reporter
4 minute read
7 Aug 2018
2:53 pm

Chaos and faction fighting plague DA after BEE decision

Citizen Reporter

Whether or not the DA has dropped BEE as party policy depends on which member you ask, with factions struggling to agree on one thing.

The DA’s MP and Head of Policy Gwen Ngwenya speaks in Randburg about land expropriation.

The DA’s decision to drop Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) as party policy has led to chaos within the party as its politicians struggle to find agreement, News24 has reported.

The party’s dropping of BBBEE reportedly led to some of its members engaging in an angry battle on social media, attacking each other and failing to find consensus over whether the party has indeed scrapped their empowerment policy.

The DA’s federal council – its highest decision-making body – over the weekend confirmed that it had decided to ditch BEE last month in favour of crafting a new, broader economic empowerment network, which would encompass skills and jobs.

Within the DA, the policy was said to be what led to former party leaders Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko being at loggerheads. Mazibuko left the party after being accused by Zille of failure to properly scrutinise the legislation before supporting it in parliament.

According to News24, there is much confusion as to what was decided at a July meeting, with at least five members of the party’s highest decision-making body all having a different interpretation of what a 152-page document titled Vula: The ‘open’ economy, Open for business actually meant.

The paper is meant to clarify the DA’s economic policies ahead of the 2019 elections.

At least three sources said the paper was adopted for further discussion, with two stating the meeting never decided that this would be the party’s new policy.

It was also reported that party members, including MP Phumzile van Damme and federal council chairperson James Selfe, had a heated public argument over social media.

READ MORE: ANC not shocked by DA’s flip-flopping on BEE

While Van Damme and Selfe said reports that the DA had dumped BEE were “fake news”, head of policy Gwen Ngwenya, who announced the party had abandoned its empowerment policy, continued to insist this was the case.

The DA’s Eastern Cape provincial leader Nqaba Bhanga backed Van Damme, saying Ngwenya’s comments did not reflect a decision taken by the federal council.

Some within the party said what was discussed was just a policy proposal and not, as Ngwenya has stated, a party position.

Others, however, such as Gavin Davis, Belinda Bozzoli, Mike Waters and Michael Cardo, disagree and have shown support for Ngwenya.

“Great news, an important step forward. BEE has not worked to empower vast majority of black South Africans. The DA is working on a new alternative policy framework that will,” Davis tweeted after Ngwenya’s statement.

Bhanga, on the other hand, called any decision made by the DA to drop BEE “suicidal”.

“I disagree with [Ngwenya] because for more than 300 years black people have been excluded in South Africa from the economy, therefore when there is a discussion to downplay that [race], you are making a fundamental mistake because black people remain excluded,” he said.

DA member of the provincial legislature in Gauteng Khume Ramulifho feels that BBBEE is still relevant.

“Skills transfers, job opportunities, wealth creation and development must remain high on the agenda. This must be implemented and not only target those who are politically connected but improve the life of an ordinary person,” Ramulifho said.

This contrasts with what another DA leader who sits on the federal executive council had to say.

“We have decided against BEE. My recollection of how it happened is similar to what [Ngwenya] said,” according to this source.

READ MORE: Ditching BEE will cost DA, says analyst

The Citizen reported on Monday that political analyst Somadoda Fikeni warned that the dropping by the Democratic Alliance (DA) of black economic empowerment (BEE) as its policy was likely to damage the party’s brand in the eyes of the black South African electorate in the run-up to next year’s polls.

Fikeni, an academic at Unisa, said any political party could easily say BEE did not work, “except the DA”.

“When it is the DA saying this – a party known for having been against land expropriation and the mining charter transformation – then you must know that in the eyes of the country’s black electorate, it has defined itself as the Freedom Front Plus and AfriForum,” said Fikeni.

“The perception is that it is a party that still protects the propertied class, which is mainly white.”

On Tuesday morning, The Citizen reported The African National Congress (ANC) had reiterated its “consistent and unambiguous position” on BEE, saying it had neither been shocked nor surprised by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) “flip-flopping” on the policy.

“We have long exposed the DA as a party committed to defending white privilege and preserving the status quo. The DA’s opposition and active resistance to BBBEE is understandable. Beneficiaries of economic apartheid cannot be expected to support policy measures that broaden access to economic opportunities to the majority of South Africans, and in the process shake the very foundation of white economic privilege,” the ANC said in a statement.

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