The DA was not the party for people who harboured prejudices and those who “think life was better under apartheid” and “it was not a white party, or a black party or a brown party”, DA leader Helen Zille told delegates to the party’s national congress in Boksburg yesterday.
In her opening address Zille firmly dispelled accusations that her party was racist and elitist – as raised recently during the Western Cape farm workers’ protests and again at yesterday’s KwaZulu-Natal ANC nominations conference where SACP leader Blade Nzimande told delegates “The DA is a party of white madams and baases [bosses]”.
DA leader Helen Zille and party national spokesman Mmusi Maimane dance at the party's federal congress in Boksburg. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng. Credit: Motshwari Mofokeng
She also disputed criticism of Cape Town, which the DA controls, saying: “There is a myth that Cape Town… is more unequal than other South African cities. This is not true.”
She cited the UN State of World Cities report.
“It shows there is a smaller gap between rich and poor in Cape Town than in any other South African city.”
Zille emphasised the value the DA placed on diversity and the potential the party, which is the official opposition, had to one day run the country.
“Reconciliation, redress, delivery and diversity are not just words to us, they are the values everybody in our party must live by,” she said.
“If we bring together all the people who share these values, we will be the majority in South Africa. We can become the government and build a better life for all.”
Zille said although South Africa had left apartheid behind, the country was still divided between outsiders and insiders – those with access to education, jobs and opportunities.
“Freedom means little if you cannot find a job. Freedom means even less if our children have no textbooks. Freedom means nothing if it gives politicians licence to steal people’s money. Freedom loses its value if people live in constant fear of criminals in their homes and on the streets. Freedom is hollow if people who suffered under apartheid remain trapped in poverty,” Zille said.
And if every day people got “a little more freedom they then can use to build a better life”, society could be transformed. “This can happen. It is happening where the DA governs,” added Zille, who heads the Western Cape government.
Since her election as party leader five years ago, a crop of new faces and voices had emerged in the DA leadership, according to Zille, while those members who “live in places where wearing your blue T-shirt can mean threats and intimidation” had not given up.
“We are a party for all the South African people. A rainbow party for a rainbow nation,” Zille said.
Addressing those with liberation movement loyalties Zille said: “We respect the power of past loyalties. We understand how much we owe to those who struggled for our freedom… That is why we say: Honour your past, but own your future.”
Zille’s arrival on stage at the OR Tambo conference hall triggered a standing ovation.
Later in the conference DA MP Masizole Mnqasela, who is contesting the federal chairperson’s post, proposed creating a deputy leader position.
Mnqasela said the congress needed to be given the opportunity to discuss the matter.
It was not about creating a position “based on personality”, but to ensure all DA provinces and meetings would be served.
“We can’t expect her [Zille] to be everywhere all the time and please everyone,” he said.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko rose to “strongly speak” against Mnqasela’s proposal and was supported by Northern Cape DA leader Andrew Louw who said if the DA criticised the cabinet of President Jacob Zuma for having too many deputies, the party could not do something similar.
Earlier, some delegates expressed concern that DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane, one of nine candidates contesting three deputy federal chairperson posts, was given 10 minutes to address congress, but not the others. - The Weekend Argus