The DA’s understanding of redress begins with recognising that poverty and inequality are the inescapable realities of life for the majority of SA citizens, and further that much of this reality is the consequence of our nation’s divided and discriminatory history. Statutory measures designed to discriminate against people of colour and to advantage a racial minority were part of not only the legacy of apartheid but of our colonial history too. The DA’s commitment to the open, opportunity society for all means that we cannot pretend that this history didn’t happen, nor can we just assume that our 1996 Constitution which enshrines equality will produce a more fair and just society without systematic policy interventions on our part.
Redress means a number of things for the DA. This paper sets out some of the key components of our position but is, of necessity, not all that could be said.
1. We recognise that achieving human dignity and human rights for all are issues for which all DA public representatives must be seen to be passionately committed. Actions or statements by organisations or individuals which abuse or devalue the worth of any of our fellow South Africans must be condemned without reservation. The DA must be seen to be at the forefront of any campaign which defends our Constitutional rights.
2. Practical measure to achieve redress include various forms of structural intervention to level the economic playing fields between rich and poor. This means supporting budget allocations in the areas which can eliminate the inter-generational transmission of poverty and inequality – especially in education, health, transport and housing. This means supporting dedicated funding and programmes which by transform the quality of people’s lives and which give them enhanced opportunities to achieve their own and their children’s potential. The delivery of quality and accessible public health care and schooling must be imperatives for the DA wherever we are in government.
3. The DA is opposed to the further racialising of society but we are supportive of creating economic opportunities for all those who are currently disadvantaged in terms of their employment skills or access to business contracts. Structural measures which rely simply on racial categories are crude and destroy national reconciliation and cohesion and the DA will look for other means of creating opportunities for all than the currently favoured BEE legislation. We need to support the efforts of local entrepreneurs, for small businesses and for companies which reflect SA’s diversity without resorting to racial bean counting or quotas. In terms of preferential procurement we need to create space for small emergent companies to compete and win market share against larger more established entities provided that the quality and efficiency of service delivery are not compromised.
4. Being committed to redress also means tackling the symbolic and very visible ways our society used to reflect the relative advantage of the few over the many. Whether in the naming of public places or institutions, or the celebration of national events and festivals, we need to seek the most inclusive solutions wherever possible. Names and places must reflect our truly rainbow heritage and become a celebration of our diversity not the cause of further division and racial enmity.
5. Ensuring food security for our people means protecting commercial agricultural production, but the DA supports creating opportunities for people from all communities to achieve access to farming skills and land. Opening up land ownership to all our citizens must go hand in hand with measures which will promote individual land ownership, enhanced agricultural productivity and ensuring that small-scale farmers have access to larger markets.
Mark Steele MPL is a DA member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature and was previously an MP in the National Assembly.