It wasn’t long ago that journalist Adriaan Basson was denounced by the DA for his article about an ideological split in the DA’s ranks. It’s now obvious that political denial doesn’t create truth. The only fact Basson got wrong about the Laptop Boys versus the Bruma Boys, the liberals versus the socialists, was gender omission. Which is to say that Gwen Ngwenya is the feminine factor, chief of the ‘keyboard’ and leader of a new party called the Classic Democrats for Change (CDC).
This morning, the Rational Standard leaked that there was a breakaway party from the DA. The CDC was forced to respond via press statement. Whilst barely mentioning the DA, they essentially promised to be a better version of the DA. That’s ironic because the CDC is a return to what the DA promised its voters when it formed in 2000.
Others involved are to be expected – Gavin Davis, Zak Mbhele, Mike Waters, Michael Cardo, Daniel Eloff and Jack Bloom have long been rumoured to be at odds with the DA placing identity and reactionary politics ahead of policy clarity.
Advocate Mark Oppenheimer, whose most notable for having represented Afriforum, has been retained as the CDC’s Chief Legal Counsel. Dr Jonathan Witt, whom some will know from The Renegade Report show, will head up Health. Other portfolio positions have yet to be announced.
The formation of the CDC without Helen Zille seemingly ends the rumour that Zille was divorcing the DA.
Zille’s recent controversial actions have been interpreted by some as arrows against the DA Federal Executive for the course it’s plotted away from liberalism. Possibly, her actions have been more personal, against Chairman James Selfe and Party Leader Mmusi Maimane for excluding her from higher decision-making processes. When Zille’s reign as Western Cape Premier ends this year, she won’t become a figure of wisdom for the party or its Gauteng leader (another rumour). Instead, all that she’ll have left is being Head of the Knysna Constituency (pop. 77,000). Maybe that’s appropriate considering the town’s ongoing political disaster for the DA that began under her provincial watch.
The Daily Maverick, the online home of DA liberals, scored an exclusive interview with Gwen Ngwenya, formerly the DA’s Head of Policy. Here are extracts:
“There are no hard feelings,” said Gwen Ngwenya. “I met wonderful people during my time in the DA. I am glad that some of them now stand with me. Mmusi Maimane may be on the other side but they are not an uncooperative distance away. I wish them well.”
When questioned why the split, Ngwenya said that, “Democracy requires choice. We, as the CDC are one option. The DA is another. We are not into accusation politics. We may be opposition to the ANC’s Marxism but we are not all different all of the time. We must acknowledge common cause lest we turn politics into populism. If the ANC does something towards what we believe, such as strengthening free speech and the law, we will applaud and offer support. President Ramaphosa’s signing of the Political Party Funding Bill is an excellent example. The DA’s fight against that made them look like they had something to hide. It was things such as that we found difficult to be part of. Transparency is a pillar of liberalism. Either you believe or you don’t.
We’re proud and thankful to have truthseekers such as the Claude Leon Foundation and the Raith Foundation on our side. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom was particularly useful in assisting us with staff training and our legal framework. Gareth van Onselen, from the Institute for Race Relations, assisted us with policy.”
Gwen Ngwenya laughed before saying, “Just because we will support the few good actions of the opposition does not mean we will be a pushover. Where we disagree, we will fight as hard as we can. Finger pointing and chest thumping will not be our style. We will use logical argument and, where necessary, the courts. Our legal team is impressive. We will do our best to use facts like bullets, to strike the target and make politics less confusing for citizens. We want our supporters to vote for us because they know what we stand for, and because they stand for the same thing. We are not into hate politics. We want people to vote for us on principle, not give us their vote because they’re against another party.”
When asked what the difference between the CDC and the DA is, she said, “The DA needs to be clear that they believe in a different form of liberalism to us. They do not have to betray their founding ideology for a bigger portion of the vote. Instead, they must admit they stand for democratic socialism, not in the traditional sense but a version that will always support the welfare state. That does not make them less of an option for South Africans. It is just not something us here at Classic Democrats for Change believe in.
We are classic liberals. We are pleased that Liberal International has recognised us, and will soon be moving their African headquarters from the DA in Wale Street to our offices in Long Street. We believe, as they do, that the system can’t be helped all the time. It needs to be shown how to help itself. Economic freedom is the direct current to equality. For example, a freer market empowers small businesses that, in turn, reduce unemployment.”
When questioned about privatisation, Gwen Ngwenya said that, “Service delivery must be an action, not a hollow election motto. We wants major services – water, electricity, sewerage, transport, communications – privatised into provincial (not national) companies offering efficiency. Companies based on long-term profit with guaranteed customers will succeed and deliver. We are not removing government’s constitutional mandate. In fact, it will be easier for government to maintain oversight. Inclusive boards and external audits will be key. We support capitalism, not crime. Never again must we be in a position where a whole country is slave to the greed of government elitists. I’m referring to that monolith Eskom and its R600-billion debt. How many years has that cost us? And how many more will the next generation lose because the ANC has taken loans from China? But our country’s income is larger than that. We know that with good management and 58 million South Africans, we can and will recover.
Download our constitution and full plan from our website. We ensured that it is easy to understand. We believe in bigger ideas for a bigger future for our home, South Africa. It’s why our motto is ‘We Are South Africa’.”
No matter Gwen Ngwenya’s attempts to lessen the sting, it’s obvious that this was intended to hurt the DA. It’s too late for the CDC to register for the elections so the only short term result will be further weakening of public confidence in the DA.
A battle of good ideas isn’t enough. It’s obvious that a blatantly classic liberal organisation can never achieve a large portion of the vote in future elections. Maybe the CDC are sufficiently ambitious to think they can become more relevant than the DA. How smaller COPE and the EFF made themselves noticed the past 5 years, proves that it’s possible – present one central issue at a time, and broadcast it clearly. The CDC contains enough smart power per human kilogram than any party I can think of. Relevancy is achievable.
PARODY NOTE: How many of you wish I hadn’t invented this story, that there’s an honest DA to believe in this election? Conversely, how many of you would be scared of a true liberal party in South Africa? Please focus on these questions in the Facebook comment section.