Gwen Ngwenya has resigned as the Democratic Alliance’s head of policy. While not the only reason a believer in liberalism may still have voted for the Democratic Alliance (DA), her departure, and the supposed nature thereof, signals the death-knell for the DA’s liberal credentials. In both style and substance, the DA has repeatedly only reacted to the technicalities of the the African National Congress and Economic Freedom Fighters’ collectivist moves, while essentially supporting them in principle.
According to Business Day, Ngwenya’s resignation comes on the back of disagreement between herself and the DA’s party leadership about the party’s official position on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE). One can debate the effects of BBBEE ad nauseam — but one can never consider it to be a liberal policy. The DA and ANC may disagree on the way BBBEE should be implemented, but even at that point the principle has already been surrendered: that a proper function of government is to dictate to private businesses certain practices that they must enact. This flies directly in the face of the liberal position.
Any political party which moves to either maintain or increase any government power over individuals cannot, in my mind, be considered liberal.
The one policy issue where the DA has tried to get ahead of the ANC and EFF has been immigration. In taking a staunch public stance in favour of immigration control, the DA has taken a position directly opposed to anything one could consider liberal. No one, in any country, has the ‘right to a job’. Whether a person comes to SA legally or illegally, if my employer wishes to employ them instead of me, that is their prerogative. It is illogical, and misunderstands the nature of individual rights, to presume that a business in one country may only employ people from that country, regardless of their legal status.
During both the drought and water crisis and regarding alcohol consumption, the DA enacted radically illiberal measures in the Western Cape.
A crisis of any nature does not mean individual rights are up for debate – they are absolute. When the DA forced people to use a set amount of water, and imposed draconian fines on the people for ‘abuse,’ with no talk of voluntary engagement with the community, the government there clearly showed how it saw citizens. The fact that it has not done away with the Western Cape Liquor Act is a clear example that it views government as a necessary guide for how we ought to live our lives. For all its talk of how it’ll govern, the DA has already shown us, in the Cape, that it will govern illiberally.
To proudly proclaim that a vote for them is a vote to simply run things better engenders no support in liberal circles. There has been zero discussion of the proper role of government – only that the DA can run things ‘better.’
I cannot vote for a party that is so singularly focused on controlling the power of government, and does not talk about decreasing the size and scope of the state dramatically. It has consistently bothered me that the DA has never addressed the philosophical roots of the ANC and EFF’s collectivism. Ngwenya’s resignation concretises this philosophical concern for me.
The DA loves to invoke the utopian ideal: vote for us and we’ll make sure things work. I do not want things to ‘work’ – I want South Africans to be free. Liberty ought to be the standard, not efficiency or pragmatism. Too often the DA’s rhetoric is based on the idea that the government needs to be involved in our lives, not that it would minimise government control and regulations if it came to power.
Through attempts to curry populist fervor, the DA has lost sight of what should have always been its true north: liberalism.
Voting should not just be a matter of policy. Fundamentally, you are voting for the party with whose philosophy you agree. In the liberal vein, for whom does one vote now? COPE? The FF+? Should expropriation without compensation be one’s sole focus in this upcoming election? For this writer, at least, the DA is no longer worthy of consideration.