John Steenhuisen responds to Clem Sunter with “four timeless principles for organising society”

In reply to Clem Sunter’s opinion piece “Time for the DA to rebrand itself“, DA leader John Steenhuisen disagreed with some of Sunter’s assertions. The DA leader outlined four “timeless principles for organising society” that the party strives to embody and said it plans to amplify its efforts to reach voters with its offer of security and success for the nation. Steenhuisen believes that 2023 will be become a determining factor in the “make-or-break” 2024 general election. Read his response below. – Carmen Mileder

The DA stands for winning principles

By John Steenhuisen

I do not agree with Clem Sunter’s assertion, expressed in the title of his opinion piece published on 30 December 2022, that it is “Time for the DA to rebrand itself”. The Democratic Alliance stands for four timeless principles for organising society. These four principles have yielded safety and prosperity wherever nations have embraced them as the “rules of the game”. The DA’s strength comes from resolutely standing by these four principles, not from rebranding. We do, however, need to work harder at communicating our commitment to these principles. We need as many voters as possible to associate these four principles with the DA, so that all voters know that if they want to live by these principles, in safety and prosperity, they need to vote DA in 2024.

First is our deep and unwavering commitment to constitutional democracy and the rule of law. This includes a commitment to the principles of accountability, transparency, and equality before the law. It also includes a commitment to building and respecting democratic institutions that check and balance power and that uphold the rule of law, such as independent courts, judicial service commission, prosecuting authorities, legislatures, and electoral commission, and a functional,
capable police service and criminal justice system.

Second is our equally unwavering commitment to a social market economy. Economic decision- making power should be decentralised to all producers and consumers rather than centralised in the hands of a small group of politicians who are themselves shielded from the effects of their decisions. This is because the information and incentives needed for optimal economic decision-making are themselves dispersed among all producers and consumers. The free market is the mechanism by which the information and incentives produce optimal pricing and allocation of resources. Government still has a role to play, though, to protect or deliver public goods such as the natural environment, large-scale infrastructure, and competitive markets.

Third is our commitment to building a capable state that delivers to all. This requires the separation of party and state, with public appointments made on merit – the ability to deliver to the public – rather than on considerations of political loyalty or identity. This is why we have fought hard and will continue to fight for an independent public service commission and against the policy of cadre deployment which has so hollowed out the ability of the state to deliver on even its most basic mandates, such as public safety, water and electricity.

Fourth is our commitment to non-racialism. In our Economic Justice Policy, we have set out in detail how redress and economic inclusion can be extended to those who still suffer the effects of past racial discrimination. We do not believe South Africa can thrive under race-based policy. On the contrary, we believe race-based policy is harming the poor black majority most, which is precisely the group it is ostensibly meant to help, not least by deterring the foreign investment and technical know-how needed to grow our economy.

Mr Sunter poses several questions about how the DA in government would address the challenges of ending loadshedding, tackling poverty, inequality and unemployment, widening land ownership, boosting entrepreneurship, curbing debt, attracting foreign investment and dealing with failing state-owned enterprises. The DA has written and spoken extensively on the details of how we would address these challenges. But ultimately, each of these challenges, and most others afflicting South Africa, are symptoms of the same root cause, which is the country’s failure to embrace these four core principles.

In 2023, the year that is going to determine the outcome of the make-or-break 2024 general election, the DA will intensify our efforts to reach voters with our offer of safety and prosperity through embracing the rule of law, a market economy, a capable state, and non-racialism.

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