In a damning letter DA head of policy indicates clearly that She refuses to be a puppet and a political front.
Dear Mmusi Maimane,
Please regard this letter as my official resignation from the role
of Head of Policy of the Democratic Alliance. The resignation should not come
as a surprise and you will be familiar with most of the reasons detailed below
as they have been raised periodically since my appointment. I will, however,
set them out here again for the sake of clarity and closure.
Terms of hire were never
met: When I was approached to head up policy for
the DA I was assured that the policy unit would have the support
of the leadership, be semi-independent and would be there
to provide unfettered advice based on research to the party.
In addition, I would
receive resources to fulfil the job, as well as the ability to recruit my own
staff. None of these terms were partially, let alone wholly, fulfilled. Instead
I was often hung out to dry in the face of unhappiness with policy within the
party, there were untouchable policy areas, no budget was designated to the
policy unit, and no additional staff could be hired. If these had been the
terms presented to me from the onset there is every likelihood I would not have
accepted the offer.
No job description: I have never had a job description. A job description has been
requested on numerous occasions since my arrival. It is a standard professional
requirement, without which it is difficult to formalise my responsibilities as
well as mandate.
staff: On my arrival I conducted a skills audit of the researchers in the policy
unit. It was soon apparent
that for all of them this was their first
serious research job and that they had recently graduated
from university. We were trying to extract from those researchers more than
they could reasonably deliver. The policy offer for the national government in
waiting should not rest on the shoulders of 3 inexperienced researchers.
Furthermore, many senior leaders expressed
to me that the researchers were not up to the task,
yet I was not in any position to immediately fire them without placing the DA
in violation of labour laws.
No budget: No budget was allocated to the policy unit and therefore to policy
development. There was the possibility to motivate for funds on a case by case
basis, but it was made clear that only a small amount was available that could
cover refreshments for workshops etc. The result is that there was no budget to
meet with experts around the country, party constituents, to purchase the data,
reports, software etc. necessary to run a competitive research operation. There
is no reason why the party cannot have a policy unit that rivals any of the
think tanks from which we constantly seek advice. However, setting up such a
unit will require a reasonable financial commitment from the party. The party
spends more on temporary billboards and other marketing than it does on
developing a longer-lasting comprehensive policy blueprint for the country.
Terms of reference not
approved: Policy cannot be developed or live in a
silo. For that reason, I drafted
terms of reference to situate the policy unit within the party and to outline
how it interacts with other structures regarding policy. These terms of reference have never been tabled for
discussion or signed off by any structure whether it be NMC, Fedex or Federal
Council. Therefore, it was not just myself
in limbo (with no job description) but the entire
unit did not have clarity about its mandate within the party.
Effectively policy could be developed and signed off without our knowledge, and we also had no ability to correct or advice
communication that contradicted policy unless our opinion was
expressly sought. The policy unit therefore lives day by day working on
piecemeal tasks without the mandate to develop a long-term strategy.
Reporting lines: As the head of the policy unit my initial reporting line was to
the Federal Chairperson, subsequently it changed to the Federal Leader. The
challenge is that meetings were outside of party structures, which meant that a) it was an additional diary obligation which was often difficult to fit in and b)
not all information relevant to the policy making process reached my attention.
As an example, I asked long before the campaign launch to be involved in the
discussions on the campaign message, as this
must align with the policies being developed. I learnt of the message script
the day before the campaign launch, because I dug and eventually found it, it
was not willingly presented to me.
It is for this reason,
among others, that I had long suggested
that instead of the leader
or federal chair fitting me
into an already busy diary that I should join them at the meetings which are
already standing arrangements for them i.e. NMC and Fedex. Not only would this
afford the leader/federal chair an opportunity to engage with policy developments
it would enable the head of policy to be in touch with the political
discussions in the party which have a bearing on policy. I know of few parties in the world where the
politician tasked with policy is not privy to the political thinking and decisions
affecting policy. The decision to include me at these meetings was made early but frequently invitations failed to arrive to me, meaning I have
in practice attended too few for them to have been of benefit. In fact, I have
never had an opportunity lasting more than an hour to present the full range of
thinking on policy for the party. Some of the policies developed have been
shelved without any discussion whatsoever.
Role of Federal Council: Federal
Council enjoys constitutional responsibility for policy in the party. A mandate was received from
this body on a specific economic policy framework. This framework was not
slipped in via disguise; all the key elements were presented to delegates.
Subsequent to the mandate being given, that mandate has either been denied or
ignored. That a mandate was given is not my singular version
of events, it was understood by the majority
of delegates present
at the July 2018 meeting.
I am not able to stand up in front
of federal council in the future and present a
different policy to the one I was given a mandate for.
Political support from the
leadership: The draft policies developed after a
mandate from Federal Council were dismissed as inconsistent with the party by
effectively the NMC, with the CEO leading the charge at the Federal Council
held in October 2018. Their dissemination to
the rest of the party was withheld.
At no point did the
senior leadership a) recognise that the
policy unit was working on a mandate given by Federal Council b) admit that
they knew of and approved the policy commissions as the consultation process
for the policies.
Instead there was an apparent distancing of the leadership from the
policy process with the consistent reference to ‘Gwen’s policy’. Despite not
being hired as a consultant to the party there is a pervasive attitude that I
am somehow operating ‘outside’ of the party fuelled by an ever-present
uncertainty, a wilful uncertainty, of where my mandate originates. Ultimately
there are unreconciled (and perhaps
irreconcilable) differences both of principle and of how to
run a policy process.
The work done by the policy unit which has been held hostage
-Higher Education policy
-Migration policy (beyond securing our borders)
As well as 13 policy commissions at which discussion documents were
tabled covering: Basic Education
Small Business City-led growth
Trade and Investment Housing
Land reform ICT
Corruption Empowerment Immigration Transport
These are complete draft documents, and final in the case of the
higher education document which either have not been published, disseminated
for comment, or approved. The
consultation process via the commissions was presented to and approved by the
leadership yet was not supported as
such at Federal Council. The policy unit sought funding on its own and arranged
the commissions without any assistance from the party. Yet publicly, and
internally to the party,
there is nothing
to show of the work that has been carried
out. Duplicate processes exist and therefore duplicate
policies are produced via FHO. In practice it is the CEO who decides on the
policies of the party and not the elected representatives.
Political fallout from
article on BEE: In August 2018 I published an
article indicating that BEE had not lived up to expectations and that the DA was exploring a policy alternative. None of that was not true. At the Federal Council in July I had
been given a mandate to explore a non-racial alternative. Furthermore, I quoted
your own words from a Bokamoso saying,
“we need a wholesale change in empowerment policies, to move away from
race-based policies that enable elite enrichment, towards policies that
fundamentally break down the system of deprivation that still traps millions of
South Africans in poverty.”
The result of communicating what was a party mandate and the words
of the Federal Leader was a public repudiation of my position by the Federal
Chairperson. I believe he acted on the wisdom of our communications operation.
Instead of having the courage of its
convictions, at the mere whiff of a debate on BEE the party felt it best to attack the head of policy than to own up to its own structure’s decision.
That was probably the moment at which I should have tendered my resignation;
when I was hung out to dry without so much as a phone call for reiterating what
the leader had months ago already said, albeit within the relative safety of a DA newsletter.
There are many reasons besides those outlined, but these will have
to suffice. The bottom line is that I do not believe the DA takes policy
seriously; and as a result, there has not been the operational or political
resources necessary to result in a policy outcome I can be proud to be
It is difficult to be clear what I am resigning from, having never
received a verbal or written job description. But I do feel a sense of loss.
There are many good people, including yourself, fighting many fights every day,
but ideas are not a battleground the DA likes to tread. I left a job I enjoyed
immensely to move from the night watch into what I thought was the frontline of
the battle of ideas. I was wrong about the nature of the battle I’d be engaged
in. That I will take responsibility for, and it will be a lesson to me about
the consequences of acting in good faith alone.
It is unfortunate to come to the realisation that I have never in
any meaningful way been the head of policy; I was given all of the
responsibility and none of the basic levers to do the job. In practice all this
resignation means is that from today I am no longer available to be the face of
I will continue to offer my opinion (it being not in my
nature to withhold it) and to carry out my duties as a member of parliament.