Is the DA’s membership mostly ‘black’? The claim is unproven

Comments 3

The leader of South Africa's Democratic Alliance, Helen Zille, has claimed that most of the party's membership is "black". But the DA's membership records are secret and the evidence is anecdotal.

During a debate on Twitter earlier this month, the leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), Helen Zille, defended the DA against accusations that it is a predominantly  “white” party and stated that “most” of its membership is black.

Is the claim true? And, if so, how does the DA know?

One of Africa Check’s readers didn’t think it did. “Since I doubt that the DA keeps racial profile of its members – it would be very interesting if they did – I suspect this isn’t a claim that can be supported by the evidence,” he wrote to us.

Zille’s comments based on ‘anecdotal reports’

DA national spokesman, Mmusi Maimane, admitted to Africa Check that  the DA does not in fact have “scientific” proof to back up the claim.

Zille’s comments were based on “anecdotal reports”, he said, confirming that the party does “not keep track of the race composition of our membership, and therefore we have no way of scientifically determining what percentage of our membership is white, black, coloured or Indian”.

The party also does not disclose its membership numbers, he added. “We are focussed on winning votes and activists, not so much on amassing a large membership,” he said.

Majority at DA rallies are ‘black supporters’

However Maimane insisted the anecdotal evidence that the majority of party supporters are black was convincing.

“DA rallies are almost always attended by a majority of black supporters. At our Federal Congress last year, most attendees were black (each branch sends representatives based on their size to Federal Congress to vote on congress resolutions and new leadership). Hence, a diverse Federal Congress implies that we are a diverse party,” he told Africa Check.

Maimane said “anecdotal reports and the composition of our Federal Congress last year, would imply that a majority of our members are coloured, black or Indian”.

What the DA means by ‘black’

The party spokesman added that the DA defined the term “black”, in the “same way as the constitution”, to refer to “coloured, Indian and Black Africans”. (See the comments below)

Two of the DA’s provincial leaders are “black Africans” and three are “coloured”, Maimane said.

“Hence, in a constitutional sense, we have 5 black provincial leaders.”

Conclusion: The claim is unproven

Strictly speaking, our reader was correct. Other than the anecdotal evidence, which does appear to support the DA’s claim, there is no hard documentary proof that the majority of the DA’s registered members are black.

The party’s membership records are secret and it claims that it does not record the race of its members. Maimane conceded as much when he told us: “We are not able to determine how many of our members are ‘black’ since we do not track the race of our members.”

Until this changes, or firm figures emerge, the claim has to be regarded as unproven.

Edited by Peter Cunliffe-Jones

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Comment on this report

Comments 3
  1. By Willem van den Berg

    “The party spokesman added that the DA defined the term “black”, in the same manner as South Africa’s constitution, to refer to “coloured, Indian and Black Africans” ?! Where in our constitution…?

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  2. By Africa Check

    A very good point, Willem. The word “black” occurs only three times in the Constitution and, in each instance, refers to one of the colours of the flag. Here’s a link for those who would like to check: http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1996-108.pdf

    Mmusi Maimane’s exact words – when responding to a question about how the DA defines the term “black” – were: “We define it the same way as the constitution: Black refers to coloured, Indian and Black African individuals. Obviously black is also interchangeably used for “black Africans”, based on the context. In the context of our provincial leadership, Helen was referring to black in the constitutional sense, since 2 of our provincial leaders (Free State and KZN) are black Africans, whilst 3 of our provincial leaders are coloured (Western Cape, Northern Cape and Gauteng).

    “Hence, in a constitutional sense, we have 5 black provincial leaders. Just as is normal in society, our leaders also use the term black to refer to “black Africans” in speeches and other public appearances. In more formal communication – such as our policy documents and manifestos – the word black is meant in the constitutional sense unless otherwise defined.”

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  3. By Carina Spies

    Can everyone start focusing on the bigger picture, what does it really matter what a persons colour is?? We all have red blood!! It is time for change and change for the better! I for one beleive in Mmusi Maimane, and know for certain that he is the ONE person that I would follow, he beleive in justice, peace, harmony and has great values. There is no difference in colour we are equal, we are all pink inside! It is time for the YOUTH to stand up and move on and stop refering to the past, time can not be turned back, but we can all together build a better future for all!!

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