No lies: Why ACDP is protesting Western Cape school gender policy – MP Marie Sukers

ACDP MP Marie Sukers has written a response to Siya Khumalo’s opinion article “Every letter in the ACDP’s name is a lie”.

Siya Khumalo claims every letter in the ACDP’s name is a lie. That may be a piece of headline-grabbing rhetoric, but it hardly stands up to logical scrutiny.

By claiming that the ACDP is not “Christian”, he is doing something that he appears to be against, imposing his ideas of another’s identity on that person or group of people. He makes himself a theological high priest by telling others that they are only Christian if they follow his teachings.

The ACDP existed long before US President Donald Trump entered office, and therefore it is anachronistic to label it Trumpian. Indeed, he is here denying the independent agency of Africans.

Even if the ACDP were “Trumpian”, then it would be President Trump who followed an African, Christian and Democratic Party from a “s**thole” country and not vice versa.

But the real problem again is that Khumalo is deciding who is or is not African. He is seizing the pencil that will allow him to determine a person’s identity.

Protest against guidelines

The sharpest irony though is that Khumalo says that we are lying if we call ourselves democratic.

Last Monday, we were protesting the DA-led Western Cape government trying to impose the Draft Guidelines on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in Public Schools of the Western Cape Education Department in an anti-democratic fashion.

These guidelines accept a particular gender ideology in public schools without comment or critique. That doctrine is taught dogmatically as truth, and even if those two serious objections are left aside, it is impractical to implement in schools, in low- and -middle-income areas, in the Western Cape.

Over six-thousand children have missed the first term of school. Still, the WCED is finding time and resources to implement a province-wide policy when the department could easily assist principals and school governing bodies to deal with these issues on a case-by-case basis.

So intent is Khumalo on promoting his novel theological insights and saying nasty things about the ACDP that he fails to address at all.

Earlier in the week, he posted this tweet: “Hi ACDP, Where can we find this memorandum so we can write an analysis on it? Thanks.” Well, I hope he found the “memorandum”, but he appears neither to have read it nor conducted any analysis on it.

I am not here to debate the Bible, according to Khumalo, but to focus on a governance issue of critical national interest which is the process by which these guidelines were developed.

Inadequate and failed consultation is a hallmark of most government engagements. It would be unfair to create the impression that this is a practice of just the Western Cape government; it is common practice across provincial and national government and is a reason for the thousands of failed, unimplemented and unimplementable regulations and laws that cram our statute books.

We can get our laws to work better if we consult widely, drawing in all, even those whose opinions we do not like. This will help in killing off bad ideas, strengthen good ones and create the buy-in needed for implementation.

Political backing 

The crucial phase of public participation is not the final phase of comments on draft guidelines or a Bill. By that stage, the state usually has decided on a solution to a particular problem. It has recruited those organisations who, broadly speaking, agree with it and have ignored those who don’t. By the time the proposal is made public, it already has the political backing of its sponsors and the support of the bureaucracy. The state has already invested heavily in this idea and is at best willing to trim and compromise but have hardly questioned whether this option may be the best solution.

The preparation of the guidelines on gender identity and sexual orientation is a case in point. It appears that the WCED had extensive consultations with some groups but failed to consult widely or with groups that could be deemed hostile. This may be unfair, but then we ask the WCED to produce a list of who they consulted and when.

One solution is for the Western Cape government to ensure that every department and agency has a database of interested and affected parties who are willing to engage – and that it actually engages with them without fear or favour.

A second concern is the secrecy with which these consultations are conducted. Last year, the WCED took offence that Equal Education and the Equal Educational Law Centre took their concerns over the Guidelines to the press. Why would that be a problem in an open and democratic society?

For the record, EE and EELC’s substantive objections to the Guidelines differ markedly from ours. However, our commitment to democratic engagement and governance is such that we welcome the fact that they were consulted prior to the draft release and that they spoke to the press about it. We merely ask that the WCED consults with all those who have asked to be consulted and does so transparently so that we can have a public debate.

Socio-economic impact

It also appears that no consideration has been given to the socio-economic impact of these guidelines. Without a detailed socio-economic impact assessment, government policy remains sentiments and wishful thinking. These assessments should be shared with the public when a comment is sought. This places policy into the realm of rands and cents and means that we must do the hard work of governing. Governing is about applying limited resources to an unending list of problems.

An effective policy development process that takes all these factors into account will be far more beneficial to all learners, including learners suffering from gender dysmorphia. Importing into South Africa from the US, the toxic culture war dynamics of virtue signalling, cancel culture and de-platforming will only harm the very learners that Khumalo is hoping to protect.

While I disagree with much, if not all, of what Siya Khumalo has said in his opinion piece and vehemently on his attack on the ACDP, I hope that we can agree that we need a better public participation process. I thank him for writing and the editors of News24 for placing his piece. He takes religion seriously and draws attention to the intersection of religion and politics. His conclusions are incorrect, but we appreciate the opportunity for public discussion.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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