Ghaleb Cachalia responds to Ferial Haffajee's open letter 'Dear Ghaleb Cachalia, why not start as a bottom-up party activist?'
I welcome the careful and cogent questions and comments you have in relation to my candidacy. You rightly point out that I have never been a member of the ANC but, like so many anti-apartheid activists, I never felt the need to fill in a form and get a card to be part of the movement. It was in my blood.
I am very proud of my political pedigree – from involuntary exile to being allowed to return and then having my passport confiscated; championing the United Democratic Front and ANC as a radio journalist; and holding office in the campaign against the tricameral parliament.
My family’s active contribution cannot be separated from my own – their values are my values, their struggle resulted in my freedoms. They would have defended my political freedoms and not undermined my political choices.
My lineage is what it is. I cannot deny it. I have neither traded on it nor have I done business with the state based on this name. The comparison with the Gupta family and Duduzane Zuma is flippant in this regard.
I “courted” the DA – not the other way round – because I had, like so many, grown disillusioned with the ANC. I saw the need to build a credible and significant opposition so that we could have checks and balances to protect our Constitution, which is currently under fire.
I also realised that the values espoused by the DA are very similar to mine. I am a liberal with a small ‘l’. I was not parachuted into any role by the DA. The DA interrogated my fit, welcomed my approach and I joined. I threw my hat into the Ekurhuleni candidacy. I was opposed by an internal candidate. The process was gruelling. I won.
Having only joined the DA recently, I could hardly be expected to participate in their activities on the ground. Given that I will be 60 years old this year, I think it would be far better to use my experience and skills at a senior level as opposed to starting off as a ground-level activist – been there, done that many years ago!
My role and interest, of late, has been one of observation and comment – your publication has carried some of my commentary.
You have pointed out my history in Johannesburg, going so far as to suggest that I contest the ward of my former family home.
I have not lived there since 1982, and one of the values my parents fought for was freedom of movement. I have lived in three locations throughout my life and am now heading to my fourth.
Each time I have immersed myself in my community and became “a man about town”. For the people of Ekurhuleni, I intend to visit every community over the next month, hearing their issues and formulating a manifesto that will address this large and complex city.
It is a fallacy to suggest that living in a single community arms one with the capacity to understand the needs of 3.2 million people. I have every intention of immersing myself in every part of Ekurhuleni.
I have taken a step in line with my conscience and the party I have joined – in line with their philosophy of “fit for purpose” – and have seen fit to use my talents, experience and offering in the most effective way, given the upcoming elections.
All the best,
Ghaleb Cachalia is the DA mayoral candidate in Ekurhuleni