Early last year I complained that the DA’s image was too rich, too old, too white. I wrote, “Clearly brand DA is in need of a major overhaul, a major injection of cool. Its fusty look is rather reminiscent of what Woolworths was like 10 or 15 years ago when people under 30 refused to be seen dead inside a Woolworths store.”
This was having a discernible impact on its support amongst the youth, who found joining the DA was effectively social suicide. “As such,” I said, “its reputedly attractive members are remaining unloved and unlaid — leaving me wondering as to whether alliances (democratic or otherwise) will occur to ensure the reproduction of little Helens, Tonys and Joes in the years to come.”
I noticed that this was despite the DA’s intelligent policies that offered a blueprint to stimulate entrepreneurship, nourish education and tackle crime. And also despite its ranks being filled with bright young things with an alphabet soup of degrees and awards.
Now, like Woolworths, the DA has had a makeover – doubtless earning the gratitude of its younger members for staving off eternal celibacy. The party’s logo was Obamarised. Its leader started tweeting and doing song-and-dance routines to keep drug dealers awake at night. An online social network of DA supporters was created. The party also got major street cred amongst Capetonians because when it was elected in 2006, they finally got a functioning municipality.
But not just was the party prettied, it also developed a sexy sub-brand. The Country Road equivalent – cutting-edge, classy, cool. Welcome to the DA Young Leaders’ Programme. What’s so hot about a youth movement, you might be wondering? Well. This is different. It’s not the veld-and-vlei fandangos of the FF+’s youth league (brownshirts are so 1936). Or the Sandton parties and beer-bottle battles of the ANCYL. Or even the SACP Youth League’s caviar communism – business class flights to cushy conferences, anyone?
No. The DA Young Leaders’ Programme is a rigorous part-time course in leadership. During the programme’s four retreats you’ll meet guest speakers from both within and outside of the DA. You’ll have workshops on politics, personal development and public speaking. And between each retreat you’ll have plenty of reading (about politics and leadership, of course). You’ll also be typing up writing assignments and attending one-on-one life coaching sessions that will help you overcome obstacles to your growth as a leader. And to prove you’re not just a paper tiger, you’ll be overseeing your very own a leadership project which can be anything from a soup kitchen to a clothing brand – the choice is yours.
The DA is taking a gamble by investing in you – you’re not signing your life away or under any obligation to serve in the party – though obviously they would like you to). Why are they prepared to take this risk? Because the party genuinely wants to deepen the pool of young people that can one day lead South Africa – in politics, business, civil society and elsewhere.
And don’t think this is only for white protestant males from Houghton (there was only one of those this year!). People from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, languages, genders are welcome and, indeed, encouraged to enrol in the programme.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 35, and want to help South Africa reach its potential then what are you waiting for?
Believe me. It’s a lot cheaper than Country Road.
Visit www.youngleaders.org.za for more info.