New DA parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen addressing the Press Club over party leadership crisis after resignation of their leaders in Cape Town on October 28 2019. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/ SUNDAY TIMES
New DA parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen addressing the Press Club over party leadership crisis after resignation of their leaders in Cape Town on October 28 2019. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/ SUNDAY TIMES

The DA leadership race is in full swing as the party’s parliamentary leader, John Steenhuisen, prepares to take on Gauteng member of the provincial legislature Makashule Gana and Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela for the position of interim leader.  

The nominations for the position, which will be voted on during a federal council meeting later in November, closed on Thursday afternoon. 

The DA will remain leaderless until then, when the party’s highest decision-making body between its federal congresses will elect an interim leader in the wake of Mmusi Maimane’s resignation.

The federal council will also elect an interim federal chair to replace Athol Trollip, who resigned along with Maimane. 

Western Cape agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer, Gauteng member of the provincial legislature Khume Ramulifho, Western Cape health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and the Buffalo City chief whip Dharmesh Dhaya are all in the running to be interim federal chair. 

Trollip and Maimane’s resignations came days after former party leader Helen Zille was elected federal council chair, which prompted Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s resignation from the party. Mashaba said the party was not the same one he had joined several years earlier.

While Maimane’s resignation has been seen as a sign that the party is moving back towards its classical liberal roots, the fight in the DA over the direction it takes is far from over.

The meeting on November 17 comes months before the DA goes to an early congress to elect a new party leadership.

The congress will be preceded by a policy conference at which the battle for the soul of the DA will continue.

The party’s economic policies are expected to be critical, especially given the long-standing debate over whether race is a proxy for disadvantage within the party.

Gana, who is also chair of the DA’s MPL network, said on Thursday he had accepted a nomination for the position of the party’s interim leader as a result of a call by DA members to roll up their sleeves and rebuild the party’s brand across the country.

“I am a mere representative of an idea to build a truly nonracial party that is a home for all South Africans. I believe we are better together,” Gana said. 

Steenhuisen, the DA’s new parliamentary leader, had said earlier this week during an address at the Cape Town Press Club that he would put up his hand for both the position of interim leader and leader of the party. He said the DA needed to clearly define its policies at its policy conference and that it needed to find its spine again. 

Earlier on Thursday, the DA announced that MP Natasha Mazzone has been appointed chief whip, a position held by Steenhuisen before Maimane resigned as party leader.

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