DA federal council chair Helen Zille. Picture: REUTERS
DA federal council chair Helen Zille. Picture: REUTERS

The DA is considering holding its long awaited policy conference virtually, and is also investigating the possibility of online voting if its elective congress fails to take place because of the strict Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

The DA was scheduled to have its policy conference in April. This would have been followed by an elective congress in May at which new party leadership would have been elected.

The congress was scheduled to take place on the last weekend of October 2020 in Ekurhuleni. However, it might have to be called off, depending at what stage of the lockdown the country is by then. 

Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane resigned in October last year after the party took a beating at the polls during SA’s general elections in 2019. DA federal council chair Helen Zille, in an internal newsletter, said that the party has repurposed almost all its workstreams to online platforms, including polling, policy work, meetings and conferences during the lockdown.   

She said that the DA, in the coming weeks, will run its first online mayoral selection process to fill the vacancy for the mayor of George in the Western Cape, as well as hold its first webinar with more than 300 participants to discuss policy priorities for the local government elections in 2021. 

A live webinar is an online meeting or presentation held via the internet with the ability to discuss, send and receive information in real time.

“We will use this to learn every lesson we can in preparation for a possible virtual policy conference in September — because large gatherings may still be disallowed then,” Zille said. 

She said it would be a challenge to chair such a large virtual meeting on complex issues of economic justice. “But by then I hope we [will] have accumulated enough experience to make it possible.”

“Given that 2021 is an election year, we need to get the turbulence of internal elections behind us this year to focus on the countrywide polls with every ounce of energy we have next year,” Zille said. 

She said an online elective congress would be the biggest challenge given that it would involve well over 2,000 delegates. 

“Our technology experts are researching online voting options that are compatible with our single, transferable vote system, and we are considering ways in which to discuss and resolve debates on amendments to the constitution, among other things. At this stage, I am fairly optimistic that we will pull this off,” Zille said. 

She said there are only two aspects of the DA’s work that the party cannot “repurpose digitally”: the party’s disciplinary system, and external elections such as by-elections. 


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