DA interim leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

DA leader John Steenhuisen said on Wednesday that it served no-one when members attacked their own party, as it undermined its electoral prospects.

The DA’s leadership battle is heating up, and delegates to its federal congress, to be held in just over a-month-and-a-half will vote on who will lead the party into the local government elections in 2021. ​

Steenhuisen will square up against KwaZulu-Natal member of the provincial legislature Mbali Ntuli for the top position in the party.

“Whoever is elected at the congress will need to lead our party into local government elections next year. It will serve no-one, particularly our aspirant candidates and current councillors, to undermine our electoral prospects by attacking the party we love,” he said in a letter sent to delegates to the congress, on Wednesday.  

Steenhuisen’s letter comes a day after Ntuli raised major issues with some of the party’s internal processes, also in a letter to congress delegates.

She said the DA was being destroyed by a top-down management phenomenon, in which people were compelled to fall in line or risk being “isolated, purged or frustrated into resigning”. 

She said it had been clear to her since at least 2014 that there existed an insider and outsider clique in the DA, and that it was important to not allow a “cult-like mentality to settle and find a home” in the party.  

Steenhuisen told Business Day that his letter was, however, not a response to Ntuli’s, which he declined to comment on. DA members and leaders have also, over the past few years, openly addressed issues and disputes in the party on social media platforms such as Twitter.

In his own letter sent to the delegates on Wednesday, Steenhuisen said he was not blind to the party’s mistakes, but believed that it could build an organisation that the members were all proud of.

He said he had not once sought to trash the party in public because “I will not trash the party that I love”.

Steenhuisen said he had opted to discuss issues with delegates directly in virtual town hall meetings. “While it may be popular with the commentators and [on] Twitter to attack your own party, I have chosen to rather be forthright with you in these meetings,” he said.

He said he had used internal channels to express his views on what could be done to fix the party, and that the wellbeing and the brand of the DA would always be front and centre in what he did. Steenhuisen added that he believed there was nothing in the DA that could not be fixed.  

He said they were all aware that DA voters were turned off when the DA focused inward, and that the issue had been raised in a report following a review of the party, after it lost support at the polls for the first time in 2019.



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