DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Regardless of whether the DA sees itself as a government in waiting, the strongest possible official opposition, or merely just a flag-bearer of the kind of values that are needed to restore honesty, honour and competence to our political and societal establishments, it is vital that the party presents cohesiveness, coherency and a united sense of purpose.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a public perception that these characteristics are missing from the party at the moment and typically, as leadership elections loom, any internal divisions become aggravated as party members link with personalities, sometimes with self-serving purposes, rather than competence and political principles.

When the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) under Zach de Beer, the Independent Party of Denis Worrall and the National Democratic Movement of Wynand Malan negotiated a merger in 1989 to form the Democratic Party, the potential divisions, flowing from differing but embedded political opinions and historical loyal allegiance to the individuals concerned, were successfully avoided by appointing the three of them as equal status leaders.

It was never meant to be a long-term solution but it had the effect creating a sense of unity within party structures and of publicly projecting a team that was confident, cohesive and competent about its role in SA politics at the time.

This manifested itself in the strong performance of the DP in the important 1989 election, largely as a result of the verligte Afrikaner voters, who had a historical distrust of the PFP but were happy to drift from the NP to the newly formed DP under the combined leadership.

Circumstances are different and it does not always help to resurrect history, but it seems there may well be a case for the DA to consider a joint leadership team, rather than an individual, to restore its fortunes in the run-up to the municipal elections.

Certainly, from those who have put their hats in the ring, there are excellent candidates to form such a team capable of appealing to a wider cross-section of the voting public.

David Gant

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