On the face of it, the DA congress was a masterful production that exhibited democracy in action, meticulous planning and efficient execution.

South Africans should be left in no doubt about the party’s capability and competence, the quality and ability of its new leader, and its commitment to the kind of values and policies required to restore honour, dignity, harmony and relative prosperity to our battered multiracial nation.

What is not quite as certain is the extent to which the electorate at large has the appetite for season two of the John and Helen show, and the impact the symbolism of this continued historical white top leadership structure will have on the party’s attempt to grow a support base across a far larger and broader section of the SA population.

The main reason offered by those opposing the establishment of a deputy federal leader as proposed by leadership candidate Mbali Ntuli — namely the possibility of internal factionalism — simply does not wash. Whether it is Ntuli or someone else elected to such a position in future, the fact is that having leaders that represent differing factions in the party’s top echelon serves to dilute factionalism because the factions know that, win or lose, they have a voice and influential representation where it counts. When those factions are muzzled or contemptuously rejected, it simply adds fuel to the fire.

The DA was originally founded in a spirit of partnership between different groups with different loyalties and aspirations, and for the greater good it created a leadership structure that engendered unified support from across divergent traditional and historical bases.

The inclusion of Ntuli, with her background, youthful energy, talent, commitment and courage, in the effective leadership structures of the DA would have made a huge contribution towards the electoral thrust of and support for the DA in the months and years ahead. It might even have been game-changing in SA’s political circumstances.

David Gant

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