Mbali Ntuli. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Mbali Ntuli. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Mbali Ntuli, who is in the running to lead the the DA, has challenged its interim leader John Steenhuisen to a series of televised debates in the lead-up to SA’s official opposition’s leadership election later in 2020. 

Ntuli will go up against Steenhuisen and the party’s Gauteng leader, John Moodey, when the DA’s holds its national congress at the end of October. 

The election of new party leaders was necessitated after former leader Mmusi Maimane resigned following the release of a report into the DA’s dismal electoral performance in 2019 — when the party lost support for the first time. The report was scathing of his leadership of the party.

This new crop of leaders will lead the party into the next local government elections, which are set to take place in 2021. The DA’s support was at a high during the previous local polls in 2016, and the party used these gains to take control of major metros in SA. 

However, over the past year the party has lost its mayoral positions in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane, reversing those gains.

In a media briefing on Monday Ntuli said that, given that the DA styled itself as an alternative government to the ANC, the party’s federal leader should be viewed as a prospective president of SA. 

She said it was therefore in the public interest to have at least four televised debates, in keeping with the liberal tradition on these types of American primary debates. 

“Members of the DA, and the larger public, are tired of our politicians operating behind closed doors and under the cover of darkness, and not availing themselves for reasonable scrutiny and to be held accountable. This must change,” Ntuli said. 

She said there were some “very important and notable material differences” between Steenhuisen’s and her candidacies. 

Ntuli said Steenhuisen was part of the DA’s decision-making bodies that oversaw the party losing the key metros it had gained after the 2016 local government elections. 

She has styled herself as someone who has built the grass roots structures of the party in KwaZulu-Natal, and who can bring “bold, transformative, and visionary leadership” to the party. 

“In the next few months, we are going to be fighting the toughest local government elections we have ever fought. In order for us to ensure we return as many councillors as we can, and win more seats, we are going to have to inspire voters that have never voted for the DA before,” Ntuli said. 

She added that she still had reservations about the security and efficacy of the online voting system that has been proposed to be used to elect the party’s leaders in 2020.  

She said she has written to Ivan Meyer, the DA’s federal chair, detailing her concerns about this, as well to request assurances from him that outstanding technical issues will be dealt with and that the outcome of the voting will be fully audited by an independent third party.

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