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

DA KwaZulu-Natal MPL Mbali Ntuli is set to run for the post of party leader, she announced in a letter to party members this week.

The race for the soul of the DA is hotting up after Helen Zille’s return to the party’s leadership structures late last year as its federal council chair — among the most powerful positions in the party.  

Ntuli is set to publicly announce the decision on February 7, according to the letter, which the Financial Mail has seen.

The DA has been in crisis since its dismal performance in the 2019 national election, with the departure of its former leader Mmusi Maimane, its federal chair Athol Trollip, and Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba. It has lost two of the three key metros it won in the 2016 local elections — Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay, and is on the cusp of potentially losing Tshwane with mayor Stevens Mokgalap announcing his intention to resign over the weekend.

Since Maimane’s departure, DA MP and parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen has been acting as party leader. He is likely to contest to lead the party into the 2021 election when the DA holds its federal congress later this year. This means that the DA will, effectively, retreat from a party governing with a national footprint, back to the Western Cape.

In her letter, Ntuli points to the “series of losses” faced by the party in recent months, including its loss of a half a million votes in the last election, that it is “bleeding activists”, its loss of metros, loss of donors, loss of valuable staff — and the loss of confidence of its members.

“In any other organisation in the world, the broader membership would rise up in anger against its leadership for such a failure,” she said. “Yet in our party, many of us are too afraid to openly criticise out of fear of reprisals. Yet we claim to be a party of accountability, but this is the case only when it suits the agendas of some among us.” 

She adds that her greatest fear is that many DA councillors are set to lose their jobs in the next election due to a potentially poor result for the DA in the 2021 local government polls. Ntuli said the party is no longer a government-in-waiting but one that is destroying itself from within.

“The [ANC] is destroying itself from within and they it at its weakest ever, but so too are we. This is why South Africans are not looking to us as an alternative. This was the opportunity we have been waiting for for years and we have thrown it away,” she said, adding that she would not watch the organisation built over many years, “disappear into oblivion”.

In the end, Ntuli said, if members do not save the DA, they would not be able to save SA.

Ntuli could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Financial Mail has confirmed that the letter is penned by her.