John Steenhuisen and Mbali Ntuli are competing to lead the country’s biggest opposition party. The DA event is being billed as the largest virtual political gathering in South African history.
When it’s all over, more than 2,000 delegates would have elected the DA’s fourth, permanent leader. It’s been an unusual political race for the candidates, campaigning virtually and at small townhalls during a pandemic.
A former DA youth leader, and KwaZulu-Natal MPL, Ntuli has been campaigning on the grounds of kindness and fairness.
She says she wants to make more South Africans feel included in the DA.
Ntuli said, “I really entered this race to show both my party and South Africans that we can do things in a different way, and we can re-excite people who have checked out of the political system, and grow the DA, and really reimagine a different way of how we do politics in this country.”
She’s under no illusion that the party also needs internal reform. “I think the way we have been handling our disciplinary processes has really done a lot more harm than helped or rehabilitated people who might have done wrong. We’ve become very litigious and we’ve got into a culture of trying to catch each other out by using disciplinary processes and that’s damaging both for the morale of the party but also the cohesion we should have together.”
The party’s interim leader and former chief whip says the turmoil within the party that saw former leader Mmusi Maimaine quit a year ago, has simmered down.
Steenhuisen said, “I know there’s this narrative going around about a purge but it doesn’t exist, I’ve only ever referred a single person to the FLC. This notion that I’ve been using the FLC to settle political scores, is simply not born out by the facts.”
Steenhuisen doesn’t, however, deny the self-inflicted damage, caused by confusing party messaging. “I think there’s been a lot of internal noise that has drowned out our offer to South Africans. I hope to bed down the internal division, so we are able to become a party of all of the talents, that unlocks the potential of every single member of the party to a common purpose which has to be the local government elections next year.”
While Steenhuisen might appear the front-runner going into this weekend’s congress, Ntuli said for her, there are no losers.
If the race doesn’t go her way, she says she will continue to be vocal about the reform she believes is needed within the party.