DA delegates place trust in Steenhuisen and Zille ahead of elections

John Steenhuisen re-elected as the DA leader during the party's 2023 Federal Congress in Midrand. Picture: Oupa Mokoena /African News Agency (ANA)

John Steenhuisen re-elected as the DA leader during the party's 2023 Federal Congress in Midrand. Picture: Oupa Mokoena /African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 3, 2023


Cape Town - The DA re-elected party leader John Steenhuisen and federal council chairperson Helen Zille to lead the opposition party a year before the provincial and national elections.

The DA’s 2 000 delegates closed the federal congress in Midrand, Johannesburg, on Sunday, where Steenhuisen, Zille and eight others were elected into the party’s most senior leadership positions.

The two-day conference spent Saturday debating constitutional matters, while delegates discussed resolutions on Sunday.

As per the DA constitution, delegates elected the leader, federal chairperson and three deputy federal chairpersons, while federal council members voted for the council’s chairperson, three deputy chairpersons and the federal finance chairperson.

The new leadership includes Dr Ivan Meyer as federal chairperson; Dr Dion George as federal finance chairperson; JP Smith, Solly Malatsi and Anton Bredell, respectively, as first, second and third deputy federal chairpersons; and Ashor Sarupen, Annelie Lotriet and Thomas Walters as deputy chairpersons of the federal council.

The party voted against having a deputy leader to avoid creating two centres of power.

Steenhuisen used his speech to declare EFF leader Julius Malema “public enemy number one”.

He said he would work with other DA democrats to lead the party into national government in 2024.

“I want to thank every DA delegate, public representative, activist, member and supporter who has placed such overwhelming trust in me to serve as federal leader for a second term,” Steenhuisen said.

He pledged to devote himself to taking the DA into the future.

Steenhuisen drummed home the message that the DA should be ready to govern as the ANC’s power was expected to wane even further after the 2024 national elections.

Dr Mpho Phalatse, who lost to Steenhuisen, had earlier told the delegates the DA had seen a “negative growth” in the 2016 and 2021 local government elections.

She said a “trust deficit exists” between the DA and the electorate. Phalatse said this was a hurdle for the party’s ambitions of ascending to the Union Buildings.

Meanwhile, Steenhuisen appeared to shift blame for the DA’s 2019 election misfortunes to the previous leadership.

He proposed a “moonshot” deal with other opposition parties.

“While the term ‘moonshot’ originally meant ‘long shot’, it’s increasingly being used to describe a monumental effort and a lofty goal – in other words, a giant leap forward,” he said.

“A leap like ensuring that the DA leads national government in 2024.

“And, like the original mission to take humans to the moon, we take this shot to defeat the ANC and keep the EFF out, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.

“Since 2019, we have worked on the first phase of that project. This phase was all about stabilising and fixing the DA so that we could get back to winning ways, on our way to taking the moonshot.”

He said under his leadership, a strong DA had been built.

He said there was a possibility that the ANC and the EFF would enter a power-sharing agreement next year.

“I want to be unequivocal about the DA’s view on this: the day that an ANC-EFF government takes over, it will be doomsday for South Africa.”

He said there is only one insurance policy against the “ANC-EFF doomsday coalition – and that’s to vote for the DA.

“Today, I publicly declare Julius Malema’s EFF to be political enemy number one of the DA.

“And I commit the DA to fight back against the EFF at every turn, with the ultimate aim of defeating the doomsday coalition that could seal South Africa’s fate next year,” Steenhuisen said.

Political analyst Lukhanyo Vangqa said the Zille faction had consolidated its power.

He said the DA appears to have resigned itself to the fact that it will never grow as a political party and had entered “an era of stabilisation”, where they consolidate their voter base around the “white liberal interests”.

Vangqa said the make-up of the new DA leadership was “disastrous” for the party’s claim of inclusivity, and doesn’t reflect the country’s demographics.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Helen Zille during the party's 2023 Federal Congress in Midrand. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

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