WATCH: I can't change the colour of my skin, says DA's John Steenhuisen
Cape Town - Newly elected Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen says that perceptions the public has of the party are not accurate.
His remarks come after he made an appearance at the Cape Town Press Club on Monday, and addressed the way forward for the DA and the current challenges facing the official opposition after a highly contested federal executive election, which saw Helen Zille elected chairperson.
Steenhuisen acknowledged that perceptions play a very big role in South African politics and that "race still runs as a vexed issue through vast parts of our society and of our life".
"The things is that the perception (of the DA) is not born out of reality, because if you look at the Democratic Alliance: eight of the nine provincial leaders happen to be black South Africans, the two national spokespersons are black South Africans, the leader up until 72 hours ago was a black South African.
"If you look at the parliamentary party caucus, (and) if you look at our council caucus, by far the most diverse party represented in any of these legislatures, and they represent South Africa in all its diversity," Steenhuisen said.
"And I think if you look at the resignations as well, over the course of the last fortnight, there have been more white South Africans - if I may be so crude - who have resigned than black South Africans, and that is simply the truth of the matter."
Addressing the race issue head-on Steenhuisen said, "I can't change my skin colour".
"I didn't get to press a button on the way out and choose and self-identify what colour I came out.
"What I can do is use every single fibre of my being to change what I think is wrong with South Africa. and to work very hard to do it," he said.
"I think we have to break this narrative in South Africa, that you have to look a certain way, or speak a certain way, to represent the needs of other people.
"Helen Suzman proved that without a doubt, you don't have to be a black prisoner on Robbin Island to raise the cause of black prisoners on Robben Island in Parliament. Colin Eglin didn't have to be a black South African to fight for equal rights, and for democracy in South Africa," Steenhuisen added.
"Sometimes change in history...is bent on the most unlikely of characters."