Cape Town - The fight for control of the official opposition is in full swing as DA leader John Steenhuisen and his challenger Mpho Phalatse made their last bid to party members at the congress ahead of the vote on Sunday.
More than 2 000 members will vote for the new party leader after Phalatse, who is the former mayor of Johannesburg, took on Steenhuisen.
Members of the party will on Sunday start casting their votes and the results will be announced after that.
The party is convening in Gauteng for the weekend for their congress after Steenhuisen was elected in 2020 after former leader Mmusi Maimane left the party late in 2019.
In a last ditch effort, both Phalatse and Steenhuisen were asked to make their last campaign speeches to the members attending the congress.
Steenhuisen said he had been in the party since 1997 as a councillor and at the time it had a national support of 1.7%.
“When I joined the Democratic Party (the forerunner of the DA) in 1997 we had no illusions of the difficulties that lay ahead. We were a 1.7% party. But we knew that to cement our role in the South African political landscape we had to put in a lot of hard work,” said Steenhuisen.
He added that he had worked as a councillor for 10 years before moving to the national legislature.
“Let me tell you, as a councillor for 10 years, I knew a lot about hard work. We also knew that only the politics of the long haul will result in a political change and we knew there were no short cuts,” said Steenhuisen.
But Phalatse said it was not the length of time that someone has spent in a party that determines if they have good quality leadership skills to lead.
She said it was experience and skills that were needed to drive the party.
She said Barack Obama may not have been in the Democrats for many years, but he became one of the best leaders that the US ever had.
She said the DA has not done well in the past and they need to build that trust with communities.
“I am ready to lead the DA to a new process of introspection to repositioning, from an opposition in parliament to a governing party in 2024. Some critics ask ‘is it not too soon.?’ I wish to state categorically here without any fear of contradiction, it’s not the length of time in the party that determines one’s effectiveness. It is not the number of years that counts, it’s about capability, experience and qualifications,” said Phalatse.