The newly-elected of the leader of the DA in parliament John Steenhuisen said you don’t need a degree to service people. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Durban - Speaking publicly for the first time about his lack of post-matric qualification, the newly-elected of the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in parliament John Steenhuisen said you don’t need a degree to service people.

Steenhuisen, who is also running to succeed the recently resigned Mmusi Maimane as DA leader, said he has seen politicians with PhDs ripping off poor people. 

Steenhuisen’s lack of post-matric qualifications first drew the public's attention in 2018, when the DA in KwaZulu-Natal proposed that the post of party's chief whip in parliament - a position he held until recently - should be held by someone who is in possession of at least a degree qualification.

His critics inferred that his lack of tertiary qualification was being ignored because he was a white male yet people like former President Jacob Zuma and former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng were eventually hounded out of their jobs solely for their lack tertiary qualifications.

In a brief side interview with Independent Media on Tuesday after addressing a party rally in Msunduzi’s (Pietermaritzburg) Ward 33 where the party is fighting to retain the ward after a defection, Steenhuisen said even the crafters of the country’s constitution were alert enough not to put academic requirements in order for one to be a public office-bearer.

“I think what they do when they say that is that they insult 85 percent of South Africans. A very small percentage of South Africans have tertiary qualifications and when the formers of the Constitution set out in writing the Constitution, they were absolutely clear not to put an education threshold on that because the formers of the constitution recognised that you don’t have to have a degree to service your community,” he said.

He added that he has got the required experience to serve the people of the country.

“I have over 20 years experience as a public representative, I have served 10 years a councillor (in eThekwini), two and half years in the (KZN) legislature and I have been now eight years in parliament. I know what needs to be done, I know what needs to happen,” he added.

In a veiled dig at some leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who have to deal with allegations of looting the VBS bank, he said he has seen people with tertiary qualifications committing crime and corruption.

“I have seen politicians with PHDs and with Master’s degrees ripping people off, you know that, stealing people’s savings from bank accounts. I don’t think the people at VBS slept any easy that night knowing that the people that stole their money had Masters degrees and Doctorates. I think what people are looking for in South Africa are people to offer solutions and make a contribution. It shouldn't matter whether you have got matric, it shouldn't matter whether you have got a Standard 8 and it shouldn't matter whether you have you got a PHD or four degrees. If you have got a contribution to make, we need that contribution in South Africa.”

Speaking about the internal ructions in the DA, Steenhuisen said everything would return to normal and the dream to build an inclusive South Africa for all was still on the agenda. 

He also said the party should focus on serving its constituency instead of focusing on bashing the ruling ANC all the time. 

Political Bureau