Johannesburg - DA Parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen says the contest to elect an interim DA leader between him and Makashule Gana should not be about race.
Steenhuisen said South Africans were race-obsessed and that the direction of the country is unclear because every decision is being reduced to race.
“I think we have become far too obsessed with race in SA. We are losing our way precisely because we are reducing key decisions to the colour of the person. I can't choose the way I came out, but what I can do is use my talent to improve the lives of South Africans,” said Steenhuisen during an interview on Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday.
Steenhuisen is vying to be elected as DA interim leader. He is facing competition from DA Gauteng member of the provincial legislature Makashule Gana. Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela had also put his name into the ring, but withdrew on Monday citing a busy schedule.
The DA’s federal council will meet on Saturday to decide on who will lead the party until it goes to an early congress in April. The party was thrown into a tailspin when Mmusi Maimane resigned last month. He was followed by Athol Trollip who was federal chairperson.
Maimane said he believed the DA was not the best “vehicle” to lead South Africa forward.
Steenhuisen spoke candidly about his views on race and said what lost the DA votes at the general election was diverting from the party’s principles and race.
“We should be a party that upholds its values of non-racialism and rejects representativity. You don't have to be a black South African to speak for poor South Africans who are living in poverty. I don't think race should matter when you are picking between two individuals. We have become too obsessed with race in South Africa,” he said.
“You can be a white person that speaks up for that authentically. I think you have seen that where the DA has upheld those principles whether, under Tony Leon or Helen Zille, the DA was able to win black votes."
There has been a push within the DA for a “back to basics” especially with regards to how the party dealt with the issue of race and it’s goals of building a non-racial South Africa.
A report, which was commissioned by Maimane, had found that the party had no clear message in the lead up to the election. Steenhuisen said the loss should fall on Maimane’s door-step as the leader of the party. He said he does not believe in collective responsibility and would carry the same thoughts if he should be elected as interim leader.
“I do not believe in collective responsibility. It does not matter where things went wrong the buck stops with the leader. Even if I am elected as interim leader the buck will stop at my office,” he said.
Steenhuisen said he had the experience and skills to lead the DA forward.
“I believe in my 20 years of experience being a public representative in all three spheres of government that I have built up the necessary experience and skills to lead the party forward and recovering from the set-backs. And also winning back the support we may have lost in this last election,” he said.