Former Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse faces off with John Steenhuisen to lead the DA

Former City of Joburg mayor, Dr Mpho Phalatse. Picture: Timothy Bernard African news Agency (ANA)

Former City of Joburg mayor, Dr Mpho Phalatse. Picture: Timothy Bernard African news Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 31, 2023


Pretoria - The former City of Joburg mayor, Dr Mpho Phalatse, will face off with DA leader John Steenhuisen to lead the party during the party’s federal congress, which kicks off at the Gallagher Convention Centre this weekend.

The federal congress is expected to announce its party leader tomorrow after Phalatse decided to contest Steenhuisen for the position.

Steenhuisen took over the leadership of the party after former leader Mmusi Maimane opted to resign following factional fighting and the party’s poor performance after the 2018 national elections.

Steenhuisen was later elected DA leader, and now Phalatse intends to take over from him, promising to grow the DA along the lines initially pursued by Maimane by attracting more black supporters in primary black townships and villages across the country.

DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

However, Steenhuisen looks set to retain his position, as he has managed to gain support from the traditional white DA supporters and influential black people within the provincial and national leadership of the party.

Steenhuisen’s track record in the DA, especially his role in Parliament over the years, looks set to be in his favour, unlike Phalatse, who appears to have fallen out of favour with the top leadership of the party, particularly its Federal council leader, Helen Zille - who also looks set to retain her position.

Phalatse’s loss of support within her party structure became evident in January this year when her party’s top leadership turned down her request to include the Patriotic Alliance (PA) in her coalition government in the City of Joburg.

As a result, opposition parties, which included the ANC and EFF, successfully lobbied for a motion of no confidence against her - which succeeded.

Parties like ActionSA blamed Zille and the DA for her loss.

At the time, ActionSA chairperson Michael Beaumont said the DA had collapsed negotiations to restore the majority of the governing multiparty coalition in Johannesburg.

Beaumont said the coalition parties had reached a point at which a deal was accepted by the PA. He said the deal would have restored the majority of the coalition in Johannesburg that would have kept the ANC out in the economic capital and, most likely, the EFF out in Ekurhuleni.

“The deal, arising from months of negotiations, was agreed by the negotiating teams of all parties, including the DA, and involved ActionSA sacrificing two positions in the mayoral committee to accommodate the PA and ensure the sustainability of the coalition government. Despite this, the DA’s federal executive rejected the deal,” Beaumont said.

Adding more to Phalatse’s woes, none of the DA’s top leadership, including veterans such as Douglas Gibson, have come out publicly to endorse her nomination for the top party leadership.

Despite the apparent disparities in support of Phalatse and Steenhuisen, the DA’s chief presiding officer Greg Krumbock has ruled out any possibility of favouritism at their federal congress.

“The DA prides itself on its sound internal democratic processes. And this is what we will showcase during this weekend’s Federal Congress,” he said.

Nearly 2 000 delegates from all parts of the country will descend on the Gallagher Convention Centre to elect the party’s new Federal Leadership.

“We are a truly inclusive party, with 45% of our delegates and activists being non-public representatives coming from our branches.

“The congress is important for South Africa because the leaders elected may very well be the leaders who will reshape national government as the ANC’s support again drops below 50% in 2024,” Krumbock said.

He said the size of the event spoke to the tremendous growth of the DA over the years, saying his party had exponentially grown since 2015 when it had just over 1200 delegates.

“It is a truly international event that will be attended by more than 400 members of the media, including representatives from countries such as England and France.

“The nearly 2000 delegates to congress are made up of branch activists, councillors, Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) from across the country.

“Each province will be sending a sizeable delegation depending on their proportional support and branch formation in new territories for the DA,” he said.

Krumbock said his party now governs for millions of South Africans in several metros and local municipalities across the country, adding it was crucial that they deliberate and vote on resolutions which seek to address the many issues that confront the people of this country.

“These will include resolutions on building the economy and creating jobs, urban and rural safety, and the restoration of the parliament of South Africa.

“Over the next couple of days, the DA will discuss and vote on 43 resolutions, seeking to drive the DA’s policy agenda and give practical expression to our values of freedom, fairness and opportunity.

“The resolutions presented will build on, and extend, the DA’s policy offer for creating an inclusive society. The resolutions will speak to key areas of exclusion with a focus on how the DA will address them as a party of national government,” he said.

Pretoria News