Durban - DA Leader, John Steenhuisen, has warned that his party would not tolerate members who want to be a “better version of the ANC” as he plans on securing more votes ahead of the upcoming local government elections.
Steenhuisen was responding to the notion that the party was on a “self-cleaning” process by getting rid of black leaders to regain lost support during the 2019 general elections.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Tribune during his visit to the province regarding unrest issues, Steenhuisen said the party learnt from the mistakes it made in the general elections in 2019.
At the time, the DA was led by Mmusi Maimane who resigned after a fallout with the party’s Federal Council.
Maimane’s exit opened a resignation crusade as many leaders followed suit, citing toxicity within the Federal Council.
Most recently, Phumzile van Damme a former DA spokesperson and member of Parliament resigned from the party after she had “conflicting views” with Steenhuisen which often played out on social media.
Steenhuisen who was critical of the previous leadership said his sentiments were based on the internal diagnostic report the party published following the party's poor performance during the general election.
He said the report showed that the party had no clear direction back then, sent mixed messages, lack of decisive leadership and people looked at the DA not knowing what it was and what it stood for.
“There were no clear policies and a lot of flip-flops on key issues, we have managed to address this over the years and during our policy conference.
“Our values and principles have been reaffirmed, we have had a leadership election that produced leadership that is going to take the party forward.
“The party is more ideological and clear about what we want to achieve for South Africa," he said.
He admitted that he was unhappy with Van Damme’s lack of performance and issues around her behaviour, but said he was not the reason she resigned.
“That is well-documented, it’s not necessarily that I took those issues to Twitter.
’There were processes within the party, Van Damme went through those processes.
“She has now left and we wish her well.
“She resigned from the party simply because she migrated to Norway with her husband and her job doesn't allow her to be a member of any political party,” he said.
When quizzed about other members, particularly blacks who have left the party, unhappy, he replied: “Let me tell you, the DA is not going to be a comfortable place for people who think they are going to be some form of ANC, we very much learnt our lesson in 2019 and we have to stand up for what we believe which is non-racialism, respect for the rule of law and Constitution, social-market economy and a capable state.
“If people are uncomfortable with that they are free to join other parties.
“Not for a moment longer where a DA is going to be a home for some people who want to be a better version of the ANC, it’s not what our voters want and it is not what we want to be.”
With major changes within party leadership across the country, Steenhuisen was confident that DA had a better chance to grow its support.
He maintained that race was not a deciding factor to the voters adding that the DA had over the years enjoyed support from all racial groups.
He added that he was confident that when people see the quality and the diversity in the DA’s candidacy they are going to attract a significant number of voters.
“I think there is a huge potential for us in KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC is in disarray in the province, people are looking for an alternative.
“We are more competitive now than ever before, with so many unhappy supporters within the ANC some may decide to stay away which will be a better chance for us,” he added.
He reassured that the DA was ready for elections having completed all the election processes including mayoral candidates which will be submitted to the IEC.
With regards to the issue in Phoenix where people were killed during the rioting last month, Steenhuisen said they met with the commissioner to get the police’s perspective.
The Phoenix killings have been subjected to a parliamentary inquiry to look into how 36 people were killed during the unrest.
Steenhuisen said there were racial flare-ups and there was criminal activities that took place.
He added that the DA has instructed its representatives to work with all stakeholders to stabilise the situation in Phoenix and surrounding areas.