DA CONGRESS 2023
In her final leadership push Phalatse takes a swipe at Steenhuisen, invoking comparisons with Zuma
The first day of the party’s national congress saw incumbent leader John Steenhuisen and his opponent Mpho Phalatse go head to head in a last-ditch effort to woo party delegates.
In keeping with DA tradition, the two contenders for party leadership were on Saturday given a final chance to convince the last undecideds out of more than 2,000 delegates to vote for them.
Mpho Phalatse won the coin toss and sent John Steenhuisen up to the podium first at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, preferring to be in a position to respond to the incumbent leader’s speech.
In a spirited speech, Phalatse said the length of time one had been a party member should not be seen as the only requirement to lead the party.
In what could be seen as a reference to Steenhuisen, she said: “Some critics ask me, ‘Is it not too soon [for me to lead the party]?’ Jacob Zuma was a horrible president, with all his years in the ANC. Yet Barack Obama, with much fewer years in his party, was one of the best presidents America ever had.
“I am a medical doctor by profession, with a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors. My work as a doctor in Alexandra exposed me to abject urban poverty, leading to my leap from medicine into politics. See democrats, politics is not a vocation. It is a calling,” she said.
The former Johannesburg executive mayor said she believed that support for the ANC would drop below 40% in the 2024 national elections. She noted that the ruling party had lost more than 1.4 million voters between the 2016 and 2021 local government elections, resulting in 285 councillors losing their positions.
“Delegates, it is time. Our time has come. But, it is now or never. Our party needs a new leadership that can inspire and galvanise sectors of society behind a new vision of a prosperous and equal-opportunity society for all. Our country has entered a phase of coalition governance. We need leaders with experience in both politics and governance to keep our governments afloat and protect them from avoidable instability,” Phalatse said.
She went on to advocate for freedom of speech. Steenhuisen had earlier spoken out against using platforms to criticise the party.
— Veve (@LudidiVelani) April 1, 2023
The foundation of Steenhuisen’s speech was based on bettering the party’s standing and whittling away at support for the ANC at the 2024 polls.
He said he was the most suitable candidate to take the party forward and increase its support.
“We have been working together to rebuild the DA. We have defied our critics and come out of election 2021 stronger than before. We are now on track for a record result in 2024, where we must bring the ANC below 50% and rescue South Africa. This is our mission.
“We are on track because of the hard work that all our members and public reps have put in. We have moved past infighting and ideological drift, and we are not anchored in our values and fight for the people of South Africa,” he said.
Steenhuisen has been tipped for a second term as party leader. Helen Zille and Dion George stand uncontested for the positions of federal council chairperson and federal finance chairperson, respectively. Another possible contender, Lungile Phenyane, who was initially vying for all six positions in the executive, withdrew from running against Steenhuisen, Zille and George.
The most contested position is that of deputy federal chairperson, which allows for the election of three members.
Anton Bredell and Refiloe Nt’sekhe are standing for re-election, but have competition from Jean-Pierre (JP) Smith, Phenyane, Natasha Mazzone, Nqaba Bhanga, Shehana Kajee and Solly Malatsi.
The candidates for the post of deputy chairperson of the Federal Council are Annelie Lotriet, Ashor Sarupen, James Masango, Phenyane, Segope Sathekge, Thomas Walters and Tyrone Gray.
Ivan Meyer, Phenyane and Qhawekazi Mbatha are all vying for the post of federal chairperson. DM