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DA again votes against having a deputy leader (again)

DA again votes against having a deputy leader (again)
John Steenhuisen address the delegates at the Democratic Alliance Federal Conference held at Gallagher Convention centre in Midrand on 1 April 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Helen Zille voted against the amendment, saying they have learnt from the ANC that it is a bad idea to have a deputy leader as it creates two centres of power. 

The DA congress that is currently under way at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand voted against having a deputy leader. 

This was not the first time the proposal to amend the party’s constitution was brought up; during the last congress former member Mbali Ntuli proposed that the party introduce a deputy leader. Ntuli’s proposal was seconded by Sakhile Mngadi, who during this year’s congress was the proposer. 

Mbali Ntuli during a press conference in August 2020 in Durban. (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

Mngadi said considering the party’s growth, a deputy leader was needed to share responsibilities with the leader. 

“With this [party growth], come great challenges for senior office bearers due to demand etc,” Mngadi said.

“To ensure executive continuity, stability and effectiveness, the position of deputy leader provides the party with the opportunity to expand access to the executive and ensure that roles, access, availability and workload are shared evenly among recognisable personalities. The reality is that the DA needs to position itself as a solid front going into 2024 and 2026.”

When former DA leader Mmusi Maimane resigned from his role in 2019, current leader John Steenhuisen was elected as the interim leader until the party’s next congress. 

DA supporters questioned whether the party would amend the country’s constitution and do away with the deputy president if they were to be in government while others argued that the party was trying to avoid having a black deputy leader when the party leader is white and vice versa. 

DA Gauteng leader Solly Msimanga also supported the proposal and said several provinces already have deputy leaders and it is working well. “A party that is growing, a party that will be in government needs to have a deputy leader. We should be looking at that so that we start building succession.” 

Other amendments were passed and rejected with ease but this proposal was the hotly contested one forcing the DA staff to do a manual count. When the results were eventually announced, it was rejected by a small margin of 29 votes. 

Helen Zille, who voted against the proposal, said they have learnt from watching the ANC battling it out in public as a deputy leader position creates two centres of power. 

Helen Zille at the DA Federal Conference on 1 April 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“When you get two centres of power in the leadership of the party it is difficult for a leader to chart a vision and lead a united party to that end. It is a bad idea to have a deputy leader automatically become a leader when you have so many mayors, premiers and provincial leaders who can also become party leaders.” 

Msimanga differed from Zille, saying the proposal is already working in several provinces without creating two centres of power. 

“It’s about how you define the role and I was of the view that once this is passed and is part of our resolutions and amendments, you would then use this time to define what are going to be the roles. I don’t think the argument that it will create two centres of power holds water, if that is the case then they should tell us why in other provinces that is something that is not happening.” 

The proposal is expected to be brought again in the next congress in three years, and Msimanga said he will continue supporting it. DM


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