Race remains a thorny issue as DA looks to elect new leader

The issue of race continues to be at the centre of debate in the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the party is set to elect new leadership, with John Steenhuisen and Mbali Ntuli leading the race.

One of the biggest political parties post-apartheid, the DA has cemented its place in South African politics.

In the 2016 elections, the party managed to take control of some of the key Metros from the oldest liberation movement in Africa – the African National Congress (ANC). This, on the back of another milestone in the DA that saw the election of Mmusi Maimane as the party’s first black leader.

The party arguably performed well under Maimane in the 2016 election getting 24.57% of the total vote share.

However, the DA’s new growth path was short-lived when Maimane quit as party leader.  This after Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba had resigned. Mashaba’s decision followed the election of former Western Cape Premier Helen Zille as the DA’s Federal Council Chair.

Mashaba pointed to Zille’s win as the reason behind his decision to step down. Zille’s appointment led to more black leaders leaving the DA, fuelling speculation that the party was still struggling to deal with race issues.

Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana says the DA still has to work on its real challenge of identity, especially after losing popular black leaders.

“Mmusi (Maimane) managed to grow the party quite impressively, winning all sorts of metros in 2016 especially. Of course, they didn’t do well in 2019. The stupid thing they did was to blame Maimane’ leadership instead of taking a stand on issues of racial redress, their denial, it’s a consecutive party in a denialised mode. They don’t think race matters”

As interim leader John Steenhuisen faces off against former youth leader Mbali Ntuli for the position of party leader, political analyst Steven Friedman says he can confidently predict that Steenhuisen will win the race and emerge as the leader.

“John Steenhuisen will comfortably beat Mbali Ntuli. I think anybody who knows the candidates and has watched them knows that Mbali Ntuli is a highly intelligent, competent politician candidate with lots of good ideas, but it does not matter because she does not control the support of the DA branches. The DA will vote for whoever the white leadership wants them to vote for. However, this time around, it’s clear that the DA wants them to vote for the white leadership.”