The Democratic Alliance’s election congress kicks off today. The two candidates contesting to be the party’s federal leader are confident of victory.The party’s interim leader John Steenhuisen will face off with KwaZulu-Natal Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL), Mbali Ntuli, for the federal leadership spot. Dubbed the largest virtual political gathering in the history of the country, the congress will be attended by 2 039 delegates who will elect a leader who will lead the party in next year’s local government elections.
The delegates include public representatives such MPs, MPLs, Councillors and branch representatives.The party’s Interim Federal Chairperson Ivan Meyer says they have ensured delegate participation and inclusiveness.
“To accommodate delegates with no internet connectivity, we’ve provided 38 hybrid venues with WiFi and internet connectivity where these delegates can take part in this congress. We will be using the Zoom webinar poling system to vote for constitutional amendments as well as congress resolutions. For electing the new federal leadership we will be using the Opa voting system and we have tested this system in two provincial congresses, one in the Eastern Cape and one in Mpumalanga. This system was successfully tested and I have absolute confidence in the integrity of this system.”
Both candidates for the leadership position have expressed confidence in winning the race. The party’s former youth leader now KZN MPL, Mbali Ntuli said she has worked hard to reach many of the party’s delegates.She says the results of the congress will show that. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in this congress time tomorrow (Saturday), whatever happens I look forward to making sure that I will still be a part of making South Africa a better place for everyone.”
Current interim leader, John Steenhuisen, says he is certain he has ticked all the boxes to garner favour from the majority of the voting delegates.“What I intend to do as leader is to create safe space within the DA where people are able to honestly and frankly and in a completely unrestrained manner be able to put their issues on the floor,” he says.
Political Analyst Aubrey Matshiqi believes that the party will have its work cut out in dealing with issues it faces.“There will be an attempt to deal with critical challenges facing the party, chief amongst with is the challenges of internal unity and cohesion which has been compromised by the lack of policy unity and the lack of unity on ideology matters. It goes to this congress at a time where it seems internally it has yielded to conservative elements, to a conservative right wing logic which has ironically run counter with what Helen Zille was trying to do.”
Two other positions will be contested at the congress. Gauteng Chair Mike Moriarty is challenging Helen Zille for the powerful position of the DA Federal Council Chair. Other four candidates including Refiloe Ntsheke, Anton Bredell, Annelie Lotriet and Jacques Smalle are vying for the position of third deputy Federal Chair.