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DA to announce new leader

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Mbali Ntuli and John Steenhuisen are running against each other to be the new leader of the country’s official opposition party.

Mbali Ntuli and John Steenhuisen go head-to-head. File image

THE OUTCOME of the battle for the leadership of the DA is set to be known on Sunday, with either Mbali Ntuli or the party’s interim leader, John Steenhuisen, both from KZN, emerging as the new leader of the country’s official opposition party.

The party is in its first virtual federal congress, necessitated by the strict lockdown regulations on the gathering of large crowds.

Following months of campaigning between the pair, their fate could be known by 2pmon Sunday.

The showdown between Ntuli and Steenhuisen will come down to who the party’s 2 000 voting delegates will entrust with leading the party ahead of next year’s local government elections and into the 2024 national and provincial elections.

A key factor would be to recoup numbers lost at last year’s polls where its voter numbers dropped by 1.5%.

In an apparent swipe at Ntuli, who has criticised the party on numerous issues including its stance on the contentious issue of race, Steenhuisen in his candidate speech on Saturday said leaders should stop talking to the media “about our internal party matters”, adding that he was committed to restoring discipline within party ranks.

“From now on, every single DA member must focus on the voters. All of them. Every South African deserves to know our vision for the country and how we plan to rescue it from the criminal clique in power,” said Steenhuisen.

In her last address to delegates, Ntuli said her aim was to ensure that the party’s branches were empowered and had the money and the resources to be the soldiers on the ground for the party.

“I’ve been in this party for 14 years, I know what it takes to be in different communities. I’ve been in rural communities, villages, townships and in suburbia and I believe as the DA we need to tap into every single type of person in this party and in South Africa, and show them they can belong in the DA,” said Ntuli.

One of the defining features in the build-up to the congress was the party’s decision to put a ban on public campaigning for any of those contesting leadership positions, which includes the contestation for the party’s federal council chairperson’s position involving the incumbent federal council chairperson, Helen Zille, who is going head-to-head with the DA’S Gauteng chairperson, Mike Moriarty.

Steenhuisen, who has been at the helm of the party on an interim basis since Mmusi Maimane’s acrimonious departure in October last year, is touted to take over the reins having already had a year to show his leadership capabilities.

Among party heavyweights in Steenhuisen’s corner is Natasha Mazzone, the incumbent DA chief whip in the National Assembly.

Mazzone has publicly declared support for the party’s former parliamentary chief whip, proclaiming that Steenhuisen is the best person for the job.

The party’s provincial leaders including Northern Cape leader Andrew Louw, Western Cape provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, North West provincial leader Joe Mcgluwa, Eastern Cape’s Nqaba Bhanga and Jane Sithole of Mpumalanga are also strong backers of Steenhuisen, as is Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

Party leaders fighting in Ntuli’s corner are led by KwaZulu-Natal provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango, DA Youth leader Luyolo Mphithi, MPS Hlanganani Gumbi and Haniff Hoosen, Gauteng MPL Magashule Gana, KZN Member of the Provincial Legislature Elma Rabe and ethekwini councillor Hlengiwe Shozi.