DA 2018 Congress: Emergence of a new political animal or a question of new wine in old bottles
April 11, 2018
By Prince Kurupati
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is the main opposition party in South Africa though its influence has been diminished in the House of Assembly owing to the exuberant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a splinter party started by ousted former African National Congress (ANC) youth leader, Julius Malema.
The DA which had come under immense pressure from most opposition parties in the country including civil society owing to its leadership structure went into the Congress on the trump card of endorsing diversity. For neutrals, diversity meant that the new DA leadership which was going to be elected at the 2018 Congress would see equal representation between whites vs blacks and males vs females.
The outcome in terms of the newly elected DA leadership was not what many neutrals had expected. Only one woman was elected to the top hierarchy of the leadership positions and three blacks in total were elected among the top DA Leadership positions.
New political animal? Or not
The diversity trump card used by the DA before the start of the Congress failed to return the expected results i.e. to the neutrals. Outsiders stated soon after the Congress that the new DA leadership did not reflect South Africa’s demographics as there were more whites compared to blacks and few women in relation to the male/female population structure in the country. On this basis, the conclusion by many was that it was just a case of revitalised ‘wine’ in old bottles.
However, those who have been elected to top leadership positions dispute these claims. Mmusi Maimane, the re-elected president said that “So make no mistake – I have a genuine interest of making sure we’ve got women in all our structures and I think we can’t be quickly dismissive of the fact that in provinces we’ve also seen the election of great female leaders.”
To Maimane, the fact that the top leadership does not reflect South Africa’s demographics should not be used as a yardstick in measuring the diversity of the DA but rather, people have to look more at the grassroots where more women and more blacks hold leadership positions.
Refiloe Ntseke, the only female who was elected to the top DA leadership hierarchy as one of the Deputy Chairs concurred with Maimane. She also said that she is not bothered by being the only woman elected to the top hierarchy saying she will use her position to push forward the agenda of the party. In her own words, “I’m very comfortable that I’m chosen by blacks, whites, coloureds, and Indians as one of the leaders of the organisation. So I’m not particularly worried that I am the black female because, the people who have elected me – for white people to say, I believe you are competent and I want you to serve again, coloured people saying the same, Indian people saying the same thing and my fellow black colleagues – it’s an honour.”
The new DA leadership is as follows:
- Federal Leader- Mmusi Maimane
- Federal Chairperson- Athol Trollip
- Deputy Federal Chairpersons- Ivan Henry
- Michael Waters
- Refiloe Nt’sekhe
- Chairperson of Federal Council- James Selfe
- Deputy Chairperson of Federal Council- Michael Walters
- Federal Finance Chairperson- Dion George
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