It’s all systems go for the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the party holds the largest virtual political gathering in the history of the country to elect its new leadership this weekend.

Two candidates will be contesting to become the party’s federal leader, interim leader John Steenhuisen and member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature (MPL), Mbali Ntuli.

More than 2 000 delegates made up of public representatives such MPs, MPLs, councillors and branch representatives, will elect a leader who will lead the party in the 2021 local government elections.

DA members ready themselves for this weekend’s elective congress:

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 Wi-Fi 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.”

DA given the green light for its virtual elective congress:

Internal challenges

On Thursday, the SABC News reported that the DA is facing some challenges ahead of its virtual congress.

In 2020 alone, the official opposition party has lost three provincial leaders with one saying it is no longer the party he had joined 20 years ago. This was preceded by the exiting of some senior party leaders including Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba, and Athol Trollip – among others.

The party has also lost the appeal of voters after losing ground in the 2019 and 2016 local government elections.

Some within the party have attributed its failures to the return of Helen Zille as the Chair of the Federal Council. However, the party’s former leader Maimane, who left after Zille’s return, was too diplomatic on her return.

“I also want to congratulate Helen Zille and wish her well in her election as Federal Council Chairperson. She brings in new energy. She’ll be full-time in the role, and she’ll bring in vigour. The role of Federal Council Chair, which is the role Zille will fulfil, is one she would provide the operational and the structural leadership and management of the organization,” Maimane said at the time.

Political Analyst Aubrey Matshiqi summed up the possible outcomes of the Federal Conference as the recalibration of the racist conservatives in the DA.

“The conservative right-wing racist lobby will come stronger and what will be celebrated is that with the election of Steenhuisen, the DA has returned to its true identity as a party of liberal values.”