The Democratic Alliance (DA) is determined to hold its policy and elective congresses this year, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party says it will use technology to adapt to the new normal that the disease presents. It is taking a step-by-step approach in preparing all its delegates to participate to ensure that it can effectively contest the 2021 local elections.
Over six months ago, Musi Maimane resigned as federal leader of the DA followed soon after by federal chairperson, Athol Trollip.
Their resignations were precipitated by the election of the party’s former leader, Helen Zille, to the powerful position of Federal Council Chairperson.
Maimane and Trollip were replaced by John Steenhuisen and Ivan Meyer respectively in an interim capacity. Zille who is effectively CEO of the party, says it is critical that the party has proper leadership.
“If we are going to have an election next year we better be ready for it and no party I know of anywhere in the world without a properly elected leadership and mandated leadership. You can’t go into an election with an interim leader who hasn’t got the mandate of the party. So we need to have that in place and we need to make it happen and fortunately, the tools are there to make it possible,” says Zille.
Zille says a step-by-step approach is under way, with most party functions already digital and online.
Going forward, big meetings such as the local government seminar and policy conference scheduled for September will be used as trials for the federal congress scheduled for October.
She says party members and delegates will also be capacitated.
“So we are anticipating that by October we may be on a lower level of lockdown that will allow some movement and may allow meetings of fifty people or fewer. That will allow us to have decentralised venues across the country to which people who battle with the technology could come and could get access to technology and training to use that technology in order to not be at any disadvantage at all in the processes of the congress,” says Zille.
Three candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for the party’s top job – interim leader John Steenhuisen, KwaZulu-Natal Member of Parliament, Mbali Ntuli and Gauteng Provincial leader, John Moodey.
Zille believes the usual colour and excitement of the race will not be compromised by its virtual nature.
“All of the leadership candidates have access online, all of them have run online campaigns and all of them are very much involved in the online workings of the party. So we are now in the new world, we are now thrust into the fourth industrial revolution. We were not allowed to go into it gradually. This virus has thrust us right into it and we are going to have to make use of everything we can offer if we are going to continue working in the context of a very serious pandemic,” says Zille.