Newly-elected leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) John Steenhuisen says under his leadership the party will be solution-oriented while holding the governing African National Congress (ANC) accountable.
Steenhuisen emerged victorious at the party’s virtual elective congress over the weekend. The congress was attended by more than 2 000 delegates who voted with an overwhelming 80% majority for Steenhuisen to beat his opponent, KwaZulu-Natal member of the provincial legislature, Mbali Ntuli.
Steenhuisen says he will focus the party on returning power to the people:
He conceded that the 2019 national election was a bad election for the DA.
“We made mistakes. I think that we tried to be too many things, to too many people. I think we were vague and unfocused. I think many people looking at the DA at that time didn’t know who we are and what we were fighting for. I also think the party focuses far too much on critiquing the ANC when what South Africans are looking for is a party that’s able to say, ‘here, are our plans, we know things are bad but here are our plans to fix them.’”
The alternative party
Steenhuisen says with his leadership, the DA will be the alternative that South Africans are so desperate for, with current challenges compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many, many more people are going to join the unemployment queue, and I think there’s going to be hunger there for an alternative – a new horizon and that’s the area I want the DA to be playing in over the next year towards the local government elections, solutions-oriented, holding government accountable and always being able to put on the table a workable alternative that focuses on how we are going to address the myriad of problems that we are facing.”
Possible impact of a Steenhuisen win
Political analyst Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana says a Steenhuisen win was always expected.
“It is about the dominant sentiment within the party and also within the white electorate generally. So, this outcome was always inevitable. It was inaugurated as soon as Helen Zille came back. So, as soon as they brought her back, it was clear that this is the direction the party wanted to go into. So, pretty much, John inherited the vision that Helen had created even before she came in.”
Meanwhile, Governance Expert Ebrahim Fakir believes that while many South Africans may not be happy with this move by the party, its support base may grow.
“What will happen is that I think they will now start to incrementally grow. Because voters do go, even sometimes they may not like it for strategic reasons, they go for a party that is much more clearer on who they are. That’s not going to mean mass support and I don’t think that is what the DA can realistically aim for now. What they need to aim for is to consolidate organisationally inside the party firstly; secondly, try to reach out to some of the voters they lost in 2019.”
Political analyst Professor Dirk Kotze talks about DA’s value of non-racialism: