DA tries to shrug off elitist cloak

In a bid to shake off its image of being white, elitist and a breeding ground for coconuts*, the new mix of Democratic Alliance youth leaders will include born-frees from Model C schools as well as township residents.

From the nomination list for youth leaders released this week, it is clear that being white and privileged is no guarantee for leadership in the DA anymore, but privilege can certainly still help.

Mbali Ntuli, the new federal youth chairperson, is a case in point.

She hails from Kwazulu-Natal, which has been the political breeding ground for some of the party’s most prominent young black leaders, including national spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko.

The 22-year-old Ntuli, who is unopposed for the position, was the head girl of the swanky Wykeham Collegiate in Pietermaritzburg and took a social science degree at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

After her studies she led the DA Youth in the province and was tasked with building a DA presence in townships like KwaMashu and Ntuzuma.

Leaders based on merit
The DA has been under fire for its mainly white leadership, and for putting black leaders in positions of no real authority. The party insisted it would continue to choose leaders based on merit and not skin colour, but this choice may have played a role in curbing party support on a national level, because the party did not do as well at the polls as was expected.

In the last few years initiatives like the DA Young Leaders programme groomed young black people for leadership positions, who were often stigmatised for being “coconuts” if they supported the “white party”.

All the youth nominations are for non-white leaders, while the current chairperson Khume Ramulifho is being moved up the party structures to serve on the federal council, the party’s highest decision-making body between conferences.

In step with the party’s attempt to shake off its elitist cloak, not all of the nominees hail from Model C or private schools.

Mbulelo Dwane, who has been nominated as federal youth training and development chairperson, lives in the N2 Development Constituency which mostly consists of townships.

The 22-year-old Siphumle Yalezo—nominated for federal youth leader—hails from Khayelitsha, not far from where the infamous toilet scandal played itself out.

Other nominees include Makashule Gana from Johannesburg (federal youth leader), Rihan Kleyn from the northern suburbs of Cape Town and Bhekinkos Rolisizu from Mpumalanga (both for federal youth media and publicity chairperson) and Hlanganani Gumbi from KwaZulu-Natal (federal youth training and development chairperson).

Elections take place on July 24 at the party congress in Cape Town.

* Coconut is a derogatory term used to describe black people who seemingly take on white people’s mannerisms.

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