Just two weeks before the Democratic Alliance holds its federal congress, Gauteng leader John Moodey has raised concerns that the party is excluding black, township-based members from attending it.
The Mail & Guardian has seen a copy of a letter written by Moodey to fellow provincial leaders and public representatives, in which he laments the treatment of members who have been active in driving the DA’s campaign to increase its membership, particularly in townships.
“It is these dedicated DA members who make up the largest contingent at our marches and rallies. These are the people that the DA can depend upon to do the footwork in our various campaigns,” Moodey wrote. But these “deserving delegates” had been excluded “from an important congress at which leadership will be elected”.
“I hope for a positive outcome and will continue to fight for inclusivity,” he said.
The party’s federal executive is yet to reach a decision on how it will address the matter, Moodey told the M&G this week.
He added he had also raised the matter at the party’s federal executive meeting last week but he said he would not be demanding immediate changes because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“We have to be very cautious … We cannot fall foul of our legislative framework as it could lead to appeals, which could bring the results of the election into question,” he said.
A senior Gauteng party member who supports Moodey’s stance said the party needed to increase the number of people attending congress to make room for more participants.
“The more delegates you have the more opportunity you have for more representation but when you have a smaller number you exclude people from townships,” the member said.
“It is a weakness we have identified. You want to say people who do our door-to-door [engagements] must not be at the conference? No, we want those people and we want them as delegates.”
This year, the DA will see more than 2 000 delegates attending its conference, double the number who attended the 2015 gathering.
The formula the party uses to select delegates gives automatic entry to its members of Parliament (MPs) and members of provincial legislatures (MPLs). The number of local government councillors must be five times that of the MPs and MPLs. Each province is allocated places for councillors based on its proportional contribution to DA votes in the past national election. Non-public representatives from branches are then selected based on a proportional voting system.
Party leaders have said the exclusion of delegates from townships is not deliberate — the selection is dictated by the party’s constitution. But Moodey said he believed the formula would have to change as the party grows.
The composition of delegates has raised concerns among members about the party’s commitment to diversity.
“When you look at the leader [Mmusi Maimane], he keeps saying the DA is the most diverse party but when you look at geographic diversity, you don’t have people from Soweto, Mamelodi, Sharpeville and all those areas [at congress],” the senior member said.
“So you say you are the most diverse but when you go to the highest decision-making meeting, people from those areas are not there. [That means] you don’t know what you mean by diverse.”