Democratic Alliance KwaZulu-Natal legislature member Mbali Ntuli has entered the race for the party’s federal leadership.
In an internal memo sent to party public representatives, the outspoken DA leader said that after “careful consideration and deep introspection, I have decided to stand for federal leader at our upcoming congress in May”.
In the leaked letter, marked for “internal distribution only” but seen by the Mail & Guardian, Ntuli lamented the growing failings of her party. “If we are honest with ourselves, I know that you will agree that recent developments in our party have been worrying, to say the least.”
She added: “We have suffered a series of losses and there doesn’t appear to be any hope in sight that things will get any better soon.”
The party’s share of votes decreased in the 2019 national elections and it has subsequently lost by-elections, particularly to the Freedom Front Plus.
Ntuli wrote: “We have lost half a million votes in the last election. We are bleeding activists and members after losing a party leader, chairperson and mayor. We have lost votes in almost every by-election we have recently fought — including those that are usually a ‘walk in the park’.”
This, she wrote, had cost the DA in its ability to govern. “We have lost the confidence of other opposition parties. As a result, we have lost entire municipalities and no longer control these governments.”
In October last year, former party leader Mmusi Maimane, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, and the party’s federal chairperson, Athol Trollip, all resigned.
Maimane jumped ship before he was pushed following a recommendation that he resign by an election review panel headed by former party leader Tony Leon, former party strategist Ryan Coetzee, and major party funder Michiel le Roux.
Mashaba and Trollip left after alleged growing interference by think-tank the Institute of Race Relations in the party.
In her letter, Ntuli offered insight into the party’s financial situation, writing, “We have lost donors who no longer believe in us, throwing us into a financial crisis. In addition, there hasn’t even been enough funding for constituencies to do political activities — our core business as a party. Through retrenchments and resignations, we have lost valuable staff.”
Ntuli told party members there is a growing fear that internal disputes could lead to more defeats in the 2021 local government elections.
“My greatest fear is that many of our councillors will lose their jobs in the next election. I know that the large majority of them are looking for other jobs to provide for their family. Every day many councillors have told me about their fear of not getting re-elected. This is not because they did not perform, but because our party will not perform. I know that many MPs too are concerned about their futures … Just a few months ago they were focusing on winning government. Today, we are in a permanent state of damage control,” she said.
Without mentioning any names of former or current party leaders, Ntuli suggests a culture of appeasement and fear has infiltrated party structures. “It is not common currency in our party to criticise our own weaknesses. We have developed a culture of self-praise to please our leadership to increase our own chances of re-election.”
Ntuli informed voting delegates to the party’s leadership elective conference of her decision to contest the position through an internal memo, but she had planned to make this public only on Friday.
Ntuli joins Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela and interim leader John Steenhuisen in the race to lead the party.