In response to Ryno Geldenhuys’s piece Under Mbali Ntuli the DA would offer South Africans a new political home, Mail&Guardian, 13 October.
South African excellence is all around if you look for it; it is in the perseverance of its people through hardships, in its many centres of excellence that have produced world-class thinkers and innovators. The one place it does not reside, however, is in the ANC.
Geldenhuys’ piece — bemoaning the lack of excellence in South Africa — is therefore quite telling about the author, who, shortly after failing to make the cut as a candidate for the DA in 2014, left for snow-tipped mountains and greener pastures in Switzerland, while the rest of us continued to fight for a better South Africa.
The piece concludes that Mbali Ntuli is the “public’s choice” for DA leader without a single shred of concrete evidence or decent analysis to support that idea.
A simple scroll through Geldenhuys’s Twitter account would reveal dripping hatred for John Steenhuisen — although the reasons why are also unclear. This makes his failure to unpack his reasoning, other than intimating that Steenhuisen cannot reach out to the majority; presumably because he is white — quite bizarre.
He further makes reference to “polling” in relation to the DA’s election race as giving direction — but no polling has come to this conclusion. If it is Twitter polling to which Geldenhuys refers, it would be wise to recount that these are the same polls that predicted an EFF majority in 2019 and numerous parliamentary seats for the Purple Cows.
His fundamental thesis is that somehow an amorphously defined “energy” will bring in votes to the DA, without making a single policy point or potential ideological distinction that the DA should follow to attract these voters. The DA went down this road in 2019 — and we know how that turned out.
The reality is that Steenhuisen is receiving resounding support from delegates across South Africa. Everywhere that he has gone, taking his campaign directly to those who will be voting in this DA congress, halls have filled up to hear his message of hope and change for the party and South Africa. These delegates — none of whom live in Switzerland — represent diverse and vast constituencies and have wholeheartedly endorsed Steenhuisen.
Instead of empty platitudes and vague, undefined appeals to identity outlined by Geldenhuys, the DA needs to be authentically rooted in communities, driving issues that matter, and articulating policy positions that can tangibly improve the lives of all South Africans.
To smash its electoral glass ceiling, the DA needs to actually define itself outside of the frame of reference of the ANC, not constantly be sucked into its orbit.
That is what Steenhuisen has done and will continue to do if he is elected leader of the DA on 1 November: move beyond the frame of reference of racial nationalists and fight for what matters to ordinary people in this country.