/ 31 March 2023

Steenhuisen is likely to get a second term as DA leader at congress

Born for politics: John Steenhuisen was the Democratic Alliance’s chief whip when the party’s leader, Mmusi Maimane, resigned, opening the door he always dreamed of stepping through. Delwyn Verasamy/M&G
DA leader John Steenhuisen. Photo: (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen is expected to successfully stand for a second term at the party’s federal congress at Johannesburg’s Gallagher Estate this weekend and lead the party into next year’s elections.

The conference will also discuss key policy issues, including how the party will approach coalitions at national and provincial level, should the ANC continue with its downward electoral trajectory and secure less than 50% of the vote in 2024. 

Steenhuisen appears to have a significant lead over his challenger for the position, former Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse, with the majority of the DA’s provincial structures backing him for a second three-year term.

Federal council chairperson Helen Zille will stand uncontested for the post after party member Lungile Phenyane, who had indicated her intention to contest all six top positions, withdrew from the race.

Phenyane, Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape member of the executive council (MEC) for agriculture, and Qhawekazi Mbatha will contest the position of federal chairperson, while MP Dion George will stand unopposed as federal finance chairperson.

Jean Pierre (JP) Smith, the Western Cape public safety MEC, faces a fierce battle for the post of deputy federal chairperson from seven other contenders, including MP Natasha Mazzone and Nqaba Bhanga, the DA’s Eastern Cape leader.

Delegates will vote electronically, both for their chosen candidates and for constitutional amendments and resolutions which have previously been discussed by party structures in the build-up to the congress.

Greg Krumbock, the chief presiding officer, said on Friday the party was ready to go ahead with the congress, which starts on Saturday morning. Krumbrok said 45% of the nearly 2 000 congress delegates came from its branches, while the rest were public representatives serving in various levels of government.

Each province was represented, with the size of their delegations determined by the number of party members they had.

In addition to electing a new leadership to take the party into next year’s elections, delegates would vote on 43 resolutions which would sharpen party policy and determine its choice of coalition partners after the elections.

Krumbock said the resolutions would drive the DA’s policy agenda and would focus on “issues that confront the people of this country”, including building the economy, creating jobs, urban and rural safety and the restoration of parliament.

“The resolutions presented will build on, and extend, the DA’s policy offer for creating an inclusive society. The resolutions will speak to key areas of exclusion with a focus on how the DA will address them as a party of national government,” he said.

Krumbock said the congress was important as the leaders elected this weekend “may very well be the leaders who will reshape national government as the ANC’s support again drops below 50% in 2024”.

On Friday, Steenhuisen, in his daily letter, described the DA as “South Africa’s government-in-waiting” and said that the leadership elected at the congress would play “a central role in achieving the best possible coalition outcome”.