/ 2 April 2023

Steenhuisen goes for the jugular in acceptance speech as DA leader

John Steenhuisen 9609 Dv
John Steenhuisen was re-elected Democratic Alliance leader at the culmination of the official opposition’s elective congress on Sunday. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

John Steenhuisen was re-elected Democratic Alliance leader at the culmination of the official opposition’s elective congress on Sunday. 

Steenhuisen, flanked by his daughters and wife, took to the stage to deliver an impassioned speech, during which he called the EFF the party’s “number one enemy”. 

Steenhuisen was contested by Mpho Phalatse for the position of party leader. 

Steenhuisen went in guns blazing against an ANC/EFF coalition in the 2024 elections, vowing to do all he could to ensure that a coalition between those parties was not realised. 

He said he believed that 2024 was going to be the DA’s “moonshot election”. 

“While the term ‘moonshot’ originally meant long shot, it’s increasingly being used to describe a monumental effort and a lofty goal — in other words, a giant leap forward. A leap like ensuring that the DA leads the national government in 2024. And, like the original mission to take humans to the moon, we take this shot to defeat the ANC and keep the EFF out, not because it is easy, but because it is hard,” said Steenhuisen, playing on the words used by former US president John F Kennedy in his famous “moon speech”. 

Steenhuisen — who was elected interim DA leader in 2019 and official party leader a year later — said that during his term, he had stabilised the party in an effort to return it to “winning ways”. 

“As we look back to 2019 today, I can confidently say that this phase was a success.” 

He said that the realistic prospect of the ANC being dragged below 50% in next year’s national election presented a moment to radically reshape South African politics.  

The “threat” facing the country though, he said, was the prospect of an alliance between the ANC and the EFF. 

“Given the fact that the ANC now officially co-governs with the EFF in parts of Gauteng, we need to start taking the threat of these parties ganging up to destroy our country in 2024 very, very seriously. 

“I want to be unequivocal about the DA’s view on this: the day that an ANC-EFF government takes over will be doomsday for South Africa. An EFF doomsday will make the collapse of Zimbabwe look like a dress rehearsal, and will leave all South Africans destitute — black, coloured, white and Indian,” he said. 

An ANC-EFF “doomsday coalition” would venture towards expropriating property without compensation, abolishing private property rights, nationalisation, destroying foreign investment, businesses, banks and mines, and “plunge this country into ethnic and racial conflict the likes of which it has never witnessed before”, he said.

Steenhuisen said his next move would be to initiate an opposition alternative formation with a pre-election “moonshot pact” that included “like-minded political parties”, and civil and civic society organisations to defeat the ANC and keep the ANC-EFF out of power. 

He invited political leaders who were against an EFF-ANC coalition to join the formation. 

The formation, therefore, would exclude “all parties and organisations who’ve tethered themselves to the ANC”. 

“The purpose of this pact will be to forge coordination and unity of purpose between all organisations that want to defeat the ANC and keep the EFF out. To achieve the moonshot, we need a whole-of-society approach that builds a new ecosystem of change.

“The pact’s purpose will also be to sit around the table to agree on rules of engagement that will enable different organisations to retain their own identities while bringing an end to the petty squabbles and division that only benefits the ANC.” 

Political parties within this new formation of an alternative opposition will work towards a 51% voter result in the 2024 elections. 

He said a convention of political leaders would be convened to discuss the way forward. 

“There can be no job more important for any opposition leader in South Africa at this time, than the mission of the moonshot pact.” 

While Steenhuisen revealed his ambitious plan, he will still have to contend with the question of race in the party. 

Only three elected party leaders are black, while the eight other victorious leaders are white. 

Helen Zille was re-elected as federal council chair, Ivan Meyer as federal chairperson, and Dion George as the federal finance chairperson. 

Party spokesperson Solly Malasti was elected as deputy federal chairperson along with JP Smith and Anton Bredell. 

The three deputy chairpersons of the federal council are Ashor Sarupen, Annelie Lotriet and Thomas Walters.