/ 7 August 2023

DA FedCo meeting dominated by talk of Malema

Leader Of The Da John Steenhuisen Campaigns In South Africa
Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen. Photo by Lulama Zenzile/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen believes that next year’s elections will be waged between the DA and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The admission was contained in minutes of last week’s federal council meeting signed by federal council chair Helen Zille. The minutes were distributed to DA structures.  

The DA has long declared the EFF as its number one enemy in the build up to the 2024 general elections. 

To ensure that the EFF does not govern after next year’s elections, the DA proposed a pre-election coalition first mooted by Steenhuisen after his re-election in April, called the moonshot pact. Party leaders have been meeting weekly for several months in an attempt to iron out initial differences in approach and to work out a general framework within which to operate.

Speaking to a recent federal council on 31 July, Steenhuisen said the EFF’s 10th birthday rally underscored that the party was public enemy number one. 

Steenhuisen said that should the EFF make it to the Union Buildings, it would be disastrous, adding that investment would dry up overnight and emigration would soar.

“Julius Malema had also stated that he would put Cyril Ramaphosa in jail. This shows his totalitarian tendencies as he has no regard for the rule of law and due process, which means he would be prepared to incarcerate all his political opponents,” the document read. 

Steenhuisen also called into question recent statements made by Freedom Front Plus Leader Pieter Groenewald that South Africa was not ready for a white president.

Groenewald has endorsed Inkatha Freedom Party president Velenkosini Hlabisa to be the face of the moonshot pact coalition. In the Sunday Times interview, the FF+ leader and a key ally of the DA in its coalition arrangement across the country, said that it would be difficult to convince traditional ANC voters to ditch the governing party, with all its flaws, should the opposition choose a white leader as its presidential candidate. 

“This type of thinking is the core problem in South Africa. The DA must lead the move away from analysis rooted in the immutability of racial categories and build a South Africa in which people come together on the basis of shared values,” Steenhuisen said. 

ActionSA’s Eastern Cape chairperson, Athol Trollip, had previously told the Mail & Guardian that Steenhuisen should not automatically be first in line for the post of president should the coalition emerge victorious in the 2024 elections. 

Trollip said that if the coalition is to work, all parties must be prepared to make compromises.

Steenhuisen told party leaders that there was an internal fight in the ANC between 

Ramaphosa and his deputy, Paul Mashatile. 

According to the minutes: “He said that while they fight, we must set the agenda and show the country the way out of this mess we’re in. No matter what the analysts and our opponents are saying, there is no change in South Africa without the DA at the centre of it. We are the catalysts of change, and we must act as if we understand the enormous responsibility of this.” 

The party is preparing to select its candidates for the general elections. Steenhuisen said that its energy must be turned outward to focus on winning votes. He added that it would fall on the party’s leadership to show commitment and leadership in becoming the anchor tenant in a new majority coalition. 

“There will be no fallback position in 2029 if the EFF is allowed to take charge. We must bear in mind that 2024 might even be the last election in South Africa if the ANC/EFF manages to seize the institutions of the state. The megalomania and instinct for authoritarianism could override constitutionalism, and we should be mindful of how much is at stake in the 2024 election. We have a path to victory, and it is going to come down to us, in our constituencies, in our branches, and amongst activists that will be the lever of change to cause the spring of change in South Africa. It is not a responsibility that we can shrug off. Nothing worth fighting for comes easy,” he said. 

Candidate selection 

The party has concluded the screening phase in its candidate selection process. Potential candidates will now go through assessments. Study material for potential candidates  undergoing the party’s assessment process was released on 1 August. 

The party will then test candidates on the DA constitution and policy from 18 August. 

The federal council adopted a scoring matrix giving quantified targets for performance during the election campaign to all non-incumbent applicants, it said.  

The matrix will be used as the measure to assess whether candidates have met their obligations to the party. 

“In addition, federal council considered how double parkers would be managed to assess their performance. It was agreed that where candidates have applied to two provinces, the chairpersons of the provinces involved will meet to determine the division of labour the candidate is expected to undertake between the two provinces. This agreement will then form the basis to evaluate the candidate’s contribution in each province to which they have applied,” according to the minutes.