Guest Column

OPINION: Populist antics of Steenhuisen is reflective of destructive nature of his predecessor Zille

2020-05-18 10:53
The DA's acting leader John Steenhuisen. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

The DA's acting leader John Steenhuisen. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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My earnest appeal to the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly is to leave Premier Winde alone. Let him work with us in the interests of all the people in our province.


John Steenhuisen, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and acting leader of the Democratic Alliance is trying very hard. The struggle for relevance appears to be a difficult one.

His frustration is palpable.

Some would use adjectives like ambitious, brash, unconsidered, arrogant and Judas to describe him. The latter reference is to describe the manner in which he plotted the ousting of the former leader, Mmusi Maimane.

Others would describe him as hardworking, sharp, combative and effective.

Besides his struggle for relevance, he has another challenge. That is the small matter of trying to become the real leader of the DA at the forthcoming conference.

I say real, because even if he succeeds, like others before him, he will still not be the real leader. The clique in control of the DA, backed by DA cadres located within the captured Institute of Race Relations will see to that.

One hoped that he would transition from the traditional DA Chief Whip role of criticising, heckling and generally being obnoxious.

It is tragic that he has not been able to do that yet.

John Steenhuisen needs to realise that he is now the acting DA leader and no longer the Chief Whip. He is now the leader of the opposition, not a frontbench heckler.

The sooner he makes this transition the better for him and our country.

It is a matter of public record that Steenhuisen also botched the Patricia de Lille disciplinary hearings.

He and the DA received a bloody nose time and time again as the courts ruled that the party's treatment of Patricia De Lille was un-procedural and unfair.

The party lost thousands of rands in legal fees.

I would argue that at this time, Steenhuisen should be carving out a role as an opposition that is supporting the efforts of our President to manage the lockdown.

We saw in the early stages of the lockdown how he solemnly pledged support to the President along with leaders of other opposition leaders.

The struggle for relevance, however, seems to have gotten the better of him.

His arrogant assertion that the lockdown has failed may have got him and the DA a headline. But the manner in which it was done has not been helpful.

In fact, it has been deeply divisive. There must be serious engagement about how we as a country need to manage the three pillars of the campaign to flatten the curve and defeat the pandemic.

These are prevention, social relief and economic recovery, without compromising the first pillar.

What is very frustrating and downright dangerous is that this DA line, cooked up by the teams of DA spin-doctors, consultants and strategists who find themselves co-ordinated by the DA leadership (and some of whom are paid by the taxpayers of the City and province), is impacting negatively on genuine attempts to work together in our province.

The DA line clouds our efforts.

It makes things difficult for Premier Alan Winde. 

In turn, the pillars of social relief and prevention are undermined by the mantra of opening up the economy at all costs. This while the province has become the epicentre of the pandemic.

It is on the Cape Flats in communities like Mitchells Plain and Bonteheuwel where infections are rising. It is in townships like Khayelitsha where infections are growing due to a neglect of basic health protocols.

The rural epicentre is now Witzenberg where farmworkers are bearing the brunt of local transmission.

Because he is the interim national leader and because he has the ear of another champion of the DA’s conservative wing, Helen Zille, we are concerned that Steenhuisen’s position is influencing the Western Cape Provincial Government’s approach towards protecting the well-being of all citizens in the province.

The Constitution declares that all South Africans are equal before the law and therefore have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

To this end, we want to remind Steenhuisen that "national legislation prevails over provincial legislation if the national legislation is aimed at preventing unreasonable action by a province".

It is indeed ironic that the DA, and its acting leader, call for the lifting of the lockdown when the province his party is governing is regarded as the epicentre of the pandemic in South Africa.

We call on the Premier of the Western Cape, to publicly distance himself from the reckless position adopted by the DA and Steenhuisen.

The province is legally obligated to enact measures promulgated by our National Ministers.

As the ANC we firmly believe that the pandemic will be defeated through a well-coordinated lockdown and a united response guided by non-partisanship.

I am encouraged that after initial resistance by the DA national and provincial leadership to Premier Winde meeting with leaders of the opposition in the legislature, the meeting finally happened 33 days into lockdown.

Since then a second meeting has taken place and the third is due to happen on Friday.

My earnest appeal to the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly is to leave Premier Winde alone. Let him work with us in the interests of all the people in our province.

That would make the acting DA leader relevant and earn him a place in history.

- Cameron Dugmore MPL, ANC Leader of the Opposition in the Western Cape Legislature

Read more on:    da  |  helen zille  |  alan winde  |  john steenhui­sen  |  cape town  |  western cape  |  coronavirus  |  pandemic  |  governance  |  leadership
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