Gwen Ngwenya returns to powerful DA policy position

2019-11-27 07:12
Gwen Ngwenya. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

Gwen Ngwenya. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

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Gwen Ngwenya is wrapping up 2019 as the DA's head of policy, a position she resigned from at the beginning of the year.

She returns to lead South Africa's second biggest political party towards a policy conference in April 2020, which is expected to be a watershed moment that will determine the direction of the DA.

The DA has fumbled its way through much of 2019, with a dismal showing at the May general polls, public spats and numerous leaders resigning from the party.

This year has also seen the return of former leader Helen Zille as its federal council chairperson. It is also through her that Ngwenya has made a comeback as policy head.

Ngwenya, who in her resignation letter said she felt the party under former leader Mmusi Maimane's leadership did not take policy seriously, raised numerous concerns, including the lack of support, lack of budget and inexperienced researchers.

Attempts to halt her return to the party in both the federal executive and federal council were unsuccessful, with Zille insisting she had followed all regulations required to make the appointment.

Who is Gwen Ngwenya?

Ngwenya previously served as the Student Representative Council president at the University of Cape Town. She was also chairperson of the DA Student Organisation branch there.

At times described as a polarising figure, Ngwenya has been referred to as a "Marmite politician", even by interim leader John Steenhuisen, suggesting that people either really like or dislike her.

Ngwenya, depending on who you speak to within the party, has been described as being like a robot, cold, highly effective, libertarian, likeable and smart.

While some had expected her to pursue being youth leader in the party, she opted to go abroad. This is where she not only attained numerous academic qualifications across parts of Europe but also worked as a researcher, economist and as an accounts manager for Bloomberg.

Upon her return to her home country, she joined the South African Institute for Race Relations (IRR) as its chief operating officer, which she then left to join the DA as an MP and policy head.

She was also the DA's Hammanskraal constituency head.

In her role, she has been seen by some as a polarising figure, with her comments on issues like triple black economic empowerment resulting in senior party leaders engaging in public spats on social media.

Some in the DA also felt her departure brought the party into disrepute and that it was a sign the party was establishing a "quasi-IRR" within the DA.

The IRR has inserted itself in DA politics, with Zille defending its right to do so, lobbying for the removal and the ascension of particular leaders.

This amid tension between the progressives and classic liberals in the organisation over the direction it should take.

Steenhuisen, in defending Ngwenya's reappointment, said she would not return to Parliament and it was a human resources appointment.

He added it made sense in the short-term as she had already completed seven of the party's policy positions.

Read more on:    da  |  gwen ngwenya  |  helen zille  |  john steenhui­sen  |  politics
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