‘No more race politics’

2019-10-30 16:17
New DA parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen addressing party supporters in Pieter-maritzburg last night.PHOTO: clive ndou

New DA parliamentary leader John Steenhuisen addressing party supporters in Pieter-maritzburg last night.PHOTO: clive ndou

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The DA will no longer be putting people in leadership positions simply because they are a particular colour, candidate for the leadership of the party John Steenhuisen said last night.

Addressing DA activists at the Winston Churchill Theatre in Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg, Steenhuisen said only capable people who share the DA’s liberal values and principles will be allowed to occupy leadership positions.

“The days of parachuting people to leadership positions on the basis of their colour are over,” he said.

In instances where DA members want to move up the ladder but lack sufficient skills due to their disadvantaged backgrounds, Steenhuisen said, the party will put in place programmes to help them acquire the necessary skills.

“What we would like to see is a genuine organic growth as opposed to parachuting people,” he said.

Steenhuisen, who has been recently elected the DA parliamentary leader following the resignation of the party’s federal leader, Mmusi Maimane, has made himself available for election as DA federal leader.

While Steenhuisen assured DA members that the party was committed to diversity, he made it clear that people will be elected to positions on merit.

“As liberal democrats we don’t believe in representativity as that is part of the ANC’s policies that led the country into the mess that it is in,” he said.

It was a myth, Steenhuisen said, to believe that only a person from a particular race group can speak for people of the same coulour.

“The fight against inequality and poverty has nothing to do with colour. What we believe in is that the DA as a party should reflect our country’s diverse character,” he said.

Steenhuisen’s visit happens at a time when the DA is on the back foot following last week’s resignation of Maimane, federal chairperson Athol Trollip and DA Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

While the DA had recently faced leadership challenges, Steenhuisen said the party remained the second biggest in the country.

“We are still the governing party in the City of Cape Town, we are still the governing party in the City of Johannesburg and in Tshwane,” he said.

In their resignation speeches, the three former DA leaders cited the recent election of former party leader Helen Zille as the party’s new federal council chairperson as evidence that the organisation was no longer committed to racial inclusivity, with Mashaba stating that the DA had been taken over by “right wing elements”.

While Steenhuisen conceded that the DA was going through a rough time, he told party activists that the organisation was now on the road to recovery.

“Yes, these are tough times but we will survive. The democratic cause is bigger than any individuals. People come and go but the cause endures … the democratic project is bigger than individuals,” he said.

While Steenhuisen is on record as saying that he held Maimane in high esteem, the new DA parliamentary leader made it clear that he did not endorse some of the views expressed by Maimane when he left the party.

“Our party is the only vehicle for change in South Africa,” he said.

This was in contrast to Maimane’s view that the DA was no longer the vehicle for political change in the country.

Steenhuisen was flanked by DA ward 33 Msunduzi by-election candidate Suraya Reddy, who presented the party’s 10-point plan to save the municipality.

It was critical, Steenhuisen said, for the DA in Msunduzi to win the ward so that the party can rescue impoverished communities in the area.

Reddy said the 10-point plan included the replacement of incompetent managers in Msunduzi with qualified senior managers.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  john steenhui­sen

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