John Steenhuisen scores major boost as provincial DA leaders throw weight behind him

DA supporters march in Gauteng to campaign for improved healthcare and more jobs. Picture: Leon Sadiki
DA supporters march in Gauteng to campaign for improved healthcare and more jobs. Picture: Leon Sadiki

The bid by interim DA leader John Steenhuisen to secure the top job has received an early boost, with five provincial leaders throwing their weight behind him ahead of the party’s early elective conference, set to take place in May.

Steenhuisen formally launched his candidacy for the position of DA leader in Cape Town yesterday.

The event was attended by prominent figures in the party, including chief whip Natasha Mazzone, MPs Ghaleb Cachalia and Glynnis Breytenbach, Western Cape premier Alan Winde, Limpopo leader Jacques Smalle, Mpumalanga leader Jane Sithole, and Eastern Cape leader Nqaba Bhanga.

Northern Cape leader Andrew Louw is said to have indicated his support for Steenhuisen a few weeks back in Upington, during the interim leader’s alternative state of the nation address.

City Press understands that North West leader Joe McGluwa has also thrown his weight behind the former chief whip.

The DA’s former youth leader, Mbali Ntuli, and Gauteng leader John Moodey have also thrown their hats into the ring for the top job.

DA provinces do not operate as voting blocs.

Rather, delegates at the party’s conference will vote as individuals – meaning that the support of provincial leaders does not guarantee the support of all delegates from that province.

Steenhuisen conceded that the party had gone through a tough time in clarifying its redress policy and touted the idea of a “means-tested paradigm” as a solution.

“I recognise and acknowledge that the injustices of the past were perpetrated on the basis of race. And I am firm in my commitment to redress this racial injustice. However, as a liberal, I am also against all forms of racial labelling, classification and categorisation,” said the former chief whip.

“As part of the DA’s current policy review process, I will be working hard to ensure that our party adopts a news means-tested paradigm to ensure that empowerment programmes benefit the people who desperately need them.

“To further redress the legacy of apartheid, we desperately need an efficient and just land reform process. If I am elected DA leader, I will put this at the top of my policy agenda.

“We all know that expropriation without compensation is not the answer. When you create uncertainty about property rights, you chase away investment and you kill growth and jobs.

“Instead, we need to open up the agricultural land market to land reform beneficiaries through subsidies and tax breaks. We need to issue title deeds to land reform beneficiaries, who are currently only allowed to lease land from the state. And we need to move away from communal ownership towards individual ownership.”

The debate about whether the party should abandon race as a proxy for the disadvantaged has divided the party in recent years.

The party will hold a policy conference in April, where the fight over whether a race-based policy is still viable will be settled.

In 2018, senior leaders went head-to-head in a public spat, following a review of the party.

It started when Gwen Ngwenya, the DA’s head of policy, announced that the party had abandoned its position on race being a proxy.

The DA’s then federal council chairperson, James Selfe, then leader Mmusi Maimane, and provincial leaders Zwakele Mncwango and Bhanga were among those who denied that the party had taken the position.

Ngwenya resigned but has since returned, following the election of Helen Zille to the crucial post of federal council chairperson.

The party will hold a policy conference in April, where the fight over whether a race-based policy is still viable will be settled.

Bhanga, who repeatedly took Maimane’s side on the matter in recent months, told City Press yesterday that he had abandoned his position.

Furthermore, he said, he had thrown his weight behind Steenhuisen for the top job.

“In the Eastern Cape we are going to support John because we need continuity in the party, and stability. From some of the candidates’ names that have been submitted, they will not be able to deal with the challenges.

“We want to build a nonracial society. DA members and the whole of South Africa should understand the rough realities of decisions made in the country regarding inequality and the colour of this as white or black. I have never believed in race-based policies because I believe in nonracialism.

“We need to have a statement about removing the elite, who have benefited from the past. What I supported in Mmusi’s position was that the DA must be aware of racial consciousness,” he said.

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