DA leadership hopefuls Mbali Ntuli and John Steenhuisen made the final pleas why they should be chosen to take the party into the local government and national elections in 2024.
In their respective closing arguments at the party’s federal congress earlier on Saturday, Ntuli and Steenhuisen appealed to delegates to vote for them in order to help fix the party’s challenges.
The conference is taking place virtually this year due to Covid-19 restrictions which public gatherings.
Steenhuisen reflected on the hurdles the party has had to clear over the past year since it adopted a review report “that set out the hard truths about what we needed to do to fix our party”.
Ntuli said she wanted to move the DA to a place where everybody “feels they have an equal right to say where they believe the party should be going”.
She said the DA only exists to try to win votes to show the people what the party can do.
“I believe that the best thing about us [DA] is that we have good people. So many of us work so incredibly hard for this party, devoting our time and our energy away from families, because the cause that we are fighting for will ensure that all South Africans are able to live a prosperous life,” said Ntuli.
Steenhuisen argued that the DA was ready after internal challenges that were highlighted by an independent review after last year’s dismal election performance.
“The DA is once again ready for take off. We have repaired the holes in our fuselage. We have installed powerful new jet engines. And our passengers are excited for the journey that lies ahead.
“That is why I had faith in you and the party to have this congress so we can finish what we started. The turbulence is over and the next leg of our journey has begun. It is time to open the throttle and take to the skies,” he said.
Steenhuisen is a front-runner to be elected the DA federal leader. He has been at the helm as interim leader since Mmusi Maimane quit a year ago.
“When I put my hand up for the position of interim leader a year ago, I did so because I care deeply for the party I have served for more than 22 years. I knew very well that our engines were sputtering and that our wings had been clipped,” he said.
Ntuli said the DA had good governance where it was in power and wanted it to leverage things everywhere else.
“We need a new way of politics, a way that shows that we are serious about taking this government that has impunity in looting and corruption out of office,” she said.
She added that she wanted the DA to give resources to young people using its youth and women structures. Ntuli asked the DA delegates to give her a chance to prove that she could be in every community despite the failures from last year’s elections.
The former youth leader has been publicly vocal about the issues faced by the DA, saying after the party suffered a series of losses there appeared to be no hope in sight but things would get better. She decided to stand for leadership because she was unhappy that the DA had lost 500 000 votes in the last elections, in addition to losing activists and donors.
Both candidates promised that if elected, they would unite the party.