John Steenhuisen has been announced as the newly elected leader of the DA and will take the party to the local government next year and national elections in 2024.
Helen Zille, was reaffirmed as the Federal Council Chairperson, while Refiloe Nt’sheke, Anton Bredell and Jacques Smalle were announced as the first, second and third deputy federal chairpersons, respectively
The announcement was made on Sunday afternoon after the party held South Africa’s first-ever virtual political congress, which began on Saturday. More than 2 000 delegates cast their votes to elect the DA’s leadership for the next three years, where 88% of the delegation voted.
Following the announcement of his election, Steenhuisen addressed delegates.
"I have travelled a long road in the DA. I fought to fix potholes in the roads when I was a councillor," he said.
"I exposed corruption when I was a member of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature. I held presidents accountable as a member of Parliament. But never in my wildest imagination did I believe I would one day lead this great party of ours.
He added that as far back as he was 19-years-old, he knew that the DA was a party which had the interest of the people at its core.
Steenhuisen said: "The DA has grown to become a party that governs cities and municipalities across the country, as well as a province."
"It is a party that will one day be at the core of a national government that will fix and unlock the boundless potential of this country."
Steenhuisen went on to pay homage to his rival in the race for the leadership position, Mbali Ntuli.
“I would like to give gratitude to my colleague in this leadership race. Mbali, you did not make this an easy race. You fought me every step of the way and you never gave up. In doing so you have helped entrench a proud democratic tradition in our party, that we don't anoint leaders here, we elect them," he said.
Former youth leader and KwaZulu-Natal member of the provincial legislature Ntuli, who was vying for the top position against Steenhuisen, suffered her first major defeat at the party’s virtual conference on Saturday after her proposal that the party’s constitution be amended to create a deputy leader position was rejected.
During her presentation to congress, Ntuli had argued that the party needed a deputy leader to help carry party duties because the DA was a growing entity.
Her proposal did not pass, with members saying that a deputy leader would create factions in the party.
Ntuli subsequently took to Twitter and said: “It did not pass. 60/40 against. No deputy leader. We will continue to have deputy leaders in provinces however”.
On Saturday morning, both Steenhuisen and Ntuli made a final plea to delegates at the congress to vote them into power so that they could help the party overcome its hurdles and lead it into the next local government and national elections.
The two, each, gave speeches to the just more than 2 000 delegates of the DA’s virtual federal congress, minutes before the voting, through a remote electronic system.
“I’m battle-tested, and I am ready to lead you in the fight to save our beautiful country. It will be the fight of our lives but, together, we can win it,” Steenhuisen said at the time.
Steenhuisen, whose appointment comes after he has been the main opposition’s incumbent leader for the past year, following the party’s former leader Mmusi Maimane’s resignation from the DA in October last year, added that focus be on the voters and that every South African should know his party’s vision for the country.