John Steenhuisen: 'I'm not a handbag carrier for Helen Zille'

John Steenhuisen. (Supplied)
John Steenhuisen. (Supplied)

The DA's interim federal leader John Steenhuisen says he is not a "handbag carrier for Helen Zille" and will lead the party in his own way.

On Sunday, Steenhuisen was elected federal leader until the party elects a new cohort of leadership at its congress in May 2020.

Speaking to News24 in a wide-ranging interview on Monday afternoon, he said "if everyone sticks to their knitting in the party", all leaders would "get along just fine".

WATCH | In studio with the DA's interim leader John Steenhuisen

The DA's newly elected interim federal leader John Steenhuisen promised on Sunday to turn the party's election setback into the biggest comeback in political history. He was speaking at his first media briefing after his election as interim chair.

Zille made a dramatic comeback to party politics, being elected federal council chair last month. Her election precipitated the resignations of Mmusi Maimane and Athol Trollip as federal leader and federal chairperson, respectively. Maimane also resigned as a member of the party.

"Helen is not the leader of the party. She's occupying a position James Selfe had for many, many years. And James stuck to his knitting and did what needed to be done, and let the leader get on with leading.

"So I want to be very clear, I'm not a handbag carrier for Helen Zille. I'm my own man, and wherever I've led, whether it's been in the Durban city council, in the [KwaZulu-Natal] legislature or in Parliament, I've led in my own way and with my own sense of conviction. And that's going to continue," said Steenhuisen.

He added: "I'm the elected leader of the DA - interim for now, hopefully permanently after May next year. And I'm going to lead the DA in my own way and in a way in which I believe is going to grow the organisation, build strong teams and create a consensus, and an environment in which we can have honest conversations within the party without having to speak to each other through the media, or through Twitter and Facebook."

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