DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia has responded to Adriaan Basson's column, saying the decision around whether public debates should be held was taken by party structures, not just Helen Zille.
Dear Mr Basson,
It is frankly absurd to say that John Steenhuisen opposed external debates or was being used by Helen Zille – as your article Why is the DA afraid to let Ntuli debate Steenhuisen in public? asserts.
The decision about whether to externalise debates was taken by party structures – all members, including the two contending for the leadership position, are required to abide by this. Zille's role, moreover, is entirely administrative.
My own view is that debates are healthy. Whether they should be internal or external is up for debate itself and the prerogative surely lies with the organisation. That said, this is an internal party leader contest and debates have been organised for potential voters to engage and witness.
Also, it is common cause that the mainstream media has evinced a blinkered view about the DA and will no doubt use public debates to push an agenda – often one not entirely dissimilar to those propagated by certain interests – which not only skews matters somewhat, but also gives broader currency to issues that are primarily of internal concern. Once these are addressed within the party, they ought, rightfully, to be presented in a unified manner externally – notwithstanding internal differences which, provided they are not out of kilter with values and principles, will continue to be aired inside the party.
It needs to be borne in mind that the party, post the publication of its review, is in the process of recalibration and is dealing with the departure of a number of disaffected (and often disbuggerable) individuals intent on using erstwhile allies to derail the party they so ignominiously left.
Still, nothing stops those contesting elections from championing their views to prospective voters. Nothing prevents them from setting out their stall by way of a plethora of communications – internal and external (interviews, op-eds, internal missives and manifestos) – which they've done.
A selective mountain, however, is being made out of a molehill here, despite the fact that debate is happening and those eligible to vote will decide on the basis of what they've heard and read. Thereafter we will all abide by the decision, build and ready the organisation for the broader electoral challenges it faces – united, one would hope, against the continued assault from the commentariat – and engage in the real debate with our adversaries in other political parties.
- Ghaleb Cachalia, Johannesburg.
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