DA leadership race: Rivals Phalatse, Steenhuisen on why they're best suited to take the party forward

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  • The race for DA leader reached a climax on Saturday when the two leading candidates delivered their last pleas to congress delegates.
  • Mpho Phalatse is challenging incumbent leader John Steenhuisen.
  • Both leaders made passionate pleas for delegates to vote for them.

DA leadership hopeful Mpho Phalatse and incumbent party leader John Steenhuisen both passionately put forward their cases to lead the party going forward at the organisation's 2023 elective congress.

Phalatse said: "It is not the length of time in a party that determines one’s effectiveness. It is not the number of years that counts. It is about capability, experience, and qualifications."

She added that "Jacob Zuma was a horrible president, with all his years in the ANC, yet Barack Obama, with much fewer years in his party, was one of the best presidents America ever had."

Phalatse also highlighted that under Steenhuisen, the party's electoral performance declined during the 2021 local government elections.

"We've cultivated a brand of good governance. South Africans agree that where we govern, we govern better. But the truth is we have been experiencing negative growth.

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"Between the 2016 and 2021 local government elections, our party lost more than 1.4 million votes. A total of 285 of our councillors lost their positions as elected public representatives in communities," she said.

According to Phalatse, the decline in support is not because their brand is inferior.

“It is because of a trust deficit that exists between us and the electorate. This is what stands between us and our chances of becoming a national government,” she said.

Cheers erupted as Steenhuisen and Phalatse both took to the stage at the DA's 2023 elective congress. 

DA leader John Steenhuisen at the party's elective
DA leader John Steenhuisen at the party's elective congress.

In their last speeches to congress delegates, the two leaders reiterated why they were the best candidates.

"I am asking you to re-elect me," said Steenhuisen. "Since October 2019, we have been working hard to rebuild the DA. We came out stronger than ever before. We must bring the ANC below 50%. This is our mission. We will play a leading role in constructing a post-ANC South Africa.

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"When I first joined the Democratic Party, we were under no illusions. We were a 1.7% party, but we knew we had to put in hard work. We also knew that this was the politics of the long haul and knew that there were no shortcuts. Our three decades of hard work have paid off. We are just 12% behind the ANC in some polling," he added. 

DA leadership hopeful Mpho Phalatse
DA leadership hopeful Mpho Phalatse.

"Following the setback from 2019, we learned from our mistake, and we got back."

Steenhuisen also said he has seven commitments which include bringing the ANC vote below 50%, ending load shedding and addressing rampant levels of crime.

Whoever wins the race between Phalatse and Steenhuisen will deliver the closing speech of the congress on Sunday.

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