DA may need to review virtual conference if branch AGMs do not go well - Moriarty

The DA's Mike Moriarty.
The DA's Mike Moriarty.
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  • Federal council chairperson contender Mike Moriarty endorses the party's move towards a virtual congress.
  • Moriarty says this can only be done if the party has successful AGMs. 
  • He says, failing which, the decision for a virtual conference must be reviewed. 

The DA's chances of having an unchallenged virtual conference hinges on the success of its annual general meetings (AGMs), which are due to be completed by 31 August, its Gauteng chairperson, Mike Moriarty, told News24.

Moriarty is vying for the position of federal council chairperson at the upcoming conference in October. 

While he believes the innovative virtual congress can be a success, Moriarty said the real question around the party congress would come on 1 September.

"If we have successfully held AGMs with people who are comfortable, then I would say confidently, 'yes you can have a successful congress'."  

He is expected to contest against federal council chairperson Helen Zille. 

The party's factional battles have given way to furious debate with regard to the virtual conference.

Although the idea was endorsed by the party's federal executive, some party leaders raised questions over its viability during lockdown. 

There was also an argument a virtual election would exclude the poor, especially considering access to technology and areas with poor network coverage.

Another argument is it would be unfair to interim leader John Steenhuisen's competitors for the top spot - Mbali Ntuli and John Moodey.

There will not be public debates, and Ntuli and Moodey will be unable to address crowds, while Steenhuisen has more access due to his position as interim leader.

"How do we get people selected as delegates? Can we successfully do it before 31 August? My own feeling is that 'yes we can'. We have a problem at the moment because of the surge in cases," Moriarty said. 

The composition of the DA's elective congress was largely decided by the federal council but should include national, provincial and local government leaders as well as "non-public representative delegates allocated to branches not less than 45% of the total congress delegates", he added.

Moriarty said: 

"We need to be able to be realistic enough that by 1 September, if our process has been thoroughly compromised, then we should review the decision. But I think we should go for it. I think we should try our best and do everything we can for the AGMs to be done in August, then it will make sense."

His challenge for Zille's position comes after she was referred to the party's federal legal commission for controversial tweets she posted about apartheid. 

She tweeted there were more racist laws now than there were under apartheid - a claim many have pointed out to be untrue.

ALSO READ | Stability not controversy: Moriarty explains why he is contesting Zille's DA position

Zille was elected DA federal council chairperson in October last year, a move that caused turmoil in the party. It saw former leader Mmusi Maimane leaving the party as well as the resignation of former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Moriarty said he was excited by the idea of a virtual elective congress, adding the party was in talks with a software company which had indicated it could accommodate the 3 000 expected delegates.  

The DA will hold its federal council meeting this weekend where it is expected party leaders will give the go ahead for the congress. 

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