'Highly undesirable to go into election campaign with an interim leader': DA will vote, here's how

28 May 2020 - 14:54 By Sthembile Cele
Helen Zille emphasised the need for the election of new leaders to happen this year, before next year’s local government elections. File photo.
Helen Zille emphasised the need for the election of new leaders to happen this year, before next year’s local government elections. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Chairperson of the DA's federal council Helen Zille has moved to allay fears that the integrity of the party’s planned virtual congress will be compromised.

In a letter sent to structures of the party — dated May 26 — Zille says that only the elective aspect of the congress will be online, branches will be given the necessary support, the process will not be data intensive and candidates will have access to delegates digitally and telephonically.

“In its deliberations on this matter on the 16th of May 2020, FedEx decided that we would not hold a full deliberative congress at this stage. The facilitation of such a large gathering discussing topical and controversial issues, will require continuous and uninterrupted connectivity and significant amounts of data throughout lengthy proceedings. This may result in some delegates facing obstacles to full access, which would be intolerable. We will have to leave such deliberations to a time where we can meet face-to-face again, or where we have overcome the connectivity challenges,” Zille’s circular reads.

Zille emphasised the need for the election of new leaders to happen this year, before next year’s local government elections, saying it would be “untenable” to have interim leadership for two years.

“I think we can all agree that it is highly undesirable for any party to go into an election campaign with interim leadership, if we want to be taken seriously as an electoral contender.”

Three members have raised their hands for the top job as the party looks to replace Mmusi Maimane, who resigned in October last year.

They are former chief whip and interim leader John Steenhuisen, Gauteng leader John Moodey and KZN MPL Mbali Ntuli.

Steenhuisen has thrown his weight behind the virtual elective congress saying that FedEx is merely implementing the resolutions of last year’s federal council — the highest decision making body in between congresses — the best way the structure sees fit.

Ntuli, meanwhile, has opposed the move, saying the outcomes of the congress would be subject to a challenge and that connectivity issues would disadvantage some delegates.

Zille says in her letter that all branches will be supported and that in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, branches have already elected delegates for congress.

“I had a full briefing on the proposed methodology today, and it will enable every valid branch member to cast a vote — whether online, or by e-mail, SMS, WhatsApp, telephone call, or in person, at specific 'voting districts' set up in specific areas. No-one will be left behind. Barnie Kruger is overseeing this process for all the provinces and will be working very closely with provincial MDs.

“When delegates to the elective congress have been elected, the circumstance of every delegate will be assessed in terms of access to the infrastructure required to vote in the leadership election. Then appropriate arrangements will be made for them to cast a secret ballot on a technology platform being investigated by Adrian Frith (Director of Campaign Technology) and his colleagues.”

Zille also says that security and integrity of the ballots will be of utmost importance.

“As soon as a vote is cast, the coding system will record it, and the individualised code will be cancelled. In other words, the delegate will be able to vote once, and only once, in a secret ballot during whatever extended period is established for this purpose. The party will ensure every delegate has data to fulfil this function. If people live so remotely that it is impossible to get any form of connectivity at any time during this period, the party will subsidise transport to enable the delegate to get to a more urban context to cast their ballot online, where connectivity exists.”

The party's federal council will meet on July 25 and 26 to sign off on the congress or reject the proposal, a move which would require two-thirds of the sitting to nullify the resolution of holding an early congress this year.