Zille outlines how the DA chose its next candidates for parliament

25 March 2024 - 15:43
By Sisanda Mbolekwa
DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille presented a briefing on the process undertaken to select its candidates at the party's Nkululeko House in Bruma, Johannesburg.
Image: Supplied DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille presented a briefing on the process undertaken to select its candidates at the party's Nkululeko House in Bruma, Johannesburg.

The DA has unveiled its list of candidates for the next parliament, boasting its “rigorous” selection process has unearthed a diversity of candidates no other party has.

DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille said this 10-month long process measured and assessed the performance of incumbent MPs and the competencies of new candidates.

“No other party in South Africa boasts the diversity of candidates that the DA offers South Africa. While the political left and right offer only a monochromatic and skewed representation of South Africa society, the DA comprises South Africans from every background and from all walks of life to ensure that governance is carried out with the needs of each and every citizen in mind,” said Zille.

Zille explained that the final list of candidates had to unite behind the party's founding principles of nonracialism, a social market economy, a capable state free of corruption and cadre deployment, and respect for the constitution and the rule of law.

In April last year, a call for applications was made not only to DA members but any individual who shared the party's values and could rally behind its banner.

In June 2023, a provincial steering committees assessed applicant CVs.

In August 2023, the applicants had to write four proctored exams in board and relevant subject matters.

This stage tested candidates on the history of the party, its values and principles, the country's constitution, the role of an MP/MPL and personal attributes like ethics and integrity.

A minimum 80% pass mark was required across all four tests to proceed to the next stage.

Successful applicants then appeared before an electoral college comprised of elected representatives from various DA constituencies.

Applicants were measured against a scoring matrix, with the top 25% advancing automatically, the bottom 25% eliminated, and the remaining candidates voted for by the electoral colleges.

Sitting representatives were subjected to a performance assessment to ensure they had been doing their work as MPs during their term. Those founding wanting were eliminated from the process.

In October 2023, the party made candidates write a “fit for purpose” test which included a political orientation assessment to ensure candidates could apply party values to difficult circumstances.

Candidates were also asked to write an original piece, such as a speech or an opinion piece, and this was marked by an external team based at a university.

In November 2023, the party conducted interviews with the candidates and all scores were collated and ranked in January 2024.

In February this year, the selection panel sat to review final collated scores, from performance reviews, interviews and tests.

The provincial and federal executives then ratified and finalised the candidate lists which were submitted to the IEC.

Zille said there were appeals at every selection stage and those were ventilated, with aggrieved cases addressed.

“If I had to add the appeals to the list of stages, then we would have 22 stages because there were appeals at the end of every stage. For any candidate who feels the process was not fairly followed in relation to their candidacy, or that the substance of their candidacy was not fairly considered, they have the right to appeal,” she said.

Zille said she had not tallied up the total number of appeals but confirmed there were a considerable number at every stage of the process.

“When you come to the written work, we had an outside panel chaired by a professor of philosophy who has very deep grounding in the party's approach.

“Prof Greg Fried oversaw the marking of the written assignment. People were allowed to appeal and the mark could either stay the same, improve, or it could go down if the appeal panel thought you had been too generously dealt with the first time.

“People in the end believed the process was fair and that is why we have had a relatively smooth outcome and commitment to abide by the process.”

The federal council chair said the process “matched fit for purpose and the work of activists on the ground in the selection of candidates”.